5 Things Parents Should Know About Starting and Stopping Sippy Cups in Children

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on June 15, 2011

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I recently wrote about my 4-year old who only drinks milk from her straw sippy cup wondering when to give them up. A number of you mentioned you had no idea either. So I asked around, did some investigative work and discovered 5 important things parents need to know about starting, using and stopping sippy cups.

1. Start them early: Babies usually start solids by the time they’re 6 months. This is also the time it is okay to introduce sips of water and (diluted) juice. It’s a good idea to get a few starter sippy cups, with handles, lids and a hard spout, to get your child used to the idea that liquids (including milk) can come in something other than a bottle or breast.

While babies will have fun throwing these cups for a while, by 9 months many will start drinking from it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends phasing out the bottle between 12 and 24 months of age and if possible, breastfeeding for at least one year.

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2. Use sippy cups wisely: Once your child is using a sippy cup you need to use them wisely. According Healthy Children, a website powered by the AAP, avoid using sippy cups as a pacifier or allowing kids to sip on them throughout the day unless its filled with water. Sprout sippy cups filled with milk, juice or juice drinks, allow sugar (even natural sources) to stay in the mouth longer and increase the risk of tooth decay.

This may be why cavities have increased by 15 percent from 1994 to 2002 in children 2-5 years old according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

3. Drop the sprout cups ASAP: Traditional sippy cups are only supposed to be used as a short transition to real cups. Overuse of sippy cups can cause more than dental caries, they can also contribute to speech difficulties.

Because children suck on sippy cups the way they do bottles, if used too long, it can change the position of the tongue and teeth, potentially causing lisps and articulation problems. According to this Web MD article, the traditional sippy should only be used for about a month. Using cups with a straw are much better for speech development and dental health.

Bottom line: switch to a straw cup as soon as you can.

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4. Encourage kids to drink from regular cups: The AAP recommends teaching children to start drinking from regular cups between 12 and 15 months. Once children master this, you might want to use regular cups at meals and straw cups for water on the go.

Another drawback to young children sucking for too long is something called Oral Myofunctional Disorder (OMD). According to the International Association of Orofacial Myology’s website, the symptoms include one of the following:

1. abnormal thumb, finger, lip, and tongue sucking habits
2. an inappropriate mouth-open lips-open resting posture problem
3. a forward interdental rest posture of the tongue problem
4. a forward rest position of the tongue against the maxillary incisors problem
5. a lateral, posterior interdental tongue rest posture problem
6. inappropriate thrusting of the tongue in speaking and/or swallowing.

These abnormal habit patterns, functional activities, and postures can open the dental bite beyond the normal rest position. This can result in a disruption of dental development in children and over-eruption of selected teeth in adults.

A prime example of an OMD, familiar to all pediatricians and dentists, is a retained sucking habit or use of a sippy cup. While it is tempting to ignore such habits since some children do outgrow them, many children do not spontaneously discontinue noxious habits and will need help in eliminating the habits.

5. Part with sippy cups between 2 and 3 years: According to the AAP Pediatric Nutrition Manual, children are developmentally ready to give up sippy cups by 2 to 3 years of age. Will it hurt to use them to prevent spills once and awhile? Probably not. If your child uses an open cup and some sippy cups with straws it is probably okay.

But just like we advance textures with our babies and let toddlers use utensils, we have to do the same with drinking. It’s an important and overlooked part of development.

Anyone having trouble getting your child to give up the sippy cup habit?

 

Resources/References

AAP Pediatric Nutrition Handbook — 2008

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children

So long Sippy Cups Hello Straws

IAOM — Dentists and Physicians

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{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

Reka September 1, 2013 at 8:02 am

My 3.4 months childs drinks milk from spout bottle and water from a straw bottle.. he takes few sips of water from small glass and then dunks the remaining on the floor.. also I see that he bites the rim of the glass with teeth and does not use his lips appropriately.. he’s also been diagnosed with PDD-NOS.. how do I proceed to drink anything from cup / glass ?

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Amy September 2, 2013 at 1:20 pm

No one is going to college with a sippy cup or bottle! Lets not worry too much!

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Becky September 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

My son is almost a year old and he hates sippy cups. He will take juice or water from a straw cup but his formula/milk has to come from a bottle. Our pediatrician told us to relax and let him decide when he wants to switch to the sippy or straw cup. I guess it seems to me that, as a society, we want babies to be born doing everything and we won’t be happy until we get to that point. I’m 30 – my Mom never gave me a sippy until after I turned 1 and that seems to be pretty characteristic of my friends as well. Even though I take a lot of crap for my son not using a sippy by now, I am okay with how he has progressed and I am 100% positive that when he is ready to switch, he will. Kind of like when he finally decided to crawl.. and then walk. No sense rushing the child – let them be little because you’re going to wake up one day and wish time had not gone by so fast.

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Monika October 14, 2013 at 11:25 am

Nature intended for infants to suck on their mother’s breasts as long as they can so how can a sippy cup cause speech impediments? Although the nipple is usually smaller than the spout of a sippy cup. The cup, however, is not in the infant’s mouth all the time, like a pacifier. I’ve seen kids with misaligned teeth because of pacifiers.

