Introducing a cup to your baby

Baby drinks from cup

Getting your baby using a cup is an important part of weaning. Drinking from a cup rather than a bottle is better for his teeth, helps with gross motor skills and will make your life easier in the long run (even if you do get a little wet in the meantime).

Why is it important for my baby to use a cup?

Using a cup is a skill we take for granted as adults but one that, when introducing babies to their first cups, can require a little bit of concentration and perseverance. It’s well worth pushing, however, because at six months, when you start weaning, your baby may well have a few first teeth that need looking after.

Most drinks (excluding water but including formula and cow’s milk) contain some form of sugar and when your baby drinks from a bottle, the fluid pools around his teeth. Using a cup keeps it away from his teeth so it limits any potential damage.

Mastering a cup will also develop the motor skills he needs for eating and will help him to make the connection between the plastic receptacles on his highchair tray and getting something filling and tasty inside him.

When should I introduce a cup to my baby?

The recommended age is from six months. The earlier you get your baby used to drinking from a cup, the easier your life is going to be later on. Some babies start using a cup at six months but many take a little longer.

If you’re starting on solids it’s a good idea to have some water nearby for him to drink, just to help his food down, so starting on a cup at the same time as weaning makes sense. Equally, if your baby is under six months but you think he’s ready for a cup then go ahead and see how he takes to it.

You could start by giving him one feed of breastmilk or formula in the cup each day. You certainly won’t see any downsides if he starts using the cup early. After all, at some point, you're going to have to wean your baby off the breast or bottle and, if he's already a dab hand with a cup, you've something else to put his milk in and one less thing to worry about.

By the time your baby turns one, he should ideally have stopped using a bottle with a teat. That said, if you’re reading this and your baby is past his first birthday and still not drinking exclusively from the cup, don’t panic about it. Just keep trying and have a word with your health visitor who may have some tips to help.

Which cup should I choose for my baby?

A training cup with a soft spout is good, as this will remind your baby of the breast or bottle from which he’s been feeding since birth. There are no end of cups and beakers on the market but many Mumsnetters think the best sort to start with is a cheap, free-flow cup with handles.

Mumsnetters also say that it’s a case of trial and error to find the best cup for your baby. Most cups are inexpensive – anything over £5.00 is pretty pricey really – so perhaps buy two or three to start with and see which he prefers.

The Tommee Tippee cup is the best and cheapest cup that we have used – and we have tried many! Don't waste your money.

The NHS recommends that you start with a beaker with a free-flow lid, rather than a teat. Liquid flows slowly through a teat lid so your baby has to keep pulling on the teat, and that can be bad for his gums. The free-flow lid teaches him to sip rather than suck, which is what adapting to the cup is all about.

You could also try an open cup if you like, though be prepared for it to go straight on the floor. A ‘Doidy’ cup (the ones that have handles and look like they are leaning) are good, too, as they lean towards your baby, meaning he doesn’t have to tip it quite so far.

‘Straw’ type cups are not suitable for this age group as learning to suck through a straw is a different skill to sipping from a cup and will come later.

Baby girl drinks from cup

How should I introduce a cup to my baby?

Remember that all babies take to the cup at their own pace, so don’t despair if he takes a while to come around to the idea.

Do

My daughter went straight on to a free-flow sippy cup at six months. She took about two months to get the hang of drinking without spilling. She can use an open cup as well, but currently thinks it is the funniest thing in the world to tip entire contents on the floor."
  • Only put a small amount of water in the cup at first.
  • Demonstrate to your baby how to drink from the cup.
  • Offer him the cup and help him to drink by gently tipping it.
  • Promptly take it away when he splutters.
  • Applaud his efforts.
  • Let him play with the cup in between drinking.
  • Put a drop of breastmilk or formula on the spout to tempt him.
  • Offer the cup at every meal. This way he'll gradually get the hang of it (although you'll probably both get a little damp around the edges in the process).
  • Thoroughly clean the cup between uses and make sure it never gets mouldy. Sometimes you have to really dig into the corners to get the cup clean.

Don’t

  • Insist that he keep trying if he doesn’t fancy the cup straight away. You can always leave it for a few days before having another go.
  • Put anything other than water in the cup to start. It’s simply not worth it, water causes the least mess and is the healthiest choice. Once he gets the hang of the cup, you can eventually start putting very diluted juice in it occasionally.
  • Let your baby drink from a damaged or scratched cup. These are more likely to carry bacteria than cups in pristine condition. This is just a precaution so if your baby hurls his cup to the ground, it should still be fine to use again after a wash – you don’t have to bin it immediately.
  • Keep him on the same cup forever. Once you get him used to using one, it's tempting to let him stick with it. But your target will be to have him on an open cup (no lid) by his second birthday. But do make sure it’s still plastic and don’t let him drink from your best china just yet.

Mumsnetters' experiences of introducing a cup

“For me, and a lot of my friends, it was pretty much trial and error, as not all cups suit all babies. It's taken my daughter several months to get the hang of a Tommee Tippee cup. I just let her play with it with water in for a while each day, and all of a sudden she worked it out.”

“My son was a bottle refuser but I had him using a free-flow cup at five months. He would also take milk from a Doidy cup (messy) or a soft spout training cup with the non-spill valve removed (handy as the bottle body was compatible with my breast pump).”

“Doidy cups are great for breastfed babies but you do have to hold the cup for them at first and put a little in at a time. It is a pain but they soon get the hang of it and can drink from any open cup with help (which is great when you are out and about).”

“My first son started having a cup of milk in place of breastmilk once a day at around seven months. He was a year old before he decided he no longer wanted breastmilk in the morning and at bedtime. As a precaution, I sterilised his cups until he was about eight months, but I am not bothering sterilising anything this time around for my second son.”

“My health visitor advised I go straight on to a cup when I mentioned I wanted to stop breastfeeding. It was quite messy at first but it's amazing how well my daughter drinks from the cup now. I'd recommend going for it if you have the time and patience to persevere.”