Cup drinking is not just about hydration. It's another stepping stone in baby's developing oral motor skills. Babies can begin drinking from an open cup at 6 months old. It will be messy, and they will require assistance at first. However, with practice, they will develop increased coordination and control to manage liquids by cup independently. Early acquisition of skills will also make it that much easier to transition off bottles. What skills is baby working on with an open cup?
Jaw growth and stability
Lib strength and mobility
Mature swallow pattern
Increased coordination for suck-swallow-breathe
Facilitates speech sound development for those early sounds which are made on the lips and with the tongue tip just behind the upper teeth (e.g., m, b, p, t, d)
While there may be times a parent wants to minimize the mess and offer a sippy cup, be careful not to become overly dependent on sippy cups. Not only do they have no developmental benefits, they actually reinforce tongue thrusting, rather than tongue tip elevation during drinking. This increases the risk of baby developing speech and swallowing dysfunction (in addition to dental issues resulting from persistent tongue thrust).
Teaching Open Cup Drinking
Offer first sips from a small cup, like a medicine cup or shot glass
Assist baby in bringing the cup to their mouth
Fill the cup high so there isn't much tipping
Thinned purees or smoothie consistencies may be offered to increase control of liquids while baby is first getting familiar
What About Products?
There are a lot of options on the market. Some include a recessed lid, which can decrease the mess. However they also make it a bit tricky for baby to line up their mouth with the opening! Some of our favorites are:
The EzPz Tiny Cup-soft silicone, weighted, fits perfectly into little hands (Nourish10 for 10% off)
Reflow Smart Cup -controlled flow rate for beginners
Eztots My First Cup -silicone, baby-sized, wide base lowers risk of spills
Why didn't the Munchkin 360 make the cut? I know, it's popular and practically spill-proof, but the 360 has a valve that requires inappropriate use of orofacial muscles in order to drink. There are better options for reinforcing oral motor skills for speech and feeding development.
Have more questions? We are always happy to provide consultation. Or, if you live in the Spokane area, we would love to have you and your little one join our feeding play groups! Groups are developed and led by a Speech-Langauge Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. Families learn all about feeding, while also geting the opportunity to put skills into practice with clinician feedback.