Why is it important for my baby to learn how to sip from a cup?
Jemma Hook aka The Mummy Dentist recommends introducing an open cup from around six months of age, so baby can learn how to ‘sip’. This is because the prolonged use of a dummy or a bottle can have a dramatic effect on the position of your baby’s teeth.
When shopping for your baby’s first cup, choose an open cup as opposed to a spouted or sealed cup. Spouts are thought to impede natural tongue movement, while seals encourage baby to suck and not sip.
‘Sipping’ also supports early speech patterns by promoting oro-facial muscle and jaw development, and it also reduces the risk of decay by preventing liquids from pooling around the upper front teeth.
We asked the experts at Babycup for some advice on how to get started.
1. Choose a cup that’s the right size for the user
Little cups are for little people, because let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to drink from a bucket!.
- A mini open cup is easy for little hands
- The liquid can funnel into a little mouth
- The cup isn’t too heavy when filled
2. Start with just a tiny amount of liquid
Spills are part of the learning process! Small cups and small amounts of liquid = only small spills! Yay!
- Just a drop to begin with
- 10ml or less, or less than half a fl oz, is fine
- Practising empty is great too!
3. Hold the cup with your little one
If your little one doesn’t want to hold the cup at first, don’t worry, just hold it for them. Learning a new skill might take practise, but it’s so worthwhile.
- If your little one takes the cup, place your hand at the side or underneath
- If their hand goes inside, you can hold the cup at the top to encourage them to hold lower down
- Gently guide the cup to their mouth with them
- Tip only slightly and let them get used to the feeling of the cup on their bottom lip
4. The hand hover
If they’re keen to try, that’s great! You’ll find your little ones enjoy their independence, and it’s true that sometimes the only barrier to them learning is us not letting them – Eek!
- Hover a hand nearby whilst they start to hold and direct the cup themselves
- Be on hand for guidance
- Resist the urge to take over
- Be there; help gently if needed
5. Praise and encourage your little one
It’s all about the Feel Good Factor. Encouragement is wonderful and essential, and perseverance is key for both of you!
- Be at their level, make eye contact, use their name, and tell them how proud you are of their effort
- Praise their attempts
- Acknowledge the challenges
6. Walk the walk
Tiny humans are born to learn. Their mimicry is magical.
- Grab a drink, take a seat and sip together
- Model the behaviour you want to teach – parents, siblings and carers can all make an impact
7. Extra tips, tricks and beautiful bits!
Some little ones go for it straight away, some do best with more time and encouragement. There’s no right or wrong in how long it takes your baby to master the art of sipping from a cup.
- Practise at bath time – they’re naked, and surrounded by water!
- At first mealtime tries, wait until after they’ve eaten and are less distracted
- When you start to hold and tip the cup to their bottom lip, rest it there for a second or two to encourage lip closure around the rim of the cup
As well as for first sips and for weaning, Babycup First Cups are great for earlier on too as they are also suitable for cup-feeding infants. They’re also great to have on hand to help through any times of feeding challenges or whilst establishing breastfeeding.
Babycup First Cups are useful for a number of different scenarios such as tongue-tie, cleft, latch issues, bottle refusal or for feeding expressed milk. Please discuss with your midwife or health visitor and ask them to demonstrate the technique for cup-feeding.
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