Should you be using sippy cups?

As a speech-language pathologist and mom of two young boys, I’ve often been asked my opinion on bottles and sippy cups.  So here are the facts: At age 12 months, the American Pediatrics Association recommends beginning to transition your child from the bottle and being completely rid of it by two years of age.

Why? Sippy cups encourage an immature suckle pattern similar to the bottle.  This immature sucking pattern helps the tongue to protrude forward instead of allowing the tongue to elevate and move backward in the mouth.  A prolonged immature suckle pattern encourages a “tongue thrust.”

So, “what’s the big deal if my child has a tongue thrust?”

Risk factors for prolonged use of sippy cups and bottles:

  • A difficulty with speech sounds (e.g., lisps, “s,” “d”, “t) by preventing the development of muscles needed for speech.
  • Open bite and need for braces due to tongue pushing forward on teeth.
  • Increased teeth decay.  The spill-less valve feature makes very convenient for kids to carry around drink sugary liquid throughout the day.
  • Increase in ear infections.  Kids often tilt their head back to drink sippy cups, which encourages liquid to go to the Eustachian tube.

Most people don’t know about tongue thrust and its effects! But it can be hard to get your little one to switch from a sippy cup or bottle to a regular cup – and it can be messy, too! Here are some tips:

  • Begin with having your child become familiar with a cup from an early age.  Have your child play with it when giving solid foods.   He/she can practice taking small sips while seated in a high chair.  Open cups and recessed lids work well!
  • Straw cups can be a great alternative to a sippy cup.  Many valved straw cups have the excellent no spill feature.

The spill-proof sippy cup was made available as the commercial product for the convenience of parents and caregivers in the early 90s.  My carpets have their fair share of spills and stains, but there are some great valve straw and recessed lid cups options.

Every parent has to decide what’s best for their family. There are tons of options out there – you’ll find the one that’s best for you!