Feeding Milestones for Baby: Cup Drinking
By Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
Did you know that cup drinking is a developmental milestone for baby? Cup drinking can aid with teething, decrease tooth decay and help babies learn to have a strong swallow. The ezpz Tiny Cup was designed to help baby learn to drink out of an open cup. Here are a few tips on why you should consider introducing the Tiny Cup to your infant or toddler.
Cup Drinking Milestones: Although developmental ages are approximate and vary with each baby, most parents are unaware that feeding milestones even exist. Here is some guidance on the cup-drinking milestone.
- Open Cup: Most parents believe they are supposed to transition their baby from breast or bottle to a sippy cup. Unfortunately, this is false feeding advice. Developmentally, a baby should transition from breast/bottle to sips from an open cup held by a parent. An ‘open cup’ is a cup without a lid. You may be thinking about spills and mess, but in the beginning of cup drinking teaching, the parent has full control of the cup.
- 6 Month Start: Developmentally, at 6 months of age an infant should start to learn to drink from an open cup (held by an adult). This feeding milestone (at such a young age) is mind blowing to some parents! But drinking from an open cup allows baby’s mouth to develop in more mature ways than when bottle or breast-feeding. To iterate; in breast/bottle feeding the nipple positions the milk on the back of the baby’s tongue, then baby swallows it. During open cup drinking, baby has to do all of the work. Baby has to coordinate and move the muscles of the lip, tongue, jaw, cheeks, soft palate and then independently position the milk to the back of the tongue to swallow it. Of course, teaching this skill takes patience, practice and repetition – just like everything else in parenting. But if you start cup drinking at 6 months of age, you will have a 9-12 month old that is a successful and safe cup drinker!
- Newborns: Sometimes I am called into the hospital for newborn feeding therapy. I work with parents of newborns that are struggling with latching and breastfeeding (and do not want to use a bottle). In this therapy I teach them how to safely and temporarily feed from a cup while they wait for breast-feeding help from their International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). In addition, I teach international missionaries who go to other countries (where bottles are not available) how to safely teach newborns to cup drink. So, with the proper cup and some parent training, all babies can successfully cup drink!
Teething Milestones: Babies can start teething anywhere between 4-6 months. Most of the teething babies I have worked with need some relief for their gums other than just a teether. Here are a few ideas on how to use the Tiny Cup with a teething baby.
- Gumming: Help baby ease those swollen and tender gums by letting baby gum on the edge of an empty Tiny Cup. This process allows baby to get familiar with this new object as they hold, touch and explore it with their mouth. The soft pressure from the silicone will gently massage the gums and allow baby to work on early oral motor skills as well as pre-feeding skills.
- Breast Milk/Formula: After you have used the Tiny Cup for gumming, try putting ½ ounce of formula/breast milk into the cup to work on drinking (the Tiny Cup holds 2 ounces). Because it is made out of food grade silicone, The Tiny Cup is safe to use with cold, warm and hot liquids (as compared to metal, glass or plastic cups). So, feel free to warm up a little breast milk or formula each day to help comfort your baby’s inflamed gums. Have fun giving your baby the opportunity to work on this important milestone while decreasing their pain and crying. Score! Also, if you haven’t heard, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that parents use alternatives to plastic for their baby. This is just another reason to give the silicone Tiny Cup a try!
- Sensory Protection: I have seen parents and therapists who have used a cup made out of metal, glass or hard plastic for infant cup drinking. But if a parent or therapist has not been trained on how to introduce a cup safely, this can easily turn into a disaster. As an example, there are times when baby’s head control is weak or their positioning is poor, which leads to quick and unexpected movements. If baby is using a hard cup, they can knock out a tooth or split a lip. Ouch! These painful events can lead to a baby refusing to drink out of anything other than a bottle and missing out on critical feeding milestones. In addition to becoming a fussy about drinking, this also places baby at risk for tooth decay.
- Prevent Tooth Decay: The American Dental Association recommends transitioning from a bottle to an infant cup by baby’s first birthday. The solution? Use the Tiny Cup with your baby! The Tiny Cup was designed to provide sensory protection for baby’s developing teeth with its soft silicone, smooth rim and flexible shape.
Feeding Milestones: Feeding milestones for baby start at 6 months of age, which is the same time for cup drinking milestones! Here are a few ways to add the Tiny Cup to your feeding regimen.
- Purees: The silicone material of the Tiny Cup is food grade safe, which makes it a perfect tool for drinking first foods like purees, homemade baby food, soups and cereals (thinned with breast milk/formula). Your baby can see the puree in the cup and begin to explore all the flavors of feeding time!
- Baby Led Weaning (BLW): BLW parents are all about focusing on fine motor skills and feeding development. Luckily, the Tiny Cup is the perfect addition to the Baby Led Weaning method, because it helps babies be successful, independent eaters PLUS drinkers! Now, baby will achieve all their 6-month-old feeding and drinking milestones at the same mealtime!
Were you familiar with cup drinking milestones for baby before reading this blog? How will your family incorporate the Tiny Cup with your infant? Let us know and send us your cup drinking pics using the hashtags #ezpzfun #tinycup.
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).