Transitioning from Bottles to Sippy Cups: Obstacles and Rewards

Transitioning from Bottles to Sippy Cups: Obstacles and Rewards

Do you think it could be time for your little one to transition from bottles to sippy cups? If you’re not quite sure when to make the change, you’re not alone. While some babies easily take to their new cup, others cling onto their bottles for much longer, with some toddlers holding on to bottles past their third birthday.

However, there are some health repercussions associated with bottle-feeding for extended periods. Therefore, it’s important to wean your baby off their bottle at the appropriate time. Although it’s often best to wait until your son or daughter is completely ready to make the switch, sometimes you may need to help accelerate the process. This can present a number of challenges, but with the right information and advice, you’ll eventually be able to persuade even the most hesitant toddler to give up their beloved bottle.

When Is the Best Time to Transition From Bottles to Sippy Cups?

There’s no single perfect time for making the transition from a bottle to a sippy cup, but many parents find that introducing a sippy cup filled with water at the same time as solid foods works well. While babies of this age won’t usually drink anything from the cup, they will start to become used to it and familiarize themselves with holding it and putting it to their mouths. They will then begin to positively associate it with mealtimes.

If you introduce a sippy cup at an early age, you may find that the transition goes more smoothly. However, be aware that forcing it onto your baby could cause more harm than good. It’s best to give a cup of water to your little one so that he or she can experiment with it without trying to make them drink. Babies naturally explore new things by putting them in their mouths, so a natural way for a baby to get used to a sippy cup is for it to be available.

If your child rejects the cup at first, you may want to wait a little longer and then try again. But you need to be aware that after the age of one, a baby can start to entrench eating habits.  Once your son or daughter has reached the age of two, they might have a very difficult time leaving the bottle. Leaving the introduction of a sippy cup until after this age is therefore a very risky idea since the chances of rejection are even higher.

In short, then, you should consider starting the process at about 6-8 months and completely dropping the bottle by the time your child reaches his or her first birthday. The process of transition is almost certainly going to be a lot easier if you’re weaning your baby from bottles at around the age of one.

Why Should I Transition From Bottles to Sippy Cups?

Some parents wonder why they should bother transitioning their child from bottles to sippy cups at all, especially if their little one is comfortable and happy using a bottle. There are, however, many reasons for transitioning, and most relate to health considerations.

Prolonged use of a bottle has been associated with a number of negative health issues including:

  • Obesity
  • Tooth decay
  • Poor nutrition
  • Picky eating
  • Overbite
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Ear infections

Another common issue associated with prolonged bottle use is speech difficulties. Evidence has shown that babies who use a bottle past their first birthday are more likely to suffer from dentition problems, with a medical issue called open jaw being especially common. This happens when the teeth begin to form around the space occupied by the bottle. The result is a difficulty in forming certain sounds such as “f,” “th” and “v” sounds.

Since no parent wants their child to suffer needlessly, it makes sense to consider transitioning your baby to a cup earlier rather than later.

How Do I Introduce a Sippy Cup to My Baby?

It’s best to introduce the sippy cup for the first time to your baby when you begin to feed him or her solid food at around 6-8 months of age. While they might not immediately take to the cup, they’ll become used to a sippy cup being around.

During this time, occasionally while feeding your child, you should tip up the cup’s spout to his or her mouth. This will help your baby to learn what the cup is for. Of course, you shouldn’t expect your little one to drink any measurable amount of the liquid, or be able to quench their thirst using a cup. At the start, you’re simply working on developing habits and skills as early as possible rather than actually keeping your baby fed and hydrated via a cup.

One technique that many parents find useful is giving a baby a completely empty cup for him or her to play with. If your baby is allowed to handle a cup he or she may be more likely to accept it once you start filling it with liquid. Whenever you’re eating yourself, consider giving your little one a sippy cup and encourage him or her to mimic what you’re doing when you drink from your cup.

What Kind of Spout Should I Use?

Whether you’re giving a sippy cup to a young baby or an early toddler, it’s a good idea to take the valve out of the spout until your little one has learned how to drink effectively from it. Although the valve is there to prevent spills, it will also make it harder to get any liquid out of the cup. This could make your child frustrated and make the process of transitioning from a bottle even more difficult. Once they’re used to drinking from a sippy cup, you can put the valve back in.

