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If you plan on formula feeding your baby, you’ll need a quite a few baby bottles. In fact, even breastfed babies will need a few to give mum a break occasionally. However, as your baby gets older there will reach a time when you might want to transition to the sippy cup.
But why do you need a sippy cup? Can’t my baby just continue with the bottle until they can start drinking from normal cups? In this article let’s look at the differences between the baby bottle and the sippy, and the pros and cons of each.
The main difference between the two is that a sippy cup has a different mouthpiece to a baby bottle. While a baby bottle usually has a silicone teat for the baby to drink from, sippy cups can come with a soft spout or a straw to drink through. Some sippy cups come with handles so your child can get used to picking it up and drinking by themselves.
What is a sippy cup?
The primary function of a sippy cup is to transition from the bottle to an ordinary cup. It’s usually made from plastic with a lid that can screw one or click in place. They’re specially designed to prevent your child from spilling any liquid when they’re drinking. Furthermore, some sippy cups come with handles so your baby can improve their hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills.
There are 2 main types of sippy cup:
- Soft spout
- Hard spout
But you can also get flat lid ones (which you can drink from any angle) and ones you can drink through a straw.
What to consider when choosing a sippy cup
Here are some useful features to think about when you’re choosing a sippy cup:
- Choose something which is BPA-free and other harmful chemicals. Does it conform with all the necessary rules and regulations?
- Is it easy for your baby to use? Some children find straws easier, others prefer a spout. You need to give your baby time to get used to sippy cup, but choose one which is easy to use and comes with handles or easy to grip material.
- Is it easy to clean? Unfortunately, many sippy cups are a bit harder to clean than baby bottles. Mold can easily build up inside the spout. Ideally, you want something that can come apart easily and be washed in the dishwasher or sterilizer.
- No leaks. The whole point of a sippy cup is to give your baby confidence in making the step towards drinking from an ordinary cup. If you choose one which is constantly leaking and spilling, you and your baby are going to get very frustrated!
What is a baby bottle?
Baby bottles are used for feeding breast milk or formula to a baby. They are usually made from plastic or glass and will have a silicone or latex teat. There are different types of teats, with some allowing a slow flow of milk, which is right for newborns, and a faster flow for older babies. The baby bottles will usually feature a measurement marking on the side so you can see how much formula or breast milk you should add.
What to consider when choosing a baby bottle
Here are some of the most important features you need to think about when you’re choosing a baby bottle for your newborn.
- Choose the type of teat/nipple. You want to choose teats which have the right flow rate for your baby. Choose something which is too fast and your baby will drink too quickly and choke on the milk. However, if it’s too slow, your baby will appear frustrated that they can’t drink the milk quickly enough. You also need to think about what type of teat to use; silicone or latex. Silicone tends to be firmer and longer lasting than latex.
- Bottle shape. Another factor to consider is the shape of the bottle. Bottles can be quite wide, which replicates the feeling of the breast. They can also have a curve in the sides to stop your baby from swallowing too much air.
- Easy to clean. You’ll be cleaning bottles a lot over the first few months. Make sure they are easy to clean. You might want to invest in a sterilizer as it’s quicker and easier than having to boil a pot of water every time. My wife and I have a Tommy Tippee steriliser, which is a few years old now but we’ve used it for my daughter and baby boy. It’s been a great time saver. Here’s a link to one of their recent models.
- Size and type of bottle: Newborn babies can certainly make do with small bottles as they have smaller stomachs, but you’ll need some bigger ones as your baby grows. You probably want to purchase a set of baby bottles, which come with a variety shapes and other useful items. Finally, think about what type of material you want for your baby bottle. Plastic is the most common, but you can get glass, and even silicone and stainless steel.
Pros and cons of a baby bottle
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of baby bottles.
- Convenient. If you’re not breastfeeding, a baby bottle is a great thing to take with you if you’re going out to the park, or visiting friends with your baby. Even if you are breastfeeding, you can use a bottle if you want a break, or if you’re not comfortable breastfeeding outside your home. Furthermore, you can get your partner or other family members to feed your baby with your bottle, giving you a little break.
- Minimizes air bubbles. Trapped air can cause colic and gas in your baby. This can happen very easily when a baby’s nursing, especially if they can’t latch on properly. Although babies can still swallow air when they’re drinking from a bottle, most are well designed to reduce this risk.
- Health issues (if used for too long). Unfortunately if your baby uses the bottle for too long it can cause a number of health issues, such as tooth decay and even issues with teeth alignment.
Pros and cons of a sippy cup
Here are the pros and cons of sippy cups.
- Lot of choice. There are a wide variety of sippy cups to choose from, from ones with straws and spouts, to flat lids. They’re available in different colours and sizes too.
- No spills. As sippy cups have lids, you shouldn’t have a problem with any leaks or spillages.
- A good transition. Sippy cups are one of the best choices on the market to gradually wean your baby off the bottle, and move on to ordinary cups.
- They can be harder to clean. You need to ensure you clean them thoroughly and regularly as mold can easily build up inside the spout. Look for dishwasher safe options.
- You need to control their use. Your baby might want to hold their sippy cup all the time, sipping on juice and milk, but this can cause tooth decay. Only use them at mealtimes.
Are sippy cups better than bottles?
You shouldn’t really think of one being better than the other, but more of a step in your baby’s growth and development. Ideally, you shouldn’t use a bottle any longer than your need to, and for most babies, you should really start weaning them off it by their first birthday. Sippy cups will help your baby go on to drink from ordinary cups when they are a bit older.
Why are sippy cups not recommended?
While most parents love using sippy cups, there are some risks, but this is mainly to do with how often your baby uses them. As the soft spout models have a similar feeling to a nipple, this can easily become a source of comfort for your baby, and just delay the whole weaning process even more. Furthermore, many parents use sippy cups for milk or juice which contain a lot of sugar if your baby continually drinks from one too often. This can lead to tooth decay. Finally, some experts believe sippy cups can delay speech development, due to the position of the tongue when they drink and their swallow pattern.
In short, if you want to use a sippy cup, just don’t use it too often and stick to meal times only.
When should babies start using sippy cups? How do you know when they are ready?
You should phase out bottles completely once your child is between 12 and 24 months old, but closer to their first birthday if possible. However, you can start using sippy cups from around 7 or 8 months, when your baby can start using a high chair at mealtimes and you’ve introduced solid foods. It might take a while for your baby to get used to drinking from one, but stick with it and they’ll get the hang of it. If not, you can always try again a few weeks later. Obviously, babies who have better fine-motor skills will pick it up quicker.
How do you introduce them? How do you teach a baby to drink from one?
Start introducing them at mealtimes when your baby is sat in their high chair. You can gently pick up the cup and tilt the tip of the spout towards their mouth. This way they’ll start to learn what it is used for and how to drink from it themselves. If you can, start with a silicone spout on the sippy cup, as this will resemble the teat from your baby’s bottle, which can make the transition easier.
Can you put formula in a sippy cup?
Yes, you can put formula in a sippy cup. Your baby might find it easier trying to drink water at first though, as they will have a strong association with milk and the bottle. However, don’t let them carry the sippy cup around with them all the time, sipping on milk and juice as this can lead to tooth decay and cavities. And certainly don’t let them go to bed with one! Just use a sippy cup for mealtimes.
What are some sippy cup alternatives?
If you feel the sippy cup isn’t for you and your baby, here are a couple of alternatives which don’t come with a spout.
- A spoutless “360” cup. These cups have no rim so they make it easy for your baby to drink whilst still preventing spills.
- Straw cups. These are a good option to use after the baby bottle. Your baby will have to learn how to suck though, and they are a little more difficult to clean.
Best sippy cup for 6 month old
Here are some good options for sippy cups (and alternatives) for your consideration:
360 degree cup
Sippy cup with soft spout
Sippy cup with hard spout
What age should you get rid of sippy cups? What’s the age limit?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends getting rid of the sippy cup just before the age of 2. At this point, they are ready for an ordinary cup.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.