Top left (clockwise) via Instagram: @n_and_cs_mom, @livvy_k.a, @rachelpolish, @jackie_bosco
Confused about cups?
You're not alone! One of the most common questions on our Facebook group and Instagram is "How do I introduce a cup?" We know you have questions about cups given your child's specific age and stage, so we want to break it down step-by-step so you know exactly how to introduce various cups and what cups are appropriate for your child's age.
Note: the images in this post were used with permission from parents in Feeding Littles Group. Thank you to everyone who contributed images - we wish we could use them all!
The big questions.
Before we get to teaching specific cups and how to progress to more advanced skills, we wanted to answer some important questions.
Q: When should I introduce a cup?
A: Around 6 months, when your baby starts food (Baby-led Weaning or Traditional Weaning/spoon feeding).
Q: What type of cup should I use first?
A: An open cup (see schematic and videos below).
Q: What are your favorite straw cups and water bottles?
A: In each section below after the video, look for the links to individual sections of our Amazon Store for specific cup buying recommendations.
Q: What should I put in the cup?
A: Water or breast milk/formula.
Q: What about juice?
A: We only recommend juice for constipation (prune, pear, peach juice diluted with water). Otherwise, juice isn't necessary for babies and young children - fruit is a much better option!
Q: How much water can a 6 month old have?
A: No more than 1-2 oz - we don't want it to displace baby's milk feeds.
Q: Why should I offer some water at 6 months? Aren't breast milk and formula perfectly hydrating?
A: Yes, they are! However, water in a cup has a few important functions:
Q: How much water can my baby drink?
A: In general, we recommend no more than 1-2 oz around 6 months and 3-4 oz max around 9 months. Around 12+ months baby can have as much water as they want but will likely still be drinking breast milk, milk and/or formula along with it (see last question about milk needs, below). Many pediatricians consider a water maximum (after 6 months) as number of ounces equaling baby's age in months; thus, no more than 7 oz of water for 7 months. For most babies this would be far too much water for them to also drink enough of their milk, but it's a nice maximum guideline if baby is sick or for some reason isn't drinking their milk.
Q: When should I ditch the bottle?
A: Start working on transitioning off the bottle around 11-12 months. It may take many months for your toddler to stop using the bottle entirely and transition to cups, but the biggest issue with prolonged bottle use is the potential effects on your toddler's teeth. If using a bottle before nap or bedtime, try to brush your toddler's teeth before they go to sleep.
Q: How much fluid do toddlers and older kid need?
A: Toddlers and kids need more fluid than you think! Below are averages recommendations of total fluid per day. Read more specifics about your child's needs - and how to calculate them if you'd like - here.
Q: How much breast milk or formula should my baby (under 12 months) drink?
A: Babies will vary wildly in how much their bodies need for adequate growth and development. Some babies drink 26 oz a day, while others need over 40 oz. Most babies need at least 24 ounces of breast milk or formula until they're closer to one. This equates to 6-12+ breast feeds depending on baby's milk transfer. Talk to your doctor, dietitian or IBCLC if you're concerned about how much milk your baby is drinking.
Q: How much milk should my toddler or child drink?
A: This is a tricky question and depends on your child's overall diet. If you have our Toddler Course, head to Step 16: Calcium, Milk and Beverages. We plan to write a post about milk in the future and won't go into many details here, but if your child is drinking cow's milk or an alternative milk, general guidance recommends no more than 16-24 ounces per day to allow your toddler or child to also eat enough food and not fill up too much on milk. Drinking too much cow's milk can increase a child's risk for iron deficiency anemia as well. Many moms continue to breastfeed far into toddlerhood, and some families choose not to use any milk after infancy. Feeding Littles firmly believes that there's no one right solution for every child - some kids thrive on cow's milk while others breastfeed far into toddlerhood. Some kids eat high-calcium, high-fat foods and get all of their calories from solid foods and no milk. Every child is different and will vary. If you have any questions about how to meet your child's needs, please talk with your pediatrician.
