It is typically recommended to introduce a cup around 6 months of age and when baby can sit up mostly on their own. Starting to introduce a cup around this young age is a good idea because you should aim to transition baby completely off the bottle around age 1.
I know this can seem daunting, but many little ones do quite well with this transition, especially if you start early. The older the are, the more difficult it may be. Toddlers are known for being opinionated… But you can (and will!) still make this happen.
Why Sippy Cups are Not Recommended
Traditional sippy cups with a rectangular spout are not recommended. They are basically the same as bottles, so you really are not advancing your child in any way by using them. They use the same oral motor patterns used for bottle feeding and prevent baby from developing a mature swallow pattern.
What Cup Should I Give My Baby or Toddler?
The ideal cup to start with is an open cup! Yes, I know this sounds messy. But you can start with just a little bit of water to avoid a big mess. Learning how to drink from an open cup is a necessary life skill that baby will have to eventually learn. Will it take a while for them to master this skill? Sure it will. But the earlier they start, the faster they will catch on!
For tips on this transition, check out our article Teaching How to Drink from an Open Cup.
The Best Open Cups for Babies
My favorite open cup for babies is the Tiny Cup from Ezpz. It was created by a speech therapist with proper oral motor development in mind. It’s the perfect size for little hands and has a weighted bottom, making it harder to tip over.
I also really love the Olababy Silicone Training Cup. It’s a little bigger and it has a rimmed bottom which makes it stay upright quite well.
The Best Open Cups for Toddlers
Ezpz also makes a Mini Cup that is designed for toddlers. It’s a little bigger than the Tiny Cup (4ozs), but generally is the same design.
If you prefer a cup with handles, Green Sprouts makes a 4oz silicone cup with handles that is easy for your toddler to hold.
Slow Flow Open Cups
If your little one is coughing with the open cup or just spilling a lot, you can always try a slower flow. Hang onto your water cup from Starbucks, the lid with the small opening is great for slow flow open cup practice! And if you want a reusable option specially made for kids, try the following.
The Grabease Spoutless Sippy is my favorite for little babies. It’s small (4ozs) so it’s easy for little hands to hold. It also comes with the option to use a straw as well as a 1.5oz mini cup for more open cup practice.
If you’re worried your child may too easily be able to remove the silicone top, the lid on these Munchkin Toddler Splash Cups are much more difficult to remove.
For older toddlers and kids, the Reflo Smart Cup is a unique option. The cup has a free-flow insert which significantly slows down the flow, but allows your child to drink from any part of the rim of the cup.
Other Sippy Cup Alternatives
The next best thing to an open cup is a straw cup. Straw cups are a great sippy cup alternative because they can easily be taken on the go with minimal to no spillage.
Babies can usually learn to drink from a straw around 6 months of age. If you need help teaching baby, check out our article Teaching Straw Drinking. Once baby learns how to drink from a straw consistently, they are ready for an on-the-go straw cup that can be closed to prevent spillage.
When you do offer straw cups, make sure the straw is not too long. If baby sticks the straw far into their mouth, they will be using a suckling pattern to drink, similar to how they drink from a bottle. Once baby has mastered straw drinking, slowly snip the straw over the course of a week or two until the straw’s tip ends right in front of their tongue (rather than on top of it). This will promote a more mature swallow pattern.
Best Straw Cups for Babies and Toddlers
My hands down all around favorite straw cup is the Thermos Funtainer. The straw is already quite short which the feeding therapist in me loves. It is also the most no-spill of all the straw cups I have tried (which is a lot!) and the mom in me loves this more than anything! It’s affordable, easy to find, and comes in more colors and designs than pretty much any other cup out there. Finding a cup with your child’s favorite character on it can be a secret weapon for the parent trying to encourage their cup to get off the bottle or drink more water.
The Lollacup is another one of my favorites. It’s also pretty no-spill somehow even though it does not have a valve. I recommend trying to avoid valves when possible because they are harder to suck from and can therefore encourage kids to use weird ways of sucking in order to drink. I do recommend cutting the straw as it is a bit long.
I also really like the Zoli BOT cup. It comes in two sizes, a small 6oz cup which is great for babies and a larger 10oz size intended for toddlers. I like how petite these cups are because they easily fit in a cup holder as well as a diaper bag, which is so convenient when you’re out and about.
Good luck with the bottle-to-cup transition! I know it can seem scary, but when you find the right cup it’s not so bad!
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