I have been a speech therapist for almost 18 years and a feeding therapist for almost 5 years. The two do not go hand in hand. We all learn a little about feeding/swallowing while in college, but I certainly did not learn all I know now about feeding while still in school. It would have been helpful to be a feeding therapist when my children were all little and beginning to eat! I’ve learned so much about feeding development after they were all eating table foods and drinking from cups and straws. One of the most important things I learned is that drinking from sippy cups is not a developmental milestone.
WHAT?!? Yes, sippy cups were designed for parents…to avoid spills and messes…not for children and helping them learn to drink from something other than breast or bottle. A spouted sippy cup continues to promote forward-backward tongue movements and suckling patterns similar to that of breast or bottle drinking. We want kiddos to learn to do so much more with their tongues to be able to safely eat advancing textures of foods.
And it’s something I now talk to almost every one of the families I work with about. Here are some of my first recommendations and advice I typically offer to families…
Try small medicine cups or small 2 oz open or “shot” glasses (yes, those tiny red solo cups are good for other things, too!!)–
They are the perfect size for small hands as kiddos like to be independent!
Offer thicker liquids to help slow the liquid down and it doesn’t end up all down the front of your kiddo’s shirt. Some of my favorites to first try include drinkable yogurt, applesauce, or baby food purees. You can add a little water, milk, or juice if the puree seems to be “stuck” at the bottom of the cup. We want it to flow easily, but not so quickly like water alone would.
Practice with the small cups along with your kiddo! They like to do what they see others do, so grab a little cup and model!
If you are going to buy a “sippy cup”, look for one that mimics drinking from a regular open cup, such as a 360 cup. There are several different brands, but all have rims and not spouts. And take the spill proof valve out. Yes, the liquid may spill out, but with the valve in place it requires sucking and not mature drinking skills. PRO tIp: You can offer water in these cups so clean up would be easier.