As the months fly by and your baby gets older, you might be wondering when to make the switch from a bottle to a sippy cup, as bottle feedings will no longer be needed (at least not as much).
Or you might be wearing your shoes on the wrong feet and wondering what day it is… It’s okay, we don’t judge. We’ve all been there.
That first year is a whirlwind. A crazy, sleep-deprived blur of this thing we call parenting. But that’s okay because that’s what we’re here for!
Sit back, put your feet up and let us do the hard yards for you. Join us as we explore everything you need to know about transitioning babies from the bottle to a sippy cup.
For First-Time Parents: What’s A Sippy Cup?
You know that awkward time when your toddler is too old for a bottle, but hasn’t quite mastered using a regular cup yet? That’s where the sippy cup comes in.
It’s basically a training cup. It helps them develop proper cup-drinking skills.
Most sippy cups have a spout, making it easy for your baby to drink. In fact, there’s a whole range of models available with different types of spouts, depending on your baby’s needs, with the most popular being the silicone spout.
You can also choose a cup with or without handles.
They’re great because they’re designed to be spill-proof, giving your little one that extra independence without adding extra cleaning to your to-do list.
What Age Should Your Baby Stop Using A Bottle?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends recommends that you transition baby from bottle to cup by 18 months of age.
But it’s a process you can start quite early. In fact, most doctors urge parents to introduce the sippy cup around the time their baby turns one-year-old, or even younger.
In this video, Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics, points out that it’s also a personal choice. The timing really depends on your baby’s own capabilities.
For example, she talks about how some babies will happily start using sippy cups at six months of age. Particularly sippy cups with straws, as they can sometimes be easier for babies to suck.
Just remember, every baby is different.
Some make the sippy cup transition quite early and others won’t until much closer to 18 months. As the parent, you know your child best and what they’re ready for.
Signs Your Baby Is Ready To Wean From The Bottle
While your baby’s age is important to consider when it comes to bottle weaning, you can also be guided by their developmental milestones.
According to the Benioff Children’s Hospital, these include:
- Sitting up unassisted
- Able to eat from a spoon
- Showing interest in solid foods
- Have an established routine for meal times
If your baby is ticking all these boxes, it may be a sign they’re ready to swap the bottle for a sippy cup.
If you’re unsure if your baby is ready, a doctor or child health nurse may be able to provide some guidance.
Why Is The Timing So Important?
Moving onto a sippy bottle isn’t just a random coming-of-age thing. It’s actually very important for your child’s health and development.
You see, prolonged bottle use is associated with a few different problems:
Extensive bottle-use can lead to tooth decay. This is caused by teeth being over-exposed to sugar, which can cause cavities. You might be thinking ‘Sugar? It’s just milk!’
Sure, milk isn’t exactly something you’d think of as ‘junk food’, but it does contain sugar.
While misuse of a trainer cup can also lead to tooth decay, it’s still a step in the right direction. That’s because it teaches the important skills needed to move onto a regular cup – which is widely considered the safest thing for your child’s teeth.
With this in mind, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Foundation, The Dental Trade Alliance Foundation and The American Dental Association all endorse weaning baby from the bottle at 12 to 14 months of age.
If you’re worried that your baby is already showing signs of tooth decay, it’s probably a good idea to chat with your dentist.
Babies that become attached to the bottle risk drinking more milk than they need, be that breast milk or formula.
This is especially relevant as baby gets older, becomes more independent and learns to walk. If they are prone to walking away with the bottle, it’s harder to monitor their milk intake.
Studies show that toddlers who spend too long on the bottle are more likely to face weight issues, because of the extra calories.
More specifically, researchers say that two-year-olds who drink from the bottle are more likely to be obese than kids who are weaned earlier.
Potential Iron Deficiency
There is speculation that prolonged bottle use could lead to iron deficiency in toddlers.
The thinking behind this is that the child could fill up on milk, and therefore wouldn’t have enough appetite to eat their solid meals. One of the major risks here is that they wouldn’t be eating enough foods that contain iron.
As you can imagine, an imbalanced diet can really impact your child’s overall health and wellbeing. And iron is a particularly important nutrient for brain development.
How To Make A Successful Sippy Cup Transition
Most medical professionals recommend making the transition from a bottle to a sippy cup a gradual process.
So instead of going cold turkey, let your baby adjust slowly to the change, so they can get used to it.
For example, if your baby has three bottles a day, start by replacing just one of them. After a few days, you can replace another. And so on.
Until finally, your baby won’t be taking a bottle anymore. Hooray!
As we discussed earlier, this gradual process is something that can actually begin when baby is as young as six months old. If they’re used to touching and holding the sippy cup from this age, they might not make as much of a fuss when they have to start using it.
Need some inspiration? Check out this video for a look at one mom’s experience cutting out bottles and switching to the sippy cup.
Tips To Make The Switch As Easy As Possible
The aim is to make the switch to sippy cups as smooth and stress-free as possible. For both you and your baby.
