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Weaning Your Baby Off the Bottle Using a Straw Cup

Updated on April 14, 2017

Pediatricians recommend parents begin to transition children from bottles at one year with a complete transition to a cup by 18 months. Many parents choose a sippy cup to make this transition simple and mess-free. However, research demonstrates that a straw style cup is a better alternative than the traditional sippy cup.

My daughter was not impressed with the more traditional sippy cup!
My daughter was not impressed with the more traditional sippy cup! | Source

Transitioning from a Bottle

As a speech-language pathologist myself, I realize the importance in the development of swallowing and articulation. A little research into the topic of transitioning babies from bottles to sippy cups will reveal to you that it is actually not recommended! What is recommended is making a transition from a bottle to a straw or straw cup.

The Problem with Sippy Cups

The reason sippy cups are not recommended are various. Speech pathologists have found that the sippy cup does not facilitate development of the correct swallowing patterns or placement of the articulators. The sippy cup can interfere with placement of the tongue which can interfere with speech development and effect speech clarity. Dentists have also found sippy cups may contribute to tooth decay.

My daughter loved her honey bear straw cup and usually had it at arms length.
My daughter loved her honey bear straw cup and usually had it at arms length. | Source

A Helpful Solution

Parents, please don't beat yourselves up about this! Even with my professional background, I used a sippy cup with my first child! Sometimes, we just have to do what works the best for our child! He was able to transition to a soft spouted sippy cup easily. But, my second child, she refused to take the sippy cup style her big brother had loved. Soon, I found out she did not like any sippy cups at all! Around the time, I was fretting about this and trying to figure out if I would ever get her off the bottle, I attended a continuing education conference for my profession. One of the speakers, a fellow speech-language pathologist, warned against sippy cups and recommended this special cup that was at that time used often with children with oral-motor or sensory issues. The cup was a Honey Bear Cup with a Straw. The great thing about this cup that was different from the traditional straw cup was that you could control the liquid by squeezing the bear causing the liquid to go up the straw. This way the child can see that using the straw does result in a reward....the milk, water, juice, etc! One difficulty of a plain straw cup is that it is hard for the child to suddenly realize they need to suck on it and that sucking on the straw will result in getting their drink. The honey bear cup elminates this issue as the child realizes that the straw is the way to get access to the liquid and gradually they learn to suck the straw and get results. This worked like a charm with my daughter who was around 14 months at the time. It only took a day or so for her to fully master the use of the honey bear cup.

The Indirect Benefits of Straws

Another great general benefit to straw drinking is...going out to eat is much easier! You don't have to worry as much if you forget your straw cup or might not even want to worry about taking your own cup at all! You can always get a straw at a restaurant and have a way for your young child to get a drink. No more, "I forgot the sippy cup!!" panic!

Tips and Tricks

Now one little warning...sometimes the physics of the straw and the pressure in the cup result in liquid spilling up the straw of the honey bear cup without warning. This cup became my daughter's favorite so I lived with this minor inconvenience and just popped of the lid now and then to release the pressure and avoid the spillage. Also, it was not dishwasher safe. Again only a minor inconvenience in comparison to all the benefits! For cleaning purposes, you may want to get a tiny brush that you can insert in the straw for an extra good cleaning. I was using some Dr. Brown's bottles at the time and had the associated cleaning brushes. The brushes worked great for cleaning out the straw. If mom...ahem...forgot to wash it for a day and dried milk got stuck in the straw. By the way, I did have 2 cups so one did get the chance to stay briefly dirty occasionally.

As soon as you child gets the hang of straw drinking, you may want to transition to some of the more "sippy cup like" cups available for children....just be sure to get the ones with the straw instead of the sippy cup spout!

Advancing to other straw cups
Advancing to other straw cups | Source

My own thoughts...

Well this is not exactly scientific research, but in my own experience my oldest child who did use a sippy cup for several years did have a tongue thrust and lisp. My younger child who used straw cups (AND had her passy until age 4....don't judge me....we had a very good reason!) did not. Just food for thought....

I totally understand that children can be very particular and each parent has to do what is best for their own child. I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty if they find a traditional sippy cup is best for their child! I just wanted to provide you with some information you may not have thought of and give you an alternative....especially if your child is having a hard time making that transition from the bottle!

For more information

For more information, you can search the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association website for articles recommending the straw over sippy.

How old was your child when they were weaned off the bottle?

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