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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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristi March 30, 2013 at 10:50 am

My 2 1/2 year old went straight to straw cups, because she didn’t like the sippy/spouted ones. My 4 1/2 year old uses the straw ones sometimes, but also still uses regular sippy cups all day/every day and has no dental problems or speech problems. The doctor was even impressed with how well he inunciates his words when he speaks and is VERY easy to understand. I think these things are honestly to scare people, like most things. Do what you think is best for your child. Only you know best.

elisha April 6, 2013 at 4:28 am

My 21 months daughter still uses the bottle when drinking her milk. I’d started and tried these sippy cups and the spouted one when she was 18 months but she doesn’t want it at all. She’d refused it! But with drinking water, it not a problem at all, she even drinks it in the glass, open cup and the straw cup. I even tried to alternate the regular bottle to an open cup, but still no luck. ( I wanna throw this bottle now).hahha. Need an expert advice from you guys…thank u!!!

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD April 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm

As long as your daughter know she will get milk from a bottle, she’s probably won’t take it any other way. I would discontinue the bottle (gradually or whatever you think is best) and keep offering milk other ways. Is she doesn’t drink milk you can meet her calcium needs through yogurt and cheese and a vitamin D supplement.

Katie April 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

My 14 month old won’t drink out of normal sippy cups (only straw cups) so I was pleased. But wondering why am I still allowing my 3 1/2 year old to drink out of sippy cups then. I first tried to limit the use just to certain times but realized he would not drink through out the day waiting for the sippy cup. So I took them all away. He has always been able to use regular and straw cups but he loves sippy cups. I just wanted to remark that my 3 1/2 year old has no speech / teeth / tongue issues what-so-ever. But the longer they use a sippy cup, the more they will become attached to it.

Tara May 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I keep wondering how much difference there is in the water bottle that I use every day and my two year old’s sippy cup, not much to me. So I I’ve been going back and forth on when I should ditch his sippy cups. I will go out and get the kind with the straw, but other than that, I don’t care much about getting rid of it. He keeps it with him or near him all day and gets all the water he wants, so I’m loathe to limit his drinking to when we are at the dinner table.

Justin July 20, 2013 at 9:31 am

I need some help here. My son is 6 years (that’s right, YEARS) old and still drinks from a sippy cup a couple times every day. My wife gets very defensive when I simply ask if its time to get him to drink from regular cups. She says that he is grumpy when he first gets out of bed and will be until he gets his milk. So, she puts the milk into a sippy cup every morning before he gets out of bed so he can sit on the couch and down it without spilling. On top of that, my 4 year old daughter has the same habitt. My wife does say that he’ll give up the sippy cups when he’s ready, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen because she’s enabling this behavior. Is therr anything I can do myself to break this sippy cup habit?

jill July 20, 2013 at 11:17 am

Justin, that’s a tough one if you and your wife are not on the same page. I think some kids are grumpy in the morning. It’s difficult when the adults in the house are all doing something different. My daughter takes raw milk etc. for Aiden in his room everynight. But the cup lids are not sippy, they are indented, like the Playtex coolster lid. We have a variety of those, such as a small stainless steel cup from a popular sporting goods store.
For me, I let it slide, since I have aiden the majority of the time, and he will drink from anything I give him, his most favorite being a glass. I just call it a special time with his mommy. I only object if the food she gives him causes him to bounce off the walls for the next two days. Even then, I approach it gently as possible.
At 6, I would think he should learn to recognize that he needs the milk first thing and come out and ask for it. Aiden knows he needs protein to be in a good mood, or simply a meal/snack. Teaching kids about nutrition, and what’s good for their bodies is one thing we strive to do.
So, I think maybe you can try to gently cover these topics, self responsibility, independence, and good health habits. By 6 he should be up and getting himself ready for school or the day if he is homeschooled. Hopefully whatever you do the 4 yr old will join in. Maybe buying some cool cups for breakfast, and it will be waiting at their table for them with their favorite beverage or milk at breakfast time.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD July 22, 2013 at 8:09 am

Justin — My daughter also liked milk from the sippy cup first thing in the morning. This is often more about comfort than nutrition for the child. They are used to having milk first thing and like the sucking action of the cup. One thing you can suggest to your wife is to cut down the sippy cup maybe to once a day while offering regular cup. Then it can be offered weekends only etc. Some kids may stop it but they may not, just as some kids continue to suck their thumbs for a long time. Gentle guidance is key. Try to bring it up to your wife in a non-threatening way. She probably likes that he still drinks milk and worries that by stopping it he won’t drink milk. This link might help http://www.raisehealthyeaters.com/2013/05/how-i-got-zen-about-my-childs-refusal-to-drink-milk/ Good luck!

bugga July 24, 2013 at 9:16 am

The best cup to transition from a bottle for us has been the Nuk active with the silicone spout. My daughter would not drink from hard spout sippys or even the ones with a little silicone (like some of the nuby and munchkin ones) at 6 months. Once we introduced the nuk we slowly supplemented one feeding at a time with it until she had it for milk only at 9 months.once she turned one she tried every cup (straw, regular, sports bottle etc. Now that I know she is completely capable and not reliant on any sort of cup we give her ANY of the spill proof ones. I think as long as they don’t go to kindergarten only able to drink from a sippy and are able to drink from anything there is no need to worry which cup they have. And the learner cups that look like real cups are great too! Heck I drink from a reusable sports water bottle all day long, I think it would be ridiculous to make my 16 month old carry around a cup without a lid when I know she can drink from it and stress myself out about water and milk all over the house.

Zoe July 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Help!! My 12 month old doesn’t like drinking! I have to surringe fluid into him. Tried a few different beakers but won’t have any of them. Yet to try a straw!

Charlie July 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

My 7 1/2 year old stepson drank exclusively out of sippy cups until I came into the picture when he was 4. He now can’t drink from a regular cup well because he feels the need to suck on it. He was on the sippy for so long because he was with grandma and grandpa all the time, and they did whatever they wanted with him. They still give him a sippy sometimes, and we don’t have the option of keeping him from staying there because of money. Grandma says if we’re sending him there, she’ll do what she wants. How do I put an end to thus, and help him learn to drink normally from a regular cup?

Kim August 15, 2013 at 6:01 am

My son is 26 months and just doesn’t understand the concept of an open cup. He’s been drinking from a straw cup since about 10 months old. When I offer him an open cup he either sticks his tongue inside and then tries to drink or just plays with it and dumps it every where. Any tips or trainer cups out there?

jorge August 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

my five months old daughter has no problems drinking from a regular cup, and she seems to like it, is this something we should encourage?

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD August 27, 2013 at 8:21 am

Jorge — The AAP recommends waiting until 6 months to have babies drink anything else than breastmilk or formula so be sure she isn’t taking too much. After 6 months sips from a regular cup is fine as long as you are there to watch her….little sips are best.

Tara August 27, 2013 at 8:34 am

My son drinks from a spout cup and has difficulty with straw cups because after it’s about half empty it doesn’t work all that well he has to tip it a certain way to get it to work, eventually he gives up. He is two.

Here is a question I’ve had. What is the difference between a sippy cup and a water bottle, and if we can drink from water bottles with a spout as older kids and adults, then why bother worrying about a sippy cup?

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 ?

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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