Introducing Cups to Babies

Starting your baby on solid foods is such an exciting milestone. Many families put a lot of thought into a baby’s first food, though there is another important milestone that is often overlooked - introducing cups to your baby.

In this blog post, we will dive into why introducing cups is important early on, the best age to start introducing cups to your baby, how to choose a cup for your baby, and practical tips to make the transition as easy as possible.

Why Cup Introduction is Important

Cup introduction plays a crucial role in a baby's developmental milestones. While bottles are a helpful tool during your baby’s first year, transitioning to a cup fosters independence and encourages the development of oral motor skills.

Staying on a bottle for too long can result in your baby:

  • skipping meals because they fill up on milk and are not hungry for solid foods
  • developing cavities when your baby’s teeth are constantly bathed in milk, formula or juice.
  • having speech delays from not developing the muscles in the mouth
  • being at risk for taking in too many calories
  • having a hard time transitioning to a cup in the future because toddlers may become attached to the bottle.

The good news is that early introduction of a cup can make the transition from a baby bottle a bit easier!

Baby under a towel

When to Introduce a Cup to a Baby

The timing of cup introduction is a key consideration to making your transition off the bottle as smooth as possible. 

According to most pediatric and dental experts, it is advisable to introduce a cup to babies around six months of age or soon after your baby starts solid foods. This is typically when babies start showing an interest in self-feeding and can sit up with support. Babies should hit all of the developmental milestones for starting solids before you introduce a cup unless you are advised differently by your pediatric provider.

Make sure to talk to your baby’s pediatrician to see if your baby is ready for solids and to introduce a cup!

Just know that most babies won’t take to a cup right away! It takes a lot of exposure and practice for them to start drinking a significant amount.

Baby with sippy cup

Choosing a cup for your baby

Selecting the right cup is one of the most important aspects of this transition and babies can be so particular! 

There are thousands of cups out there and everyone has an opinion.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the goal is for your child to drink out of an open cup by the age of 2.  Any parent who has given their baby an open cup knows that it is very messy. Instead, parents often opt for a spill-proof trainer cup.

Choose a cup that is valve-free. Valves are often used to prevent spills, but they promote sucking that is similar to the bottle. This can result in delayed oral development so it is best to skip those if possible! 

Since the goal is an open cup or straw cup by the time they are two, choosing one of the two lets you skip the sippy-cup step all together.

Choosing a cup with handles or an open cup that is small and grippy may make it easier for your baby.

For even less mess, choose a cup that can be used with the baby bottle bungee

Busy Baby Mini Mat and Bottle Bungee in use on a high chair

What to serve in a cup for babies

When you feel ready to introduce a cup, there are two main options of what to serve your baby: breastmilk/formula or water. So what should you choose?

  • Breastmilk or formula: The official recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics is to offer breastmilk or formula since your baby is used to the flavor. This may help your baby accept the cup more easily. You then gradually start introducing water at mealtimes.
  • Water: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends between 4 to 8 ounces of water from 6 months to 12 months. The rest of their hydration should come from breastmilk or formula. Water can help decrease your baby’s risk for constipation when starting solids.

Avoid juice if possible. Whole fruit is better for babies because it adds more fiber to the diet!

Baby drinking from a cup

Tips to Reduce Stress When Introducing a Cup:

Introducing a cup to your baby is important, but it may come with its fair share of challenges. Here are some tips to reduce stress and make the transition smoother:

  • Gradual Introduction: Start by offering the cup during mealtime, allowing your baby to explore it at their own pace. Let your baby play with the cup.
    • It is common for babies to throw the cup as soon as your place it on their tray. Use the Baby Bottle Bungee to prevent mess.
  • Be a Role Model: Babies learn by imitation, so demonstrate how to drink from the cup yourself. Use exaggerated movements. This can make the process more enticing and familiar to your little one, even if it makes you feel silly.
  • Choose the Right Timing: Pick a time when your baby is calm and not overly hungry or tired. This increases the likelihood of a positive experience and reduces resistance.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate each milestone, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can create a positive association with the cup.
  • Realistic Expectations are Key: Using a cup is a new and important skill your baby has to learn. Remember that new skills take time. There is a good chance that your baby won’t drink much from the cup for a few months. The goal is frequent exposure without pressure so your baby gets used to the cup over time.

Introducing cups to babies is a significant step towards fostering independence and promoting healthy development. By understanding the importance of cup introduction, knowing when and how to initiate this transition, following evidence-based guidelines from the AAP, choosing the right cup, serving appropriate beverages, and implementing practical tips to reduce stress, you can make this journey a positive experience for both you and your baby. Embrace the milestones, celebrate the successes, even if they seem small!

Erin Moore pediatric nurse practitioner and certified lactation counselor

Erin Moore is a pediatric nurse practitioner and certified lactation counselor in Austin, TX who supports moms during their entire feeding journey - even if it is not going as planned. From breast to bottle to bites, Erin has you covered with judgment-free virtual consults and evidence-based education.,day%2C%20including%20water%20or%20milk.


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