How long should a toddler use a sippy cup?
By now, Baby is probably drinking water and other (hopefully sugar-free) beverages from their sippy cup. Armed with a handful of spaghetti in one hand and a sippy cup in the other, they are probably dominating meals left and right. But just as solids and more complex foods were slowly introduced a year ago, if Baby is still using a sippy cup regularly, the next step is to transition from sippy cup to glass.
Drawbacks to extended sippy cup use
It is not always well-known, but many doctors recommend only using a traditional sippy cup for a few months while Baby is transitioning from bottle to cup. Cups with lids or spouts should be used sparingly as there is evidence that these kinds of cups can contribute to tooth decay, or can have a negative effect on speech development. Sippy cups that use straws are generally seen as a safer alternative.
The sippy cup should also not be used as a comfort object like a pacifier. If you find that Baby is using the sippy cup to soothe themself, it may be helpful in the long run to try to encourage an attachment to a different object. Soothing with a sippy cup, no matter what type of cup, will speed up tooth decay and promote the idea of comfort-feeding, which has been linked to unhealthy eating patterns.
In addition, sippy cups also account for many trips to the ER for children around this age, as toddlers often run too quickly while drinking from sippy cups, which can lead to falls and injuries. Open cups are less likely to be used as comfort objects, or run around with, and so don’t cause the same kind of injuries.
Making the switch
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers begin using regular cups between 12 and 15 months of age, but it’s fairly common for a toddler to take a little longer than that to really get the hang of using a glass. If you and Baby haven’t gotten started yet, there’s no need to worry, just slowly start introducing regular cups whenever possible. If you’ve already started letting them take sips from your cup, or they have a smaller cup that they use sometimes with your help, then you’re on the right track.
According to the AAP, children are developmentally ready to give up sippy cups by 2 to 3 years of age. When you’re ready to start to make the switch, make sure you choose a cup that has a wide base to cut down on spilling. You’ll want to keep the sippy cup around during these few weeks of training so the access to water is always there and they stay hydrated. Keep the cup out of reach at mealtime until they learn not to tip it over. Help pass it when it’s needed between bites and stay patient.
Before you know it, Baby will be rocking the eating-and-drinking routine without much adult help like a champ.
- “Discontinuing the Bottle.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved August 24 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Discontinuing-the-Bottle.aspx.
- “Sippy Cup.” MyChildrensTeeth.org. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Retrieved August 24 2017. http://www.mychildrensteeth.org/education/sippycup/.