How to Transition to a Sippy Cup

Sippy cups can be a great tool for a baby to transition from nursing or using a bottle to drinking from a regular, big-kid cup. When your baby has the motor skills necessary to handle a cup but isn’t quite able to do so without spilling, a sippy cup can give him self-reliance and confidence while keeping clean-up to a minimum. Plus, sippy cups can also improve baby’s hand-to-mouth coordination.

The breast-to-sippy or bottle-to-sippy transition can be a tricky one, though, especially when breast and bottle preferences come into play. He may not want to give up on either because it’s a source of comfort to him.

So, we spoke with Katie Heaney, Licensed and Registered Dietitian, who gave us some tips and tricks to making the transition to sippy cups as smooth as possible.

When should I introduce a sippy cup?

Encourage your child to use a training cup whenever you think he is ready. Some babies are ready at six months, and others are not interested until after their first birthday. For bottle users in particular, the American Dental Association recommends transitioning from a bottle to a training cup by a child’s first birthday.

What is the best method to transition to a sippy cup?

Some babies take a while to transition and some may never use a sippy cup.

Here are some helpful tips to consider when introducing a sippy cup:

  • Begin with one that has a soft, flexible spout since this feels more familiar to your baby.
  • For bottle drinkers, the Dr. Brown’s® Bottle-to-Sippy Kit turns your baby’s bottle into a sippy, keeping the bottle baby is familiar with but using a silicone spout.
  • Put only water in the cup to prevent messes. Don’t stress if he doesn’t take it right away. Wait a few weeks and try it again.
  • Test drive a number of sippy cups until you find one that works. Attempt various designs, like hard spouts, straws, and even spoutless cups, until you find one that matches your baby’s preferences.

Check out this helpful bottle-to-cup transition chart for a wide range of sippy cup styles and benefits

What should I do if my child refuses the sippy cup?

There is no law stating that a child needs to use a sippy cup. Some babies go directly to a regular cup from breast or bottle. If you want your baby to use a sippy cup, try these strategies:

  • Dip the spout into breast milk or formula prior to giving it to baby. Or, let them begin with the bottle nipple and after she starts drawing, change it to the sippy spout. Some parents have success even substituting the sippy cup for the bottle.
  • Change midway through a feeding. If he bottle feeds, give him half his formula or breast milk in the bottle. When it is empty, switch to a sippy cup for the second half of the feeding. Hold him like you do when breast or bottle feeding.
  • Customize the sippy spout. Some cups have valves that are so reliable at keeping liquid from spilling that it takes a lot of work to drink from it. If the baby sucks on a sippy spout and does not get anything, try to remove the valve that manages circulation (if the sippy cup has this feature).
  • Operate in reverse order. Teach baby to drink from the sippy without the lid on it first. Put just a teaspoon or more of a liquid in at a time and assist her to raise the cup to her mouth. After she gets the hang of it and realizes liquid is inside the cup, put on the cover (without the valve if there is one). Last, put in the valve and let her take control.
  • Offer your baby a straw. Some cups include a built-in straw. If you baby does get the hang of drawing from a straw, she might then be better able to manage drawing from the spout.
  • Try other drinks, such as water.
  • Demonstrate how to use a sippy cup yourself or have a sibling drink from a cup in front of the baby. Make sure you offer your baby a clean sippy cup.

Here are some things to avoid when giving sippy cup:

  • Never let your child take a sippy cup of milk to bed. Sugars can pool in the mouth and cause dental cavities. One strategy is to restrict milk to meals and snack time and refill the sippy with water when he is thirsty.
  • Clean the cup thoroughly between uses. Liquid build up in nooks and crannies can lead to growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Do not expect the sippy cup to be a magic tool for weaning. It may replace the bottle and present another weaning obstacle. Some parents find it more acceptable to see a growing child with a sippy rather than bottle in hand. If used properly, a sippy cup can be less harmful to your baby’s teeth than a bottle over the long-term.
  • Don’t use sippy cups for too long. As soon as your child can handle it, switch to a regular cup. The majority of toddlers can manage a two-handled open cup by the time they are age two.

If your child does take a sippy cup, here are some helpful tips:

  • If your child is under six months old, simply provide a portion of breast milk/formula in sippy cup each day.
  • Water and juice are not needed for breastfed and bottle-fed infants in the first six months of life.
  • After six months, if baby is thirsty between feedings, refill their sippy cup with water.
  • Once your child starts drinking milk at age one, professionals suggest offering no more than 32 ounces of milk per day. Otherwise a toddler might be too full to eat at mealtime, and this may also increase risk for cavities.