Consider using a silicone spout on your sippy cup, at least at first. Silicone spouts are flexible and have a familiar feel in a bottle-fed baby’s mouth. This may make it easier to transition from a bottle to a cup. Some sippy cup manufacturers now make spouts that are also compatible with bottles to help make transitioning quicker and easier for both parent and baby. Once your baby has learned how to use a cup with a silicone spout and is happy to drink from it, you can try other types of spouts.

What Kind of Drinks Should I Offer My Baby in a Cup?

a baby in a high chair drinking out of a sippy cup

A lot of parents believe that the only kind of drink they should offer their baby in a cup is water. While it’s true that water will always be the best choice for little ones because it won’t damage their teeth or ruin their appetite, it is also flavorless, making it less appealing for babies. This makes it hard to encourage a baby to drink from the cup, especially when he or she is already reluctant to accept anything other than his or her beloved bottle.

When you’re introducing your baby to a cup for the first time, consider filling the cup with some diluted fruit juice, then rub some juice onto the spout. You can then bring up the spout of the cup towards your baby’s lips and allow him or her to taste the sweet juice. Usually, babies are interested enough in the juice to try to work out how they can get more. After your little one knows how to use a sippy cup, you can then go back to offering only water.

Should I Replace Bottles With Cups at Regular Feeding Times?

You shouldn’t rush to replace every regular bottle feed with a cup, at least until your baby is comfortable with using one. However, once your little one has learned how to physically use a sippy cup, you can begin to use one to replace bottles at your baby’s usual bottle-feeding times. Fill up the sippy cup with your baby’s usual formula, then feed it to your little one instead of giving him or her the usual mealtime bottle.

If you’re breastfeeding exclusively, you shouldn’t worry about giving your little one any milk in his or her sippy cup. Instead, just offer a cup of water along with your baby’s solid food at mealtimes. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to wean your baby off the breast, you can start replacing a breastfeed with a sippy cup of milk.

What Should I Do About Night Time Feeds?

The nighttime feed presents the biggest challenge for many parents when it comes to replacing bottles. While many babies are happy to accept a cup instead of their usual bottle at mealtimes during the day, when it comes to the pre-bedtime feed, they may miss the comfort that they get from drinking from a bottle. It’s wise to leave the transition from a bottle to a cup at bedtime until your baby has readily taken to drinking from a cup during the day.

Once you’ve replaced every bottle with a sippy cup, the last step is to get your baby onto a more appropriate eating schedule. This means gradually weaning your little one off his or her nighttime feed. A good way to do this is to gradually reduce the amount of milk you put into their pre-bed feed. Instead, give your baby a snack that is rich in protein along with a smaller serving of milk to make sure they don’t go to bed hungry.

You should also start creating a little more time between bedtime and the last feed of the day. If you usually give your little one their night feed in their bedroom or nursery, try giving it in the family room instead. This will help to slowly break the association of bedtime with milk but will also ensure your little one still goes to bed feeling full and satisfied.

Can I Just Quit Bottles Cold Turkey?

Some parents prefer to just go cold turkey with bottles, getting rid of them all at one time, and making a full transition to cups overnight. This is a potential alternative to replacing bottles slowly with cups, but it certainly isn’t the solution for everyone. This method can cause a lot of initial stress for both baby and parent, that can be too much for some people to take. On the other hand, the transition from bottle to cup is a lot quicker if you go for this method. At the end of the day, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of opting for this solution.

My Baby Hates the Cup – Can I Go Back to Bottles?

A lot of parents find that despite their best efforts, their little one simply hates using a cup. In such cases, it can be very tempting to give up on the sippy cup and go back to bottles instead. While this may seem like the best option, especially if your baby is constantly throwing tantrums, remember that following through on your commitment to the transition is essential. Children learn very quickly. Once you’ve given in to their demand for a bottle once, your little one will do everything possible to persuade you to give up on cups completely.

That being said, if your baby strongly rejects bottles early on, it’s ok to back off for a period of time and try again later. Sometimes, infants are simply not ready for a sippy cup. If this is the case, make sure that sippy cups stay around at mealtimes, but continue to use bottles. When the time is right, try slowly moving off the bottle again.

What Type of Sippy Cup Should I Use?

