Fooblie's Cup Primer
Everything You Need to Know About Stopping Bottles and Transitioning to Cups

The transition from bottle to a sippy cup, or any cup for that matter, is a big change. Think about it, our babies are used to sucking on a bottle or at the breast, and now we’re saying ‘here’s a cup’! What!? This leads to a lot of pissed off babies. Many adjust quickly, while others take their sweet time. Either way, we round up our best tips for making a transition from bottle to sippy cup / any cup as smooth as possible. Spoiler: you can skip the sippy cup all together!

This article got a major overhaul when Melissa, Fooblie’s cofounder, went through this transition when her baby was about to turn 1. Read about her personal experience on the blog. 

Why don’t we keep bottles forever?

Before we hit the hot tips, let’s talk about why the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend we parents transition away from bottles at 12 months. Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists get on board with the 1 year timeline too. 

  • We want toddlers to get their calories from food, not liquids. 
  • Some babies are more likely to be anemic (low iron), and get ear infections
  • Just like adult nutrition, if a baby gets too many calories from liquids (think milk or juice) they are more likely to be obese later in life.
  • Bottles boost tooth decay. In its extreme form it’s called bottle rot, and that is when a baby gets a cavity in their cute little baby teeth because they fall asleep with formula/milk/juice from bottles in their mouth.
  • Prolonged bottle drinking can impact a baby’s teeth and palate development which can impact speech later on.
 
If you’re thinking F, how am I going to get my baby to sleep, read Melissa’s blog. Remember, 11 or 12 months is a good time to start the transition. It’s ok if it takes some time! The AAP wants you to be bottle-free by 24 months.
 

Skills your baby needs to learn

As you begin this transition, remember that any cup (sippy, open, straw, whatever) will allow your baby to practice different and new skills. Some of these are:

  • proper tongue and mouth placement
  • hand-eye coordination to hold, lift and tip a cup
  • physical strength to hold, lift and tip a cup
 

Start here! Offer an open cup from 6 months

Let’s start at the beginning. You can actually start introducing cups when you start solid food. At six months, think serving a few ounces of water or expressed breast milk / formula or even a smoothie in a cup at mealtime.

The best way to do this is with an open small cup, or a tiny cup. These are baby-sized cups that may or may not have little handles. It’s a great introduction to drinking (instead of sucking) liquids. 

The purpose of this is not to ensure your baby drinks x amount of liquid, it is to get your baby used to the idea of drinking. This counts as a bonus if your baby gets used to drinking water at mealtimes (think prevention of constipation and other good things!). 

How to introduce an open cup?

  • Pour a small amount of water into a cup.
  • Help your baby hold the sides of the cup with her hands, gently guide it to her mouth
  • Tip it for 1 second and back down. You can even smack your lips or say ahh when you’re done.
  • Your baby is watching you! Model what cup drinking should look like.
  • Repeat at mealtime until baby gets it!
 

The holy grail of drinking is doing it from an open cup. This is the ultimate goal and what you’re working towards. 

Introduce a straw cup early too

Add straw-sipping to the list of skills you don’t realize you have. Your baby needs some time to figure this one out! Straw cups take some time to introduce. So, don’t expect your baby to just get it. 

Straw cups are a good minimal spill option and are much preferred over sippy cups by feeding experts. 

How to introduce a straw cup?

One way to introduce a straw is to use a ‘pipette’ approach. That is…

  • Grab a straw and a glass of water. 
  • Put the straw in the water so it’s about an inch of water. Put your thumb over the top (this will keep the water in the straw).
  •  Put the other end of the straw into your baby’s mouth and as she sucks slowly lift your thumb.
  • Keep practicing! 
 
The other way is using a Honey Bear straw cup. These allow you to gently squeeze the bottom of the bear cup so water goes up the straw. It helps babies figure out the cause and effect of what a straw should do. 

The transition from bottle to sippy cup

OK, so real mom talk here. If you want your baby to actually drink anything that’s not in a bottle, you’ll turn to a sippy cup. Sippy cups are the transition from bottle to cup, so always keep in mind they are temporary. And temporary is just like anything in moderation, it’s OK! 

Maximize this phase by looking out for other skills to build, like holding the cup on her own or tilting it back like she would an open cup. 

Once your baby has learned to sip through a straw or use an open cup, ditch the sippy cup.

Does it matter if you have a hard top sippy cup or a soft top sippy cup? 

It doesn’t really matter. Feeding, occupational and speech specialists don’t like em. This is because the top sits in a baby’s mouth in a way that prevents the tongue from moving. This movement is a learned skill we need to have to talk and swallow. 

Only offer the cup at certain times

The reason the ADA is on board with dropping bottles at 12 months is because of tooth decay. They don’t like it when your baby takes a beverage to her crib or drinks before she sleeps because the liquid will just sit on her teeth. But we know most babies drink a bottle then go to sleep, so if this is your baby don’t freak out. That’s why this is a transition. 

Bottomline? You don’t want your baby to walk around with open access to beverages. You need to set boundaries. Offer water when your baby is thirsty and at mealtimes. 

At 12 months embrace the transition to cups

Around 12 months, begin offering your child all their beverages in a cup, including breastmilk! This can be a tough transition for some kids, especially before bed or nap times

Here are some things to try if your child is struggling to accept a cup at 12 months:

  • Keep bottles out of sight. We call this the “cold turkey” method. 
  • Find a new bedtime routine that doesn’t involve a beverage. Reading a story, cuddling, or singing a bedtime song are comforting options.
  • Water down any milk still being offered in the bottle, but not in cups. They may start to prefer the “good” milk that comes in the cup. 
  • Eliminate midday bottles first, then morning and evening. 
  • Address your child’s needs without using a bottle. Hungry or thirsty? Offer something in a cup or on a plate. In need of comfort? Give a hug! Are they bored? Spend some time playing. 
 
This is hard! We’re right her with you.

What about 360 cups? 

Now that your baby has mastered sipping from an open cup, you’re probably thinking, this has me on edge. Is there a way to keep this operation clean? That is the appeal for 360 cups, especially on the go. There has been no study to suggest these cups are bad or harmful in anyway. But, there have been some outspoken speech and feeding experts who share anecdotal evidence about what they see in their private practices. They say watch out. Some options if you want your baby to drink while out and about are kids waterbottles with straws. 

Stick with it

Your child might (loudly) disagree with this transition to sippy cups at first, but most children will adjust quickly if you stick with it! Once the bottle is out of the picture, children can switch to an open-face cup as soon as they get the hang of it, typically by 18 months. Talk to a Fooblie coach or pediatrician if your child is having a tough time!