Have you ever wondered what the best baby cups are? Maybe you’ve asked friends and family what they have found to work? Or scoured Amazon for the best reviewed cups?
Today, I’m going to talk about the best cup for babies, but from a pediatric dietitian’s perspective. Of course that perspective includes a bit of my mom side, too!
When to introduce cups
Before we get into which cup to use, let’s talk about when you should introduce a cup. It is my firm belief that you should introduce a cup to your baby around the time that you introduce solid foods at 6 months. This allows your baby to start getting used to things being in different containers, and helps to teach them drinking skills along with eating skills.
What should be in the cup?
Starting with the introduction of solid foods, water can be given with meals. Before one, avoid giving water at any other time of the day. You can also put breastmilk or formula in the cups, if you prefer.
More: For more help with baby led weaning and how to help your baby succeed with eating, be sure to check out this article with a comprehensive guide to baby led weaning and first baby foods!
The Best Baby Cups
There are three general types of cups that you can introduce to your babies. They of course all have their pros and cons.
We’re talking traditional looking spouts here. These are the quintessential cup most people think about for babies. The thing is, there’s really not much of a developmental need for sippy cups. The hard ones are not recommended by dentists, as they have the potential to cause dental problems. The soft spouted ones are better for teeth, but still doesn’t add anything developmentally for your baby. The sippy cup lid keeps your babies mouth in a position similar to a bottle nipple, and not the more advanced positions they will need to learn to help with speech and oral-motor development as they grow. The thing that it does do, and it does it well, is prevent spills. This is obviously a big consideration for many parents, but there are some better options out there.
These are better options from a developmental standpoint than sippy cups. The straw allows your baby to form a proper suction movement with their lips. If you buy a weighted version like this Munchkin one, it allows your baby to tip and move the cup around when they are first learning to drink and they will still get water out. It also keeps things clean, just like a sippy cup. The one caution is that you want to avoid a straw that your baby has to bite to get anything out of. This can cause an improper drinking position. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have one that is spill proof, but just be aware when you are buying it that some spill proof ones require a bite, (think some of the Camelbak spouts) and others you just suck liquids through. You can even test it out yourself before giving it to your baby if you need to.
Now I know a lot of parents look at me crazy when I suggest giving your 6 month old an open cup. It can definitely be messy. But so can feeding in general! Drinking from an open cup is an important skill to have, and there is absolutely no reason not to start letting your baby learn early on. It can help them develop important skills and promotes independence early on. It can also help them learn to drink from a straw easier!
So how might you go about doing this?
Start with finding a shot glass size glass. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, there’s no need for a full glass that can be tipped all over your floor. A small amount of water in the bottom of a cup the size of a shot glass will work and will keep water from getting everywhere.
A shot glass is also the appropriate size glass for most babies’ face size. Think about how much of your face a normal drinking glass covers. A shot glass will cover about the same amount of your baby’s face, and will make drinking much more successful for them.
Once you have your shot glass and your baby is sitting in their highchair, fill it only partially full. This makes drinking more manageable for your baby and water wont easily get all over their face.
Start the process by holding the cup for your baby and tipping it for them. The goal is for them to take a sip and swallow it. Once they get the hang of this, (and it can take awhile!) transition to them holding it themselves. You may still need to hand them the glass and take it away when they are done with their sip to avoid any major messes.
When your baby is confident with a shot glass and seems to be drinking more water, transition to a bigger glass. We love the little 4oz ones that look like what you can get in cafeterias. You can find these in stores like IKEA and sometimes Target. Goodwill or another secondhand store are also great places to check.
Here’s the last shocker for you. I recommend using glass cups! The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommend against plastic for children’s food items, and so we try to avoid it as much as possible.
At the beginning of teaching babies to use a glass, there can be a bit of a learning curve. If that’s a concern for you, start with plastic ones like these but then transition as soon as you can. Avoid putting plastic in the dishwasher, as well. Babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages can handle a lot more than we give them credit for if we allow them to learn. And at the end of the day the glasses usually only cost a dollar or so each and it’s not a big deal if one breaks.
Won’t it be messy?
Sure. But you’re going to have to teach your kid to drink from a cup at some point any ways. I prefer to do it when they are learning eating skills, they don’t have any other bad habits formed, and when I am in close proximity already and can help with the picking up and putting down of the cup. Once they get to be toddlers and are drinking more, it can be harder to supervise learning with an open cup. And much messier, too!
What about the Munchkin 360 and other 360 cups?
When these first came out, there was hope that they could be better than a traditional sippy cup lid. But in the years since, various feeding professionals and speech therapists have expressed concern about them. Just like sippy cups, they alter the muscles your child is using to drink.
With cups, we want to keep swallowing and drinking mechanics fairly natural. Which means that this isn't actually a good option for your child. Better to stick with an open cup and straw cups.
What about when you’re out and about?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a straw lid cup as a part of your rotation. After one, kids can have water in between meal times. That’s a perfectly fine time to give a straw lid so that you don’t find water spills all over your house.
Or if you’re out at a restaurant or friend’s house and you won’t have the ability to help as much with drinking at the beginning. It’s also legitimate if you just don’t want to have to deal with a potential spill at those places!
Here's a run down on my favorite straw bottles for kids, including my favorite straw bottle for babies.
One last plus to using an open cup for the majority of your baby’s drinking? It cuts down significantly on the hard to clean pieces! No lids to try to get clean or nooks and crannies to find. It is all much simpler.
Teach your baby to drink from an open glass. It helps their development, and with proper preparation isn’t nearly as messy as one might imagine. When out and about or down from the table, choose a straw cup like the Pura to help with proper lip and tongue placement.