From Bottle to Cups

African mother

For many babies, there is no comfort greater than that offered by the bottle (or breast.) The bottle provides food and the soothing rhythm of sucking that babies love. Unfortunately, the bottle is just another case of too much of a good thing if the bottle lasts much longer than a year of age. According to development charts, one is the magic age that the bottle should disappear and your now toddler should be drinking from a cup instead.

Introducing the Cup

Some breastfed babies never experience a bottle and go straight from breast to cup. Others make a pit stop by bottles for a few months before being introduced to the cup. However your baby arrives at the cup, she should be experimenting and learning to drink from one by nine months if not earlier.

Most parents choose to use cups with spouts, affectionately called “sippy cups.” These cups often come with valves that require a sucking motion similar to the bottle, but are slightly better for the baby’s mouth and development for the next few years. By preschool age or late toddlerhood, your child should be drinking from a smaller version of your cups to prevent any tooth issues from constant sucking.

Many babies are confused when they first encounter a cup. The spout is harder than a bottle’s nipple and they must often suck harder at the cup to get milk or water than they did at the bottle. This puts many of the baby’s off initially until they realize that food and other goodies, such as juice, can come from a cup and make it worth their while.

Practice with the Cup

While one or two babies might grasp the idea of the cup instantly, the vast majority take weeks or months to manage more than a few swallows at a time. If your child is drinking more than two ounces at a sitting from her bottle, switching to a cup during this practice stage seems ridiculous. How would she get enough to eat?

There are easy ways to test when your child might be ready to drink from a cup rather than a bottle for the big feedings. Prepare a bottle then dump the milk or formula into the cup. Hide the empty bottle from the baby and proceed to offer her the cup instead at feeding time. If she’s hungry, she’ll try her best to get her meal from the cup. If she just can’t make it work or get enough to satisfy her, she’ll tell you quickly and you can dump the milk back into the bottle for a regular meal.

You may find that one cup does better than another for your particular baby. Even siblings can have different preferences from cups, especially early on. Try one brand of cup a few times and if your baby is having trouble, switch to another. Continue testing cups until you find one that your baby seems most comfortable. All these experiments can be expensive, but a network of friends or older brothers and sisters can help to justify or cut the cost of so many cups.

Leaving the Bottle Behind

At some point your child will be able to get a few ounces at a time from a cup or be done with large bottles during the day. This is the time to switch out one bottle feeding or snack with the cup. It might go smoothly, or it may not, but let her keep trying until she gets it. Then, once one cup feeding is going smoothly, replace another. Continue replacing bottles with cups at all meals until your little one is using a cup during the day exclusively.

The last bottle to go is usually the bedtime bottle. Some parents continue the bedtime bottle for months after switching all other feedings to cups, especially if baby is still waking at night occasionally for a quick feeding. But eventually, all bottles will have to go. Bedtime might be rough for a few nights while everyone gets used to the new routine, but eventually things will smooth out and you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back for having accomplished one of the first transitions of parenthood.

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