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Ty November 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I am a childcare professional, sippy cups need to be changed out every six months, and yes they do cause a lot of issues as well as pacifiers, most parents like to bash with out knowing from being in a daycare setting. Most of these cups come with so many gadgets they are hard to clean, also why must you not allow your child to learn the skills of a child size cup, maybe because parents are lazy and don’t want to deal with the mess, know they need to learn new skills on a daily. I have sippy cups coming in on a daily, they are nasty,have not been cleaned properly, throwing them in the dishwasher don’t get, so many with mold around the rubber part inside the rubber part, they are very gross little cups.

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kelli December 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Hi my daughter just turned a year old and she likes to drink with straw cups she is all about drinking with the cup on her own but her bottle she has always wanted us to feed her but she knows how to do it I guess we just gave her what she wanted so we always gave her a bottle and my dr just told me at her 1yr old visit to get rid of the bottles since she has no problem using her straw cups on her own so today is the first day I have tried and I’m already frustrated Because she wants her bottle and us to feed her please help me with some useful tips!

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kellie December 12, 2013 at 9:29 am

Its not the spout that is the problem its the valve and how hard the child has to suck. You can give them the sippy without the valve.

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kevin January 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Ok so I am having a huge difference of opinion with my girlfriend about all this sippy cup jazz. I dont think in any case a child should even want a sippy cup after the age of 3. I have 3 children and she has 2 my 3 speak very well but her oldest son seems to have some trouble getting out what he needs to say. I feel that the “sippy cup” is the reason for this. So to the point, we have a babysitter that seems to think it is ok to give our kids a sippy cup throughout the day. Needless to say her youngest son has a speech impediment also. So I tried to talk to my girlfriend about it and she just got upset about it. So I don’t know what to do or say to actually get my concerns across to her without her getting over worked up about it. So what should I do or say to try and make her understand that it is more bad then good? Maybe im wrong but from reading this whole page it seems that im right.

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Doctor Oral/Facial Surgeon February 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I love how parents make statements about their children using sippy cups beyond the recommended 2-3 years of age and claim they have no difficulties in development. While I can call my congressman to pass a law because it’s ultimately up to the parents if they want to comply with the doctor orders. Doctors go thru advanced schooling. After high school, I had 12 years of school and training. We don’t issue these guidelines to make life hard or to be mean. We do these things to help people. Now parents are somewhat right, the issue of sippy cups and development isn’t black and white. That is to say, if a parent discountinues sippy cup well before 2-3 years of age, there is no risk of sippy cup associated development issues. But if a parent chooses to believe that doctors “don’t know what they’re talking about” and “I know what’s best for my child” then using the sippy cups beyond the recommended age increases risk for development problems. I doubt the current lack of development problems means no future development problems. Much like how the user “Kristi” says her 4 1/2 year old states her child does not have any difficulties right now. But unfortunately the key word is “develop”, meaning grow, emerge, mature. So when we doctors say there’s a risk it means we’ve done research and reviewed research and found a clear risk associated between the above mentioned development problems and sippy cup use. Just like how I wouldn’t say, “my child doesn’t need to wear a helmet, he’s outside riding his bicycle just fine, and he’s fallen off his bike but never hurt himself seriously.” Research has been done showing a clear risk associated between severe head trauma and not wearing a helmet. But parents make their children wear helmets almost always. So just because a parent doesn’t understand the logic or the significance of the recommendations, doesn’t make them “know what’s right for my kids.” It’s irresponsible for parents to encourage other parents to disobey doctors recommendations. I could go thru the process of how recommendations are made but not only is it too long, it’s too complex and difficult to understand the importance of the overall process.

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Katie March 5, 2014 at 10:09 am

It is NOT a good idea for a parent that is wishing to allow her child to self wean, to introduce sippy cups with water at 6 months of age. They can start to have preferences and since the sippy is MUCH easier than suckling at the breast, many may prefer the sippy and start rejecting the breast. It can cause the child to wean far sooner than they should have. If a child refuses a sippy, it is NOT a big deal when the mother is still breastfeeding, as she can offer the breast. It IS a big deal when the baby refuses the breast, because breast milk is FAR more vital than water for children. A child under the age of 1 that is exclusively breastfed should NOT be receiving water as the breast milk has a VERY high percentage of water and according to MD’s and breastfeeding experts, is the ONLY hydration that they need when provided at their access. When away from mom, they can be offered expressed milk and do NOT need water. Water is not going to hurt them, but under 6 months of age it could. It is bad for their kidneys etc actually. Water as I said does not necessarily hurt a baby over 6 months, but you are taking away from the breast milk that they really should be receiving. I read that initially and opt to skip the rest of the article, just because of advice like that of which I am not comfortable with. I have a child that I wish to have self wean on his own time and I prefer to stick to my milk over other juices etc.

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jodie corvin March 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm

my son is 19 months old he has been reallu good bout breaking away from bottle but not the sippy he wilk drink from straw but he always want his sippy ay night. what can i do?

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Nola August 12, 2014 at 11:30 am

My niece uses a sippy that she sucks from 2x a day in the morning and at night before bed…. Her brothers r both still using bottles any ideas how to get them to stop?… She’s 7. Her brothers r 5&3…

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Nola August 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Can anyone help me figure out a way to get them to stop?

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Jasmine August 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm

My son is almost 2 1/2 years old and still on his sippy cup, I never really liked the idea of children older than 2 on bottles or cups. I always said I wouldn’t let my child go on that long especially since I knew it affects speech. But he is very demanding. Any ideas or help on how to take him off of it?

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD August 13, 2014 at 4:59 pm

You can just try to do it gradually. Start with one meal and move on from there. Maybe still allow it once a day and move to a straw cup?

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