Q: What about smoothies?
A: Smoothies are OK as of 6 months in small amounts, as long as they don't contain artificial sweeteners or herbs (found in protein powders). Most straw cups made for thin liquids are too narrow for smoothies and the thicker smoothie consistency gets stuck. Check out our smoothie cup video and product recommendations at the end of this list!
How do I introduce cups to my baby?
We recommend a specific order of cup introduction to help your baby progress through specific oral-motor skills. Above all else, make sure to start with an open cup first. It really helps your baby learn how to take a small bolus of liquid in her mouth and swallow. We recommend avoiding hard spout sippy cups - the rationale is described in the final video.
Step 1: Open cup
First, let's talk about how to teach your baby to drink from an open cup:
Why does Judy recommend open cups first?
We see so much more success in straw and other cup drinking when babies master an open cup first! To see our list of favorite open cups, click HERE in our Amazon Store.
Step 2: Straw cup
While open cups are wonderful for drinking at home, straw cups are preferred by parents for water drinking while on the go because they're oftentimes leak-proof (or at least leak-resistant). Some people are moving away from disposable straws for environmental reasons, but it's still important to teach straw usage because most kids' cups utilize a reusable straw, and as you'll learn later that we don't want to use hard spout sippy cups for oral development and speech reasons. Straws also strengthen muscles in the mouth that are important for eating and talking.
Some babies learn how to use a straw simply by placing one to their lips or by capturing some liquid in a straw with your finger and placing the other end in baby's mouth. Many babies, however, need a little help figuring out the straw. Below Judy will go through how she teaches straw usage with her clients. If your baby figures out a straw cup without issue, you can skip the Mr. Juice Bear/Honey Bear step, but it's very helpful for babies who don't figure out straws right away.
Straw cup video 1: Mr. Juice Bear / Honey Bear
Find Mr. Juice Bear and the Honey Bear in our Straw Cup HERE in our Amazon Store.
Straw cup video 2: Take N Toss and assisted straw skills
Check out the Take N Toss cup HERE in our Amazon Store!
Straw cup video 3: Handled straw cups and independent straw cup drinking
Check out our favorite handled straw cups in our Amazon Shop HERE! Look for cups with handles first; eventually your child will be able to manage cups without handles.
A note about the Zoli Bot cup: some clients have recently noticed that the Bot straw was hard to suck out of. We contacted Zoli and after doing some research, they realized that in switching to a thicker silicone so that babies don't bite through the straw, the flow of the straw is slower. Watch this video to modify the Bot cup straw until a more permanent solution is found.
Step 3: Munchkin 360 cup
After your tot has mastered the open and straw cup, try a Munchkin 360 cup! The 360 cup mimics an open cup but is leak proof and portable (it can be put in a diaper bag).
Take a look at the wide selection of Munchkin 360 cups in our Amazon store HERE!
We just love this photo from follower @skipsrunsplays - sometimes learning to drink from a cup can be exhausting!
Step 4: Bigger kid cups - water bottles, Contigo, etc.
As your child progresses, he may be ready for a "real" water bottle or "big kid" cup! Learn how to navigate this next phase.
Find the Contigo cup and other "bigger kid" (non-handled, larger) straw cups HERE. Larger Munchkin 360 cups without handles can be found HERE.
What about smoothie cups?
Parents in our Facebook Group always ask about smoothie cups. Check out what Judy recommends, below.
Check out our favorite smoothie cups HERE.
Why do we avoid sippy cups?
Learn why Judy doesn't recommend hard spout sippy cups. With all the cup options available there's no need for traditional sippies!
As you can imagine, this post took us a bit of time to create, so we decided to have a little fun with it. Feeding Littles presents: "The Most Important Cups for Your Kitchen."
For the record, this was a joke...we do NOT recommend teaching your kiddo to drink from a flask. Or a wine glass. Joke. Seriously.
We hope this has helped you decide what cup to use for your kiddo! Cheers!
I have breastfed for over 52 months. Fifty. Two. Months. Looking back, it flew by. I hardly remember nursing my first baby, and now I'm about to wean my second. In fact, her last day breastfeeding will be tomorrow, the day before I leave for a trip. She will have nursed (nearly) every day for the last 2 years.
Breastfeeding is one of the most emotionally-charged topics of motherhood. It is a joyous experience for some, an impossible one for others. Some women love it. Others hate it. Many women who were unable to breastfeed harbor guilt and hard feelings about the whole experience.
This is not a post about breastfeeding being better than bottle feeding or why everyone "should" breastfeed. I am a believer in feeding your baby in a way that works best for mom, baby and the whole family. As a mom, I have loved breastfeeding my babies and I feel lucky that I was able to do it, but as a dietitian I am well aware that breastfeeding just doesn't work for everyone, for a variety of reasons.
If thinking about breastfeeding hurts your heart, please know that I am sending you a virtual hug and that I am proud of you for figuring out what worked better for you and for baby. Sometimes feeding issues teach us the first of many hard parenting lessons - we are not always in control.
I want to share some of my personal thoughts and recommendations about breastfeeding, as my experience - like every mom's - is a bit unique. I hope that in reading this you learn something new, can relate to something you've experienced, or find healing in your own story. Of course, this post could be much, much longer than it is. I am not an IBCLC and I know many of these topics could be greatly expanded upon, so I hope you find the help and support you need if you're struggling.
Get educated. Breastfeeding seems easy - what do you need besides boobs and a baby, right? Most of us haven't grown up surrounded by breastfeeding. Many of us were not breastfed ourselves, so we don't have a tribe of women ready and able to teach us what to do. Both my mom and my mother-in-law breastfed, but this isn't always the case.
Some aspects of breastfeeding aren't logical, either. I've had clients who think that feeding a baby less often - when their breasts seem fuller - is the best way to get baby more milk, As you may know, feeding infrequently can hinder your milk supply because baby is removing less milk overall and not telling your body to produce even more.
Those first few days after birth are critical in establishing your milk supply and learning what breastfeeding is all about. Read about it before having baby, or better yet - take a class. Many hospitals, birthing centers, and breastfeeding support groups have breastfeeding education classes. If you're local to Phoenix, check out Modern Milk or Babymoon Inn to learn all about breastfeeding before baby arrives.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Feeding your baby in the early weeks and months is very overwhelming because it's 'round the clock. I felt like I went from an independent woman to a mom tethered to a baby, literally overnight. My babies never liked bottles, so it was even more overwhelming to be their only food source.
Take it one day at a time, mama. Make a goal of 1 week, then 2, then 1 month. If you can get to 6 weeks you've likely gotten over many breastfeeding humps.
Believe it or not, once you figure out breastfeeding, it can be much, much easier than pumping or bottle feeding. In fact, one reason why I continued to breastfeed into toddlerhood is because it was easier than weaning (true story). You don't need special equipment or gear when baby is with you. No washing or heating bottles, no cleaning, no worrying about sanitizing equipment.
Remember that this is a temporary time in your life. It will be all done before you know it (insert sobbing here).
Find an IBCLC, especially one trained in understanding tongue and lip ties. If you have issues breastfeeding, a consult with an IBCLC is the best money you can spend. Seriously. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are God's gift to new moms, and many are even covered by insurance. WIC employs IBCLCs as well. If something seems wrong, trust your mama gut and get help. I promise you won't regret talking to a pro.
I could not have breastfed without the help from Amey Clark, and there are so many wonderful IBCLCs (including Stephanie Nguyen and Lori Isenstadt) who are willing and able to help you navigate this new world of feeding your baby.
Both of my babies were severely tongue and lip tied, and it takes a trained practitioner to identify and revise these ties. Make sure your providers know how to revise - or who to refer to for revision. If your provider doesn't "believe" in tongue ties and breastfeeding isn't going well, I strongly consider that you shop around for a second opinion.
Above all else, keep seeking help if you're not getting the support you need. There's someone out there who can help you make breastfeeding successful (or at least understand when it's time to switch to another feeding modality).
If you use a breastfeeding pillow, bring it on trips. It's so much easier to nurse a young baby with a pillow if that's what you're used to. I brought my Boppy everywhere when we traveled. It's helpful on the plane and is critical at your final destination. Plus, you can wash it when you get home!
If you don't respond to a traditional electric pump, try a manual pump or hand expressing. I was a breastfeeding unicorn in that I could never pump much milk but could hand express 5-8 ounces of milk at a time. (I had massive over-supply. Normal pump output when breastfeeding full-time is 0.5-2 oz between both breasts.) It was a little freakish. For some reason, I never did well with an electric pump. I have friends who did much better with manual pumps instead of an electric pump too. Don't get discouraged if pumping isn't working - try other options! Your IBCLC can help you with this.
Don't cover - or do. Basically, do what makes you feel comfortable. I always applauded moms who nursed without covers, but I personally didn't feel comfortable doing it with my uber-distracted babies (who whipped their heads around at any slight noise as they nursed). The cover actually kept them focused as they nursed.
I did master breastfeeding in the Ergo uncovered, and that was a great option while grocery shopping or traveling. I think the baby's height, mom's torso length, and mom's breast size all influence how well upright nursing in an Ergo or other carrier works, but it's worth a shot. (I even nursed in a carrier while teaching classes at Babymoon and Modern Milk - talk about redefining working mom, right!?)
Don't feel pressured to stop breastfeeding at age 1. (Above is my first baby nursing sometime in her second year of life. Gymnurstics.) Breast milk has an important role for toddlers too - it helps fill their nutritional gaps and can provide extra immune protection as they become more mobile (and more adventurous with what they touch). The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding until at least age 2 - it's not uncommon for women across the world to breastfeed until 3 to 5 years of age.
Do what works best for you. My goal with both girls was 2, and with my first I was sad to stop at 28 months - I was 5 months pregnant and didn't want to tandem nurse! My second is only breastfeeding once a day but is pulling back hard as she nurses, which really hurts. That's one reason why she will be done about 2 weeks after her 2nd birthday.
Take pictures and videos of your baby breastfeeding. I know this seems silly, and you don't ever need to show these to anyone (although I think they're absolutely beautiful, so show me!), but I think breastfeeding photos are some of my most cherished keepsakes. I treasure the professional ones from Jenn Hydeman, and I also love the ones I took myself in those sweet, quiet moments.
Cherish your time with baby. Breastfeeding forced me to sit down, slow down, and focus on my sweet little infant (or toddler). Both girls have had fun routines and quirks around breastfeeding that I will never forget. My eldest loved saying, "Switch sides!" and I adored that my youngest would demand, "Light OFF!" and smile as she got ready for her naptime routine. I loved how breastfeeding seemed to solve all infant problems. I loved hearing my girls exhale a quivering sigh as they settled into their feeding rhythm, or make small coo's as they relaxed and started to fall asleep. I loved the lip shake they made as they stayed latched for comfort, or the sweet gummy smiles they gave me as milk poured out of their toothless mouths. The sound of a breastfeeding baby is magical. It literally makes my uterus hurt.
I don't know if I will miss breastfeeding as much as I will miss what it meant - peaceful time with my babies, where there was nothing more important in the world than being with them. I will always be grateful that my breastfeeding experience was a wonderful one (despite tongue/lip ties, clogged ducts, mastitis and thrush). I don't remember the hard parts - I remember the pure magic.
Remember that breastfeeding is successful only when it works for both mom and baby. There is much more to feeding and being a good mom than the type of milk baby gets. Give yourself grace to do what works for you and your baby, whatever that may be. I wish you joy and peace on your feeding journey. Never forget that you are an amazing mother, and your baby was perfectly designed to be yours!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!