It is recommended to stop using a bottle around age 1 and unfortunately traditional sippy cups aren’t much better for oral motor skills or dentition. Using an open cup is recommended as much as possible but let’s be real, no one is open to potential spilled drinks at all times. Straw cups are great when you’re on the go and hoping to minimize spills. Keep reading to learn how to teach a baby to drink from a straw.
When Should I Introduce a Straw to My Baby?
I recommend introducing straws once baby is sitting well on their own, has started eating some solids, and is around 5-6 months (or older!).
You can start by modeling how to drink from a straw so they can get familiar with straw drinking. Use straws around your baby often before offering one to them. Babies learn most things from imitation, so if they see you do it, they will be more likely to figure it out.
Some babies will be able to figure out straw drinking by using a regular straw and without much effort. If this is your child, great! If they need a bit more help, that is also very normal! Keep reading for tips!
What Should I Put in My Baby’s Straw Cup?
You know your baby best, so you can decide on this one! Keep reading for ideas. Keep in mind that it is typically not recommended for babies to have juice. Pediatricians agree that even toddlers should be offered very limited juice.
If you have already offered your baby water and they seem to enjoy drinking it, you can give water a try in the straw cup! A big perk of using water is that while it may get your baby wet, it dries easily and won’t stink or stain!
Keep in mind that water is the most challenging liquid to swallow because it has no real flavor or texture. Your baby may be more likely to cough when drinking water because of this. If your baby is open to drinking cold water, chill it in the fridge for a bit before offering it. This enhances the sensory experience, making it easier to feel and control in the mouth.
If your baby loves drinking breastmilk or formula, you can offer either in a straw cup! This can actually help make for a smoother transition because they are already familiar with what’s inside the cup. This can help to increase acceptance.
If the flow seems too fast for your baby or they prefer food over liquids, you can offer a smoothie, baby food, or puree. For baby food or puree, you will need to thin it down with water, breastmilk, formula. You could also thin it down with another liquid they have had before such as broth or coconut water.
The Pipette Method
Offering baby liquid from the back of a loaded straw while you hold your finger down on the top is a common strategy to teach straw drinking. This is a great way to introduce the concept of straw drinking because you can offer very small amounts.
With this method, I recommend keeping your finger down on the straw until baby seals their lips around the straw. As soon as they begin to close their mouth around the straw, release your finger. If baby does not seal their mouth around the straw within a few seconds and just bites down on it instead, go ahead and release the liquid. Many babies will then form a seal and begin to suck.
You can use any straw you already have at home, but disposable plastic straws do tend to work the best in my opinion!
Straw Training Cups
After trying the pipette method a few times, I recommend trying a straw training cup you can squeeze. See below for my favorites!
The Honey Bear Straw Cup
The best straw training cup (in my experience!) is the Honey Bear cup. It is now sold by many different companies and can easily be found on Amazon. I like this cup because it provides a slower flow than the other options. This is ideal for younger babies or those that get overwhelmed with a faster flow.
One nice thing about this cup is that if you remove the straw, you can close the cup with liquid inside and bring it on the go. This is a nice option if you want to practice straw drinking outside of the home. Just put the straw inside a clean bag and bring it with you!
It’s also really cute and can feel more inviting than other straw cups. This can be helpful if your baby is stuck on the bottle and resistant to drinking from anything else. I have used this straw in a playful way to help little ones warm up to the straw and this can work very well!
Before you offer the Honey Bear Cup to your baby, give it a squeeze over the sink first. This will allow you to see how fast the liquid comes out when you squeeze it. This will help prevent you overwhelming baby with too much liquid.
When you offer it to baby, wait a few seconds for them to seal their lips around the straw. If the put the straw in their mouth, but they don’t close their mouth, you can give a gentle squeeze. Very often, babies will automatically then seal their mouth around the straw and begin to suck!
Take and Toss Straw Cups
A less expensive option is The Take and Toss Straw Cups. Different versions of this cup are sold on Amazon, at Target, and at Walmart.
While this cup was not designed to be a straw training cup, feeding therapists have been using it as one for years! When the straw is inserted, a vacuum is created. You are then able to squeeze the cup, causing the liquid to go up the straw and into your baby’s mouth.
Now, since this cup was not designed as a therapy tool like the Honey Bear Cup, it is a bit harder to squeeze and the flow is faster. It does take a little bit more practice from the parent to figure out exactly how hard to squeeze. Definitely give it a squeeze over the sink to test out the flow!
However, it is much cheaper and looks just like a regular cup. You can use it for years to come either as a regular open cup without the lid, or as a straw cup. If you already have older kids in the house, they can use these cups as well!
I have even used these cups as dry snack containers to take on the go. They fit in a standard cup holder which is a nice perk!
When you offer the Take and Toss Straw Cup to your baby, wait a few seconds to see if they seal their mouth around the straw. If not, go ahead and give a gentle squeeze. This often triggers them to close their mouth around the straw and begin to suck.
While most babies learn very quickly with this method, every baby is different. Try to offer the straw a few times a day to give them adequate time to practice.
The Best Straw Cups for Babies
Once your little one has mastered drinking from a straw training cup, you can begin using any other straw cup. I recommend using a valveless straw cup whenever possible, as this prevents your baby from having to use excessive sucking force to drink. This can lead to baby sucking in an abnormal way.
It is also best to avoid excessively long straws. A long straw that sits on top of baby’s tongue encourages a suckling pattern similar to bottle drinking and can prevent development of a mature swallow pattern. If you find a cup you love but it has a very long straw, you can cut off a small amount every few days so your baby can adjust to it. Ideally, the top of the straw should rest right in front of the tip of the tongue inside the mouth.
The Lollacup is a great straw cup. It’s easy to suck from the straw because it does not have a valve. It’s also easy to clean because the straw separates in half! Plus, it’s super cute and looks like a little penguin.
B.Box Straw Cup
The b.box cup has a weighted straw which allows baby to drink from almost any angle. This can be helpful when they are first learning and want to tip it up like a bottle. This cup is no spill which is convenient for parents!
ZoLi BOT Straw Cup
The ZoLi BOT cup also has a weighted straw. The straw is quite thin would leads to a slow flow. This is a really nice feature for babies first learning to drink from a straw. This cup is valve-free which promotes ideal oral motor skill development.
There is a reason the Thermos Funtainer is so highly rated on Amazon! It is spill proof and comes in more designs than any other cup I’ve seen! The straw is already relatively short which helps to promote a mature swallow pattern. This cup keeps liquids cool which is great for hot summer days. If you want to avoid plastic cups, this stainless steel cup is a great choice!
It may take a little while for your baby to get the hang of straw drinking, but it’s a worthwhile goal! Keep working on it and they will figure it out!
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