Here are a few tips that might help along the way:
Make The Change At The Right Time
It’s hard to adjust to change during times of stress or upheaval.
With this in mind, it’s probably best not to make the transition when your little guy or gal is sick or teething, or if you’re on vacation.
You’ll want your baby to be as comfortable as possible throughout the bottle weaning process.
Develop Their Skills Early
By offering your baby a sippy cup when they’re younger, say six months old, you can help them get used to it.
You don’t need to cut their bottles out this early though – you could just offer bub a hold of the sippy cup once a day, so they slowly develop coordination.
Eliminate The Bedtime Bottle Last
As pointed out in this video by Intermountain Healthcare, it’s often harder to cut out the bottle around bedtime, so it might be best to eliminate that bottle last.
Nurse Dani suggests starting to transition your baby around mealtimes, by offering the sippy cup after they’ve been eating solids.
Everybody loves to lavish praise on their little one, right?
Great, because they’re going to need all the encouragement they can get! Every time your child tries using the sippy cup, show them how proud you are.
Dilute Milk In The Bottle
Some parents start diluting milk in the bottle with water and offering regular milk in the trainer cup. The idea here is that your baby will find the sippy cup’s contents far tastier than the bottle. A little bit of parental trickery in its prime.
Lead By Example
Embrace your inner child and show your baby how it’s done.
Babies are amazing mimics and can learn a lot through observation. If you’ve got older children, they might also like to help teach their sibling some new skills.
Try Different Types of Sippy Cups
If your baby is struggling or showing disinterest, maybe the sippy bottle you’ve bought simply isn’t the right type for their needs.
Kim Schaf, M.A.T. Certified Baby and Toddler Sleep Consultant, suggests letting your child choose their sippy cup from a few different options.
How Long Will The Transition Take?
It’s hard to say for sure.
Some kids love the independence that a sippy cup brings, while others cling to their bottles for dear life.
Be aware though that the later you wait, the harder it may be to break the attachment from the bottle.
All you can do is follow the recommended guidelines, give your child lots of practice and be patient.
A Few Notes About Different Types
It’s all very much a personal choice – for both you and your child. Oh yes, your little one will likely kick up a stink if the cup is not to their liking…
But that’s okay, because there are so many models to choose from. With different designs and features, they’ve all got their pros and cons.
Here’s the lowdown on some things to consider:
Soft Spout Or Hard Spout
The texture of a soft spout sippy cup may feel more like the teat of a bottle when drinking, which is why some babies prefer this type.
But be warned, some toddlers may bite and gnaw on the soft sippy spout, causing tears and holes – a hard spout will be more durable to little teeth.
With Or Without Handles
Obviously, a sippy cup with handles probably makes the transition easier for a younger baby, while they’re still developing grip and coordination.
But some parents opt for sippy cups without handles, to help them transition onto a regular cup.
Some sippy cups even come with removable handles, so you have both options!
Sippy Cups With Straws
Some babies find it easier to drink from a straw-based sippy cup.
Be aware though that the suctioning motion is a bit different to a regular sippy cup – while most regular sippy cups need to be tilted back to work, most straw cups need to be level.
So if you’re switching between these two types, don’t be surprised if your toddler is a little confused to begin with.
Why Proper Use Of A Sippy Cup Is So Important
Once you’ve transitioned to the sippy bottle, you still need to be vigilant about its use.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the misuse of sippy cups can increase the risk of tooth decay. They recommend only filling the trainer cup with water unless it’s mealtime.
The idea is to limit the time spent drinking sugary drinks.
It’s also important to stress the importance of using the sippy cup as a stepping stone. As soon as your child is ready, switch to a regular cup afterwards.
Should You Just Skip Sippy Cups And Go Straight To A Regular Cup?
Sometimes it’s easiest to just follow your baby’s lead.
If your child shows a preference for a regular cup and is able to drink just fine, perhaps its best to go with the flow. Assuming they’re getting enough milk and staying properly hydrated of course.
It’s a good idea to transition your baby to a regular cup as soon as they are able. They suggest that most toddlers can manage a two-handled cup by the time they turn two.
But this doesn’t mean you should rush them. Your little one needs time to develop proper cup-holding skills. With the right encouragement, they’ll find their way.
Remember: Change Is Hard, But You’ll Get There!
Tried everything and struggling to break the attachment from the bottle? Looking around the playgroup and worried your baby is the only one without a sippy cup? Don’t worry!
Babies and toddlers often do things in their own time.
If you’re following the recommended guidelines and providing ample opportunity to make the sippy cup transition, you’re doing a great job.
But if your toddler hits 18 months and you’re worried, it could be worth chatting with a medical professional. They might be able to ease your mind and have more strategies to help your little one make the change.
In the meantime, focus on finding the right sippy cup and giving lots of positive reinforcement.
Has your kid swapped a bottle for a sippy cup? We’d love to know your tips! Share your experiences in the comments below.