Weaning from the Bottle: Tips for Straw and Open Cup Drinking
Transitioning from the bottle/breast to straw or open cup drinking can be both exciting and overwhelming. Cup drinking is a skill that takes time to develop, but with practice and patience, your baby will be weaned from the bottle in no time!
When to introduce cups
Cup drinking can be introduced at the same time as solid foods. If your baby demonstrates signs of readiness for solid foods, he/she is ready for cup drinking. These milestones are typically observed around 6 months.
Signs of readiness:
- Head Control – baby holds head upright and stable
- Sitting – baby sits with minimal support
- Reaching and grabbing – baby grabs objects and brings them to his/her mouth
- Signs of interest – baby demonstrates interest in food (e.g., leans toward it)
Your baby should demonstrate all of the above signs before beginning cup drinking. Introduce open cup or straw drinking sooner rather than later (ideally within 6- to 12-months of age). Earlier introduction allows for a low pressure environment in which to develop this skill before fully weaning from the bottle/breast.
How to introduce straw and open cups
Despite the extensive options available, your baby only needs a straw and open cup. It’s okay to leave the sippy and 360 cups on the shelf as these cups do not promote ideal oral motor development. Instead, use both straw and open cups and alternate their use (e.g., use an open cup at breakfast and a straw cup at lunch).
Step-by-step for open and straw drinking
- Put 1-2 ounces of liquid in a small open cup (e.g., Dixie cup)
- Model taking a small sip with the same or an identical cup
- Offer cup to baby, allowing him/her to reach for it
- Assist baby in bringing the cup to his/her mouth. Stabilize the cup to help bring a small amount of liquid into the mouth. It’s normal for your baby to lick/bite the rim, spill, sputter or cough
- Continue to stabilize the cup as needed
If introduced closer to 6 months, your baby might take to straw drinking immediately given his/her strong sucking reflex. Babies who are ~8+ months might need to be taught to close their lips and suck. There are two main methods for doing so:
1. Pipette method
- Using your finger, trap a very small amount of liquid in the bottom of a straw
- Bring the straw toward the mouth, waiting for baby to open his/her mouth in response
- Once baby takes the bottom end of the straw into his/her mouth, release your finger from the straw and allow the liquid to enter the mouth
2. Straw Trainer Method
This method is appropriate for babies who didn’t have success with the pipette method. A straw trainer cup allows the caregiver to squeeze liquid into baby’s mouth.
- Offer cup to baby’s mouth
- Wait for baby to open his/her mouth and accept the straw
- Gently squeeze the cup, allowing a small amount of liquid to enter baby’s mouth. Most babies will immediately seal the lips and swallow
- After several introductions with squeeze assistance, offer the cup without squeezing
Practice, practice, practice
Transitioning to a straw or open cup drinking takes time, practice and patience. Introduce early and often. Don’t be alarmed if it takes several trials before you and your baby get a hang of it! If you try cups for several months without success, then it’s time to talk to your pediatrician.