Parents (USA)

0–12 Months

Introduce drinking cups.

- by TAMEKIA REECE

Start early.

Your baby probably won’t be able to hold a cup or drink solo without spilling until after age 1, but let them start practicing. The ideal time to introduce a sippy cup, whether with a straw, spouted, or spoutless, is typically around 6 months old, when they start solids. They will be having a lot of new sensory, motor, and cognitive experience­s when they’re first eating, so it may be best to wait a week or two before adding the cup.

Try out a few.

Although there are tons of baby cups to choose from—hard- and soft-spout sippies, and those with a straw—some experts recommend spoutless sippy cups because the others may hinder feeding developmen­t. If possible, buy several types; your child may have a preference. First, offer an empty cup and let your baby explore and play with it. Do this for several days so they’ll be familiar with the cup before you put liquid in it.

Teach them to sip.

Make sure your child is seated before giving them a cup with water, breast milk, or formula (never juice at this age). Hold it up to their mouth and tilt it slowly so a little liquid dribbles in. Give your child time to swallow before offering more. If you put breast milk or formula (or even a smear of pureed baby food) at the tip of a baby cup that has a short straw, your baby will taste it and probably suck the straw to get more.

Be careful.

Once your baby likes the cup, they may want it all the time—but don’t let them carry it around during the day, use it as a pacifier, or sleep with it. Constantly bathing their teeth in sugar from drinks (even breast milk!) increases the risk of tooth decay. Supervise when your baby drinks from a cup while seated. If they walk or run with a cup and fall, it could lead to mouth injuries.

Have patience.

Some babies still prefer a bottle, but keep trying. Experts recommend that babies be weaned off bottles at around 12 months so your kid has time to get the hang of it. You can show them that it’s fun: Take a sip from a small cup and say, “Mmm, yummy!” Your baby may just want some too. Sources: Jaime Friedman, M.D., a pediatrici­an at Children’s Primary Care Medical Group, in San Diego; Melanie Potock, a pediatric speech-language pathologis­t, feeding specialist, and coauthor of Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater.

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