how to raise a happy healthy eater
If you go down any feeding aisle in any baby store, you are sure to see about 30 different types of cups. Don't even start typing it into Amazon! You will be in a never ending rabbit hole of drinkware. But when and what type of cup to get? How soon is too soon? Let's dive into the details!
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL SIP OF LIQUID LOOK LIKE?
By 12 months of age, your child will begin to develop a mature swallow pattern rather than suckling with their tongue, which is used when your baby is breastfeeding or feeding from a bottle nipple. When taking a sip from an open cup, the head is in a neutral or slightly tucked position. The tongue is initially retracted, then the tip of the tongue will elevate to touch behind the teeth to swallow the liquid. The tongue should not go into the cup and does not rest on the rim of the cup. When taking a sip from a straw, the head is again in a neutral or slightly tucked position. The straw will touch the lower lip, then the lips will round around the straw. The tongue again stays initially retracted, then the tip of the tongue elevates to touch behind the teeth to swallow. The tongue should not stick out and the tongue should not wrap around the straw.
It is important that your child elevates their tongue tip behind the teeth to ensure safe and effective chewing and swallowing. If the child pushes their tongue forward when taking a sip or if they continue to rest their tongue on the rim of the cup or straw, they may develop a low resting tongue posture and/or tongue thrusting over time. These immature postures can cause significant feeding, airway, and speech and language difficulties.
When first introducing a cup to your baby around 6 months of age, start with an open cup where they can take small sips a few times throughout the day, such as during mealtime. Then, between 6-9 months of age, introduce a straw cup that assists their ability to sip through a straw by priming liquids into the straw (e.g., Honey Bear Straw Cup or Rubbermaid Juice Box Straw Cup). After they can successfully and consistently take sips from this type of cup with a straw, you can start to introduce more advanced straw cups that require your baby to independently sip through the straw.
It is recommended that you continue to offer a variety of cups (i.e., open cups and straw cups) that promote a mature swallowing pattern and appropriate tongue placement rather than focusing on use of a single cup. This allows your baby to learn to use and become comfortable with various cups, just like us.
If you have concerns related to your baby’s feeding and/or swallowing, reach out to your pediatrician or to a speech language pathologist in your area, or contact our office. If you’re interested in how your baby’s development relates to feeding and swallowing, you may want to check out, “Feed Your Baby & Toddler Right: Early Eating and Drinking Skills to Encourage the Best Development” by Diane Bahr.
Christine Miroddi Yoder is a parent and feeding expert. She is the author of the book Mealtime Mindset and the Podcast How to Un Picky Your Picky Eater and owner of the feeding clinic Foodology Feeding Therapy.