Some parents feel that needing to buy a toddler cup is a clear sign that their child is getting older. And in many ways it is. Breast and bottle feeding require sucking, a survival instinct so powerful that babies start sucking when still in the womb. But drinking from a cup requires unique and different skills in gaining control over their mouth; throat, tongue and lips.
Holding fluid in the mouth and controlling swallowing takes hours of practice and repetition before it becomes easy. There is much which parents can do to support this transition.
What age should I offer my baby a cup?
You’ll find that as your baby nears six months, they will have developed the oral skills required to drink from a cup. They’ll also have more upper body strength and control and be able to sit unsupported for short periods of time, all essential skills for being able to drink whilst in an upright position.
Why hydration matters
It’s important for babies and children to stay well hydrated with milk and water. Particularly in hot climates and the warmer months when sweating causes additional water loss.
Importantly: Fruit juices and sweetened drinks should not be offered because of their high calorie and sugar content.
When should my baby have water?
Water can be offered routinely to babies once they are having more solid foods-around six months. Breastfed babies don’t need extra water as long as they are breastfed frequently and their mother’s milk supply is adequate. Formula fed babies may benefit from extra drinks of water, especially if they are constipated.
Thirst is a good indicator of needing to drink, but it can be hard for parents to know if their baby is thirsty rather than hungry. A good habit is to offer your baby a drink of water when you are having one too. Until the age of 12 months, drinking water needs to be boiled, and then cooled.
Signs of thirst
- Mouthing - similar to what adults do when thirsty
- Irritability, crankiness and restlessness
- Reaching for a cup or bottle
- A dry mouth, minimal saliva and (perhaps) strong breath
- Dry lips
- Less wet nappies and reduced tears
When you can offer a feeding cup
- A cup can be used instead of a bottle when offering formula or expressed breast milk (EBM)
- To avoid nipple confusion, this can be important in young breastfed babies
- When hygiene and sanitation are a problem. A cup is easier to clean than bottles, screw caps and teats
- For babies aged over six months of age, if parents want to avoid using bottles altogether and transition straight to cups. (Ideally, all bottles are ceased by 12 months)
- For small amounts of fluids
- When offering (pre-measured) medication
- For babies with sucking difficulties
What to look for in a toddler cup
- Spill proof. Messiness is a part of learning how to drink from a cup-minimising spills is important
- Easy to clean. Babies are prone to infection so hygiene is an important factor
- BPA free (Bisphenol A). This has been linked with adverse health outcomes
- A spout which is soft enough to support transition from the breast.
- One with handles which supports independent drinking and tipping skills
- Can be easily sterilised without any damage. Toddler cups used for formula and EBM feeding need to be sterilised until 12 months of age
- It is useful if all components are integrated amongst the brand range. This increases function and practicality and reduces costs
- A cup with volume capacity to adapt to children needs as they mature
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