We are always trying to find the best products for our kids to use. I often find myself researching and stocking up on new baby and child feeding products at Bed Bath and Beyond (linking to SOME of favorite things) and answering questions for parents who are also shopping. A common question parents ask me is my opinion on sippy cups. My experience has come from research and my own personal experiences in the field as a feeding therapist. Many professionals in the field have their own opinion, but in my opinion sippy cups should be used as the last resort! I have spent lots of time working with babies, transitioning them from the bottle to a cup and from personal experience, I understand why the research points to scrapping the sippy cup.
What’s the Debate
The sippy cup doesn’t spill and is an easy way to get nutrition in. Especially if your child is used to sucking on a bottle or the breast. Sippy cups are less babylike than a bottle, but not yet a cup. The controversy and debate derives from the actual “nipple” part of the sippy cup. Research has shown that the sippy cup nipple can interfere with the natural development of the oral motor system. The motion of the tongue and the depression of the front tongue can potentially impact teething, chewing and possibly speech sound production. The nipple on the sippy cup can perpetuate an immature sucking pattern called the “suck-swallow pattern” that children should naturally grow out of around 6 to 12 months of age.
What you should do?
After the breastfeeding and bottle stage, a straw, cup with a seal or open cup should be used. A straw promotes lip closure, tongue elevation, and cheek tightening. All of this strengthens the muscles around the lips and helps with tongue retraction (think about the /k/ and /g/ sounds!). The open cup allows strengthening of the muscles around the the lips to ensure proper closure of them. Think about the “bilabial sounds” like /m/ /p/ /b/.
In Summary, nix the sippy cup! If you need help figuring out what cup works for your child or are having trouble selecting the right next step, please ask for help!
For more reading, check out the American Speech and Hearing Blog.