Tips for transitioning away from a sippy cup

Even though it’s recommended that children begin moving to regular cup drinking at around 12 to 15 months, things don’t always go according to plan. With Baby’s third birthday a few months away, it’s a great time to work on leave the sippy cup-era behind and master drinking from a regular cup, if they hasn’t yet. But as every parent of a toddler knows, change can be tough.

Toddlers and sippy cups

Even though there’s a big, wide world of toddler cups out there, sippy cups are often the favorite of parents and young children. They typically serve as a bridge during the move from bottle drinking to cup drinking, and sippy cups also go a long way in preventing surfaces from being doused with liquid after a cup slips from the hands of an active toddler. In addition, sippy cups work well for travel and on-the-go activities.

Challenges with sippy cups

However, sippy cups were never meant to be a toddler’s primary drinking vessel. Because toddlers can walk around with them, they often drink more liquids than they should, which interferes with mealtime eating. Also, sippy cup-toting toddlers often cling to them, wanting to take their cup to bed at nighttime and during naps, which makes transitioning to a regular cup even more difficult.

In addition, using a sippy cup containing sugary liquids like juice or even milk for too long can lead to decay in primary teeth, as little teeth can be exposed to more of whatever is in the cup when it’s being carried around, and the shape of the sippy cup can lead to deposits of sugar behind the front teeth.

Tips for transitioning your toddler to a traditional cup

Once you make the decision that Baby is ready to leave their sippy cup behind, try these tips to make the transition more manageable.

  • Limit in-cup beverage options: If you have allowed Baby to have milk or juice in their sippy cup throughout the day, start filling it with water only. As you begin your transition, you may also offer they milk in the sippy cup at mealtimes but only at the table. As you go on, though, make the sippy cup somewhere they can only have water in, so that they need to use an open-top cup for other drinks.
  • Search for cool cups: Let Baby know that since they are nearly three, it’s time to shop for the kinds of cups big kids use. Once you find a variety of open cups you believe will work, ask Baby to pick out their two favorites. This way, they get to choose whether they want to drink milk in the blue cup or the yellow cup at the lunch table.
  • Offer praise for cup-drinking: Understand that it may take some time for Baby to get the hang of drinking from an open cup. As they begin this transition, tell them how proud you are of this new grown-up skill.
  • Don’t mind the mess: Accept that spills will happen, and treat any messes in a low-key manner. One way to limit mess during this learning stage is to try filling open cups just halfway or less when Baby first starts using them, gradually increasing the amount of liquid you serve.

As with any toddler transition, moving away from the sippy cup is a process. Keep consistent and remember to recognize the big step Baby is taking in drinking from their grown-up cup.

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  • Mark Burhenne, DDS. “Why Your Toddler’s Sippy Cup Should Come with a Warning Label.” Ask the Dentist with Mark Burhenne, DDS. 2017.
  • Amy Hardin, MD. “Ask the Pediatrician.” American Academy of Pediatrics. 12/2/14.
  • Kelly Ross, MD. “Sippy Cup Sagas: When to Transition?” Childrens MD. 6/10/13.
  • “Sippy Cup: Use Only Water in Sippy Cups or Increase Cavity Risk.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. 2/13/07.
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