By Aubrey Everett
At our son’s one-year check-up the pediatrician said it was time to make the switch from bottles to sippy or straw cups. I knew this transition was coming and prepared by collecting various cups to have on hand so that we could make the switch around his birthday. How hard could it be?
For us, it turned out to be very hard.
Mom friends and the internet had me believing this would be a nonissue. And, for a lot of babies, it is. But my son was not one of those kids. We ended up trying six different cups and dedicated many patient hours to this quest before our son finally said goodbye to the bottle and hello to straws.
Mom friends and the internet had me believing this would be a nonissue. And, for a lot of babies, it is. But my son was not one of those kids.
Although I had a variety of vessels on hand (straw, soft spout sippy, hard spout sippy, 360, open cup) my ultimate goal was to get him to use a cup with a silicone straw. Straws are best for oral motor skill development and are widely recommended by speech pathologists.
Our journey started with a transition bottle/sippy cup, which had a soft spout and graspable handles. We actually introduced this, with water, around 10 months of age. At the time he was still nursing and drinking bottles at daycare, so this additional water vessel did not get much attention, and at the time we didn’t push it.
Once we decided to stop giving him bottles, we tried switching exclusively to the learner cup. It didn’t go well. He had very little interest in picking up the cup and drinking by himself. It was clear he could do it, because we saw him drink on a number of occasions, but he rarely did so voluntarily and would not take more than a weak sip or two at a time. One day he went from breakfast to dinner only drinking about two ounces.
Next we offered a weighted straw cup. He put his lips around the straw, sucked weakly, and pushed it aside. This happened over and over. I gave him some practice sips by dipping a draw in liquid and dribbling it into his mouth, and tried modeling straw drinking using my own bottle. He watched, but still hesitated when it came to drinking.
We gave some half-hearted attempts to an open cup (which spilled all down his front and really made him upset), a hard-spout sippy (he bit it like a chewtoy) and the trendy “360” cup that can be sipped from all sides (no thank you). We even attempted to alter the spouts of some of the cups by cutting larger holes so more liquid could pass through.
Eventually we started to find small things that started to work. His progress was not linear, but he was moving in the right direction. My husband found that if he sat our son on his lap and distracted him with a book or toy, he would drink. If we made it into a game, he would participate. He finally -- finally! -- started drinking consistently out of a straw cup after weeks of trial and error.
Here are a few tips that made the transition possible.
Tip #1: Offer between meals
We noticed that our son was happy to sip water with his meals, but not milk. We had success offering milk between meals when he was exploring his playroom or reading books before bed. It would have been easier to provide food and milk together, but we took his lead on this one and adjusted our schedule.
Tip #2: One, two, three, SIP!
In the middle of our sippy struggle I heard my husband walking around with our son saying “One, two, three, SIP!” They played this little game and on cue he would put the straw to his lips and drink. This tactic made it fun and allowed my son to be involved in the process.
Tip #3: Diagnosis dishwasher
While we were experimenting with many different cup options we were tossing all the parts into the dishwasher, rather than washing by hand. This was convenient, but we found that some of the silicone straws and assembly parts retained a slight detergent taste after running a cycle. We now make it a point to give all pieces of the cup a quick rinse before use.
Tip #4: Be patient
In the end, our son just needed extra time to make this transition. He was happy drinking from a bottle and needed us to help him with this new step. We tried not to force this change, but with gentle encouragement he now happily drinks both milk and water out of straw cups and even gives us a hearty clap after taking a big glug.
What bottles/cups did I use?
Stojo Collapsible Cup, 8 oz