Babies go through many stages of development in their first year of life, such as transitioning breast to bottle, or bottle to a sippy cup. Some of these changes may be more difficult than expected. Transitioning may seem difficult for parents and their babies, so we search for simple ways to make the transition easier.
As a mother of 2 boys that are very close in age, I had one on breastmilk and the other on formula, so transitioning to a sippy cup was an obvious choice for me. One of the questions you may ask yourself is, can you put formula or breastmilk into a sippy cup to help with the transition.
In general, a baby can start to transition from a bottle to a sippy cup from the age of 6 months. You can put either formula or breastmilk in a sippy cup for your baby, however, there are some important things to consider when giving baby formula or breastmilk in a sippy cup.
When offering a baby a sippy cup, you need to ensure the cup you are using is not going to negatively affect their development, such as causing problems with their teeth and speech as they grow. When giving your baby formula in a sippy cup, you should make sure that your baby finishes their formula in a single feeding, the same as they would with a bottle, not just sipping on the cup for extended periods of time.
When will my baby stop drinking formula or breastmilk?
Usually, babies will drink formula until the age of 12 months. After the age of 12 months, there are some options for toddler milk formula, which can be given if your child refuses other fresh milk (cow’s milk, goat’s milk, etc.). However, formula milk contains added sugar, and your toddler doesn’t need to have formula if they accept other milk.
Babies that are under the age of 12 months old are unable to digest cow’s milk or other fresh milk, and that is why we offer breastmilk or formula, which is compulsory until the age of 1. Even when taking in solid foods from the age of 6 months, milk still remains a baby’s primary source of nutrition, so breastmilk or formula is compulsory until the age of 12 months.
Breast milk can be given until the baby and mother are happy to stop, and extended breastfeeding has many positive effects on both baby and mother. Formula can be stopped after the age of 12 months and be replaced with cow’s milk (or any alternative)
Breastmilk and formula can be given in a sippy cup after the age of 6 months, and other milk can be given in a sippy cup and eventually in an open cup after the age of 12 months.
Concerns and guidelines to follow when using a sippy cup
It is important to keep in mind that even though it is fine to use a sippy cup for formula or breastmilk when your baby is learning to use a cup for the first time, a sippy cup should not be used for long extended periods. It should be used as a tool instead, to help your baby make the transition to an open cup.
Extended use of a sippy cup can increase the risk of tooth decay. Here are some tips and guidelines to follow when using a sippy cup to help prevent your little one from getting tooth decay:
- Do not offer your baby formula in a sippy cup before bed or naptime.
- If offering a sippy cup at naptime or bedtime offer water only (no sugary drinks)
- Only offer formula in a sippy cup when your baby needs it (if they are thirsty or hungry) – (regular formula feeds)
- If your baby is thirsty, try to offer sips of water from the sippy cup instead of formula.
- Do not allow your baby to use the sippy cup as a pacifier or for comfort
- If your little one has started solids do not allow them to have the sippy cup all day, instead only offer it to them when needed, then remove it (allowing them to use it all day increases their risk eating disorders and of getting tooth decay)
- Offer your baby a sippy cup for sips of water during or between feedings or snack time.
- When offering baby formula or breastmilk in a sippy cup, ensure they finish it in one feeding and not sipping it over extended periods.
- Until the age of 12 months, continue to wash and sterilize the sippy cup the same as you would with a baby bottle.
- Try to avoid hand tip or spout sippy bottles, instead, look for sippy cups that help with transitioning to an open cup (such as a 360 cup)
- When your baby is developmentally ready, transition to an open cup.
Reasons for transition from bottle to sippy cup
Just like pacifiers, using a bottle for extended periods may end up causing problems. Therefore, weaning your baby from a bottle as soon as they are developmentally ready is very important.
Some issues that may occur from extended use of a bottle are:
- Speech problems
- Dental issues (Tooth decay, misalignment, overbite)
- Ear infections
- Eating disorders (picky eaters)
- Bad eating habits
- Poor nutrition
Every baby is unique and develops at their own individual pace, so not all babies will be ready to transition at the same time. This is perfectly normal, so there is no need for concern. With this in mind, it is recommended that all babies are weaned from a bottle by the time they reach 18 months old.
