The Sippy Cup Wars (What's the Big Deal?)

Written by Cassie Mascari

The SIPPY CUP. So many use them, they are on every shelf in every baby store. Many kids have used them and they are totally fine. I probably used one, and I’m fine. My brother-in-law definitely used them and he’s a Harvard graduate. So what is the big deal?

As an SLP I do hate the sippy cup. BUT as a mom, I get the lure of them. It’s exciting to get your young baby to do anything new- new drinking skill included. They don’t spill. They come in lots of fun colors and designs. Did I mention they don’t spill?

Frankly, marketing magicians make it seem like your child is SUPPOSED to advance to a sippy cup. They list ages and coinciding skills that would indicate that your child is ready for the sippy cup. They make it seem like a skill that you child should achieve.

Its not.

The truth is that sippy cups were developed to make life easier for parents. They were developed to prevent spilling…that's it. Like I said, as a mom I totally get it!

So why do SLP’s not like them? For the same reasons we also don’t like prolonged use of bottles or pacifiers. Sippy cups promote immature sucking patterns. As your child matures, so do his muscle movements. Think about his first wobbly walk vs his ability to run only a few weeks later- his muscles and his brain’s planning of those muscles matured. Sippy cups are really just big kid bottles and require your child to continue sucking as though they are drinking from a bottle. They require a posterior-anterior, or back to front, tongue movement. This promotes the tongue moving forward and OUT of the mouth or against the teeth. This isn't how adults eat or drink. A mature swallow requires the tongue to move anterior-posterior, or front to back. This movement is how we move the food or liquid into our throat in order to swallow it.

Prolonged use of sippy cups, bottles, & pacifiers can develop what we call a “reversed swallow” or tongue thrust. A reversed swallow is literally the tongue moving in the reversed direction during swallowing. A reverse swallow, or tongue thrust can contribute to speech and orthodontic problems.

As an SLP, I do recommend going straight to a straw cup or open drinking cup. That is the true milestone to meet. Some kids are ready as early as 7-8 months, and others need more time. As a mom, I also know that sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do. So if you still think a sippy cup is right for you, then I don’t judge. I do encourage you to move to a straw cup as soon you can though. There are plenty on the market that also don’t spill and it will actually make your life easier when you are out and forget the cup.

I, personally, love the Munchkin weighted straw cup. I know some other moms also love the Zollicup, the Kidsme and the ThinkBaby (not weighted). The Munchkin 360 cup is also a great option for cup drinking.

If you have another favorite, please feel free to send along. As always, feel free to email me with any questions

PS- There are lots of videos on YouTube showing how to teach your child to drink from a straw. Good Luck!

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