Learning to drink from a cup: why it’s important
For babies and toddlers, learning to drink from a cup is part of learning to feed themselves. These are important skills for the later years of childhood and life. They’re also important for children’s growing independence.
For bottle-feeding babies, learning to drink from a cup is also a step towards weaning off the bottle.
From around 6 months, you can help your baby learn to drink from a cup.
Helping babies learn to drink from a cup
Learning to drink from a cup takes practice. Here’s how to get your baby started:
- Give your baby a small, plastic, non-breakable cup that’s easy to grip and hold.
- Let your baby play with the cup first so that they get used to the way it feels.
- The first few times your baby uses the cup, guide them by holding the cup too.
- Put only a small amount of liquid in the cup at first. This helps to reduce spills.
- Increase the amount of liquid as your baby gets better at drinking.
- At family meals, use a cup yourself to show your baby how it’s done. Babies love to copy their parents.
When your baby starts sipping from a cup, they’ll probably spill most of it and drink only a little. This is OK, because it’s all part of learning. A bib can catch some of the spills.
Different types of cups
You can give your baby different types of cups to see which your baby prefers:
- Small open cups like medicine cups – these are good for holding a small amount of liquid, but they can be harder to hold with 2 hands.
- Open training cups – these are open cups with 2 handles, which makes them easier to hold.
- Closed cups like feeding cups, sippy cups or straw cups, and bottles with push-and-pull caps (like most sports bottles and water bottles) – these are good for when you need to prevent spills. Your baby will probably need your help at the start to open push-and-pull caps.
It’s a good idea for your baby to practise using open cups as early as possible.
Babies aged 6-12 months should drink only cooled, boiled tap water, breastmilk or infant formula. After 12 months, children can have full-fat cow’s milk. Drinks like fruit juice, soft drinks and flavoured milks aren’t recommended for babies and children. They have a lot of sugar and increase the risk of tooth decay.