How to know if your baby is ready to try using a sippy cup:
- They are over 6 months old
- They can sit up alone
- They can grasp things tightly in their hands
- They have started eating
- They may want to try drinking from your cup if you are using one
How can I transition my baby to a sippy cup?
It is important to remember that even though it may seem like a difficult thing to do, all babies should make the transition to a sippy cup and eventually an open cup when they are developmentally ready to do so.
You may choose to give formula in a sippy cup, so your baby has something familiar in a new way; however, your baby may not be happy about having their favorite thing in a new way so if they don’t accept it, try a bit of water or watered down juice, so it is a whole new experience.
Try going backward when teaching your baby to drink from a sippy cup. Start with an open cup with just sips of water in and allow your baby to try taking a few sips from the open cup. This will help your baby to understand that there is liquid inside the open cup, so when you give them the sippy cup, they are more likely to easily use the sippy cup.
Here are some tips to make transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup a fun and pleasant experience for you and for your baby:
- Start early – introduce a sippy cup at the same time as you introduce solids. Your little one will only need sips at first, especially if starting with water.
- Allow your baby to play with an empty sippy cup to experiment and see if you can get your baby to copy you drinking out of a cup. This will allow them to get used to the idea of the sippy cup.
- Start by using a trainer sippy cup. Trainer cups usually have handles that make them easier for your baby to hold, and most have a soft spout similar to a baby bottle. This will make transitioning from a bottle to a cup easier.
- Try offering any liquid other than formula to make the experience a completely new one for them. Tasting something new will make it an exciting new experience
- Try a few cups until you find the right one for your baby, then stick to that same cup because using different types of cups all the time, cause it may be confusing for your little one.
- Offer a sippy cup in place of a bottle during the day once they have become accustomed to using it.
- Be patient and don’t worry if your little one doesn’t accept the sippy cup at first, don’t get discouraged, keep trying. Transitioning is a new experience for them, so it will take time. But be patient and be consistent.
- Once you start with a sippy cup, stick to it and don’t give them a bottle no matter how much they protest. If you give in once, they will keep protesting until you give in every time.
- Try to ensure your baby is completely weaned off the bottle between 12 and 18 months. The sooner they are weaned off the bottle, the easier it will be to break the habit.
How to choose the correct sippy cup for your baby
There are so many options for sippy cups that finding the right one for transitioning your baby may seem like a difficult task. You want the transition to be an easy and fun experience for your baby. You also want to find the best option for your baby’s development and a cup that you can ensure won’t cause any health issues or tooth decay.
Hard tip sippy cups may end up causing speech delay or speech impediments, or dental issues. Cups with a straw are a good alternative to a bottle or hard tip sippy cup
One of the best options for a sippy cup that will help to prevent speech problems and tooth decay is a 360-style sippy cup, which is the closest to using an open cup. There are many brands of open style cups that have designs specifically made for infants and toddlers.
One of the best options and the one we have been using from the start is the Miracle 360 lid. The Miracle 360 is basically an open cup with a valve that stops the water from spilling while allowing your baby to drink from it exactly the same as they would drink from an open cup.
Try a few different soft spouts or 360 design cups and choose which one works best for your baby and you. Once you have decided on a cup, stick with it until they are ready to switch to an open cup. Remember that changing the cup constantly may confuse your baby and cause tantrums or refusal to accept the cup.
Transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup may seem like a difficult thing to do, but if you keep in mind the risks that long term bottle-feeding may have on your baby’s health and teeth, it will make the transition well worth it. Remember to try and make it an enjoyable and fun experience for your little one.
Article checked by:
Dr Binu George – Consultant General Pediatric
(MBBS, FRCPCH, Dual CCST (UK), Paediatric Neurodisability)
Head Of Department, Child Development Department at
NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates