Introducing Your Baby to a Cup

6-12 Months

Your baby won’t be baby-ish much longer! At this age, he’s quickly learning "big kid" skills, like eating finger foods and feeding himself (sort of). Another skill he can practice now is drinking from a cup without a lid. Switching from bottle to cup takes time and practice, but our tips give you the know-how you’ll need to give it a try.

When is my baby ready for a cup?

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

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

What can she drink?

Whether it’s from a cup or bottle, all your baby needs to drink is breastmilk or formula. Giving your baby a few sips of water now is fine, but it shouldn’t replace her 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 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 her real fruit, which has more nutrients (like fiber) and less sugar.

Why not a sippy cup?

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

If you plan to use a sippy, aim to switch to an open cup by around 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 him a new skill.

Getting started with an open cup

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

Before you start, read these helpful hints:

  • 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.
  • When he’s ready and willing, hold the cup with him and gently guide it to his mouth so he can try a few sips during meals.
  • If he pushes the cup away or seem uninterested, don’t worry. He’s telling you he’s had enough practice for now, so try again later.

Bonus tip: Be patient. You’re helping him learn an important new skill!