Not every cup will work for every child, and not every cup is suitable for each stage of transitioning from a bottle, so it can be difficult to make the right choice. A lot of parents find that taking a three-step approach works best for them. This involves changing a single aspect of a sippy cup at each stage of weaning off of bottles. baby

The first step is to begin by using a cup that is similar to your child’s regular bottle. Once your little one has got used to this cup, you should switch to a cup which is halfway between a sippy and a bottle, then finally, you can switch to a proper sippy cup with a rim.
a baby bottle with handles

The Transition Process

At the first stage of transition, you may want to try a bottle with handles to help your baby to get used to the idea of holding a cup in his or her own hands. It’s possible to buy staged bottles from well-known brands that are designed specifically to help adapt your baby to a sippy cup. These have the same top as a standard bottle, but they also have removable handles that help your baby to get used to the shape of a cup. Some parents find that the best way to begin introducing this type of bottle is to begin a feed using your baby’s regular bottle then switch to the new bottle with handles part-way through.

The next step of transition is to change another variable. This time, it’s time to try a cup with a spout that is closer to that of a standard sippy. Choose a cup that has a spout that is a similar shape to the spout of the staged bottle but slightly more rectangular in shape. This will allow your little one’s mouth to begin to get used to a slightly different shape without overwhelming him or her with something that is completely unfamiliar.

Finally, once your little one is familiar with this new shape, it’s time to transition to a rimmed cup. Choose one with a stay-tight, no-leak lid, and an easily removable valve to make the process simpler. Although it may not be a speedy process, you should find that your little one eventually accepts a cup and will use it regularly.

My Baby Won’t Drink Milk From a Cup

Some parents find that weaning their baby from a bottle is easy for certain drinks but not for others. A lot of parents discover that their baby will happily drink water or juice from a cup but will refuse to drink milk from anything other than a bottle.

Luckily, there are a few tips you can try to encourage your little one to take milk from a sippy cup as easily as with other liquids.

  • Try using a different cup to feed your baby milk. If you use a cup with a rim to give your little one juice and water, try a cup with a straw or with a bottle-style top to give him or her milk.
  • Encourage your little one to watch other children using sippy cups. If your child can see other toddlers drinking from cups, he or she may begin to copy their behavior and take more interest in drinking milk from a cup.
  • Make drinking milk from a cup into a fun game. Your little one has probably frequently seen you drinking from regular cups, so try taking the top off your baby’s sippy cup full of milk and let him or her drink from it in the same way that you do. Yes, it’ll be messy, but it could be just the persuasion your baby needs.

Top Bottle-to-Cup Weaning Tips

If you’re looking for some top tips to help make it easier to transition from a bottle to a sippy cup, here is some expert advice to point you in the right direction.

  • Start by weaning your little one off their midday bottle and replacing it with a sippy cup before branching out and weaning off bottles at other times of the day. Keep the nighttime feed as the last one to transition.
  • Avoid allowing your little one to carry a bottle around. This can increase your baby’s attachment to the bottle. Instead, ensure that each feed using a bottle is purely a feed, with a definite end and beginning.
  • Don’t let your little one take a bottle to bed as it may turn into a comfort object.
  • If your baby is more than 18 months of age, you may consider telling him or her what you’re doing and why they need to permanently switch to cups from bottles. Communication can really help.
  • Some parents suggest only offering milk in a cup and water in their bottle. This can help to make the sippy cup a lot more appealing to your little one.

My Baby Isn’t Drinking Enough – Should I Be Worried?

Some parents worry that their baby isn’t getting enough to drink when they begin transitioning from a bottle to a cup. This is because their little one rejects the cup but the parents don’t want to go back on their commitment to change. This is especially likely for parents who are taking the cold turkey approach to transition. The good news? Pediatricians say babies won’t suffer from any negative consequences if they don’t drink any milk for a few days. Of course, you still need to ensure that your baby stays hydrated, but if the amount of milk that your little one consumes during the transition period comes down in the short-term (24-48 hours), there’s no reason for concern.

Will the Transition From Bottles to Sippy Cups Be Easy?

You’ve probably heard many horror stories about parents who struggle to get their babies to accept a cup instead of a bottle. However, if you get the timing and the approach right, you should find that the process will eventually be completed with minimal drama. Although it can be tempting to allow your little one to continue using the bottle for as long as possible to avoid the inevitable tantrums, remember that there are health risks associated with bottle-feeding for too long, so rest easy in the fact that transitioning to a sippy cup is the healthiest thing for your baby.