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The Best Cup For Your Baby - A Simple Guide For Parents

May 11, 2021 3 min read

Walking down the baby isle in search of your baby’s first cup can be quite overwhelming. There are so many choices, the selection seems endless. So which one do you choose?

In this article, I hope to clear up some of the confusion around drinking cups for babies and provide you with some best practise guidelines to make the transition to drinking from a cup as smooth as possible.

When to introduce a cup?

Your baby will need their first cup at around 6 months of age when they start eating solid food. You should offer small amounts of water each time they eat. Most paediatric dietitians and speech therapists recommend that this is from an open or a straw cup.

Using an open cup and straw cup right from the start allows your baby to develop the correct skills they need to transition from an immature swallow to a mature swallow from around the age of one. A delay in this skill development can increase the risk of issues with speech as your baby grows.

An ideal open cup for babies is one that is small in size and will only hold a small amount of liquid when full (it could very well end up all over them so best not to have a big cup full!). Parents will need to assist their baby with drinking from a cup at first, however their skills using the correct tongue movement will develop quickly.

Introducing a straw cup at your baby’s meals is another great option and again, encourages them to use the correct tongue movement for proper oral development. It is important that the tip of the straw is placed between their lips and not completely in their mouth, as your baby will just continue to suck the straw like a bottle.

Why not a sippy cup?

Although sippy cups are widely sold and recommended by companies as your baby’s first cup, they are not the most suitable option (especially for prolonged use) for a number of reasons.

  1. The spout on a sippy cup mimics that of a bottle and therefore, your baby will use the same muscles in their tongue and mouth to drink from them. This will not allow them to develop the skills needed for a mature swallow that is needed as they grow.
  2. The fluid from a sippy cup can come in contact with the teeth and sit in the mouth longer than that of a straw or open up. This can be a worry when a sippy cup is used for milk (or other sugary drinks) as it can increase the risk of tooth decay.
  3. Extended use of a sippy cup can also cause issues with the growth of your baby’s teeth due to the hard spout.

Transitioning from the bottle

If your baby is receiving formula or breastmilk from a bottle, it’s time to transition them to a cup at 12 months. If you are breastfeeding, you can continue this well into the second year and beyond if it suits you and your baby.

At 12 months, formula fed babies can transition to cow’s milk (or a suitable alternative) and this should be given in a straw cup (or open cup if you choose). This transition may take time so don’t worry if your baby takes a few weeks or months to swap over from their bottle. Start with replacing just one bottle (the middle of the day bottle is usually best for this) before moving on to the morning, and finally the evening bottle.

Babies who are receiving breastmilk from a bottle can continue to drink breastmilk into the second year, however this should also be from a straw cup (as above).

What to look for in a straw cup?

When your baby is just starting out with a straw, it may be useful to have a bottle that you can squeeze. This will assist in moving the water up into the straw and help your baby work out how to drink from it.

Once your baby is confident with the straw, you can transition onto a more advanced straw cup that they can use independently.



Nicola is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and the owner of kids nutrition business, Grub for Kids. With over 7 years of experience as a dietitian and 3 young kids of her own, Nicola aims to educate, inspire and reduce the stress of parents when it comes to feeding their kids.

You can connect with Nicola via the links below: