Introducing Your Baby to a Cup

Your baby won’t be baby-ish much longer! At this age, babies are quickly learning "big kid" skills, such as eating finger foods and feeding themselves (sort of).

Another skill your baby can now practice is drinking from a cup without a lid. Switching from bottle to cup takes time and practice, so find out what you need to give it a try.

Baby drinking from open cup

The goal is for baby to be drinking from an open cup around their first birthday. That might seem a long way off, but remember, practice makes perfect!

Once your baby is 6 months and learning to eat solid foods, it’s fine to practice drinking from a cup. Teaching your baby to take sips from a cup now makes it easier to transition from breast or bottle down the road, plus it helps them develop important fine motor skills and coordination.

drinking from open cup

Whether it’s from a cup or bottle, all your baby needs to drink is breastmilk or infant formula. Giving your baby a little water now is fine, but it shouldn’t replace their breastmilk or formula.

When can your baby have juice? Actually, your child doesn’t ever need to have juice or other sugary drinks. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving juice before a child’s first birthday as excessive juice consumption by babies can lead to:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Increased risk of tooth decay
  • Increased risk of diarrhea, gas and bloating
  • Increased risk of exposure to bacteria in unpasteurized juices

Juice has the same amount of sugar as soda, and introducing juice could awaken your baby’s sweet tooth. It’s much better to give them real fruit, which has more nutrients (like fiber) and less sugar.

Good sippy cups to use

Many parents like to use a sippy cup to help transition babies from the bottle. However, because spouted sippies require the same sucking motion as breast or bottle, sippy cups don’t help your baby learn more of the advanced drinking skills they’ll need.

If you plan to use a sippy cup, aim to switch to an open cup by around your baby’s first birthday, and choose a spoutless sippy or cup (like the ones pictured). Another, even better, option is a lidded cup with a straw because the sucking required of your child is teaching them a new skill.

Baby boy crying in highchair

Introducing a cup to your little one is fun, exciting and … OK, messy. But it’s an important skill, and they’ll love using a cup like Mom and Dad.

Before you start, use these tips to help your baby learn this important new skill:

  • Expect spills. Minimize the mess by putting just a few sips of water in the cup to start with. Remember, breastmilk or formula still provides nearly all the hydration baby needs, but a few sips of water at meals is good for practice.
  • Help hold the cup. When they're ready and willing, hold the cup with them and gently guide it to their mouth so they can try a few sips.
  • Be patient. If they push the cup away or seem uninterested, don’t worry. Your baby is telling you they've had enough practice for now. Take a break, and try again at a later meal.