10 Tips for Transitioning From Bottle to Cup

I get asked about this frequently, so I thought I’d do a post about making the transition from bottles to cups. This developmental progression can happen whenever you and your baby decide but ideally is well suited to occurring between 6-12 months (12-24 months is fine too, but can be a bit more difficult.) During the 7-10 month window especially, your love bug has the ability to sit up unsupported, hold a cup, tilt their head back, separate the movements of their jaw, lips, and tongue, and drink from a spouted cup, a straw, and an open cup. They are motivated to learn new skills and do things for themselves at this age. They are also a bit more amenable to changes in their routine than a toddler, so often the battle-of-the-bottle is not so epic (and may even be quite smooth).

It's important to note that the transition from bottle to cup does not have to mean weaning from breastfeeding. You can continue to breastfeed while also transitioning to the cup by only offering water in the cup or by pumping and offering your pumped milk in the cup at table meals with solid foods or even by offering formula if you don't have enough breastmilk or are ready to give up pumping. If your baby is spending any time with a nanny or in daycare, you can work towards providing your baby's pumped breastmilk or formula in a cup instead of a bottle whenever he or she is away from you, but continue to directly breastfeed in the morning and in the evenings.

Lastly, if you notice increased incidence of coughing and choking while drinking, this is a sign that your child might not be quite ready yet or at least may need a slower flow of liquid (so possibly a sippy cup with a no-spill valve instead of an open cup, for example). Always follow your child's lead and your intuition. If you find that your child is getting constipated, this might also indicate that he or she does not have the skill and coordination yet to take in the necessary volume from a cup and should continue practicing while also receiving bottle or breastfeeds for the time being. In all situations, if something seems amiss, consult with your doctor.

Here are the 10 Tips for Transitioning from Bottles to Cup:

1. Start early. By this I mean like before your baby turns a year, ideally but also early like well before you actually expect your baby to make the transition. Starting before a year is helpful because toddlers are creatures of habit and they love consistency and routine. Trying to break a 2 year routine of bottles can be a big challenge. Also, starting early before you actually expect your baby to make the transition will allow your stress levels will stay low as your baby learns this new skill becasue you won't be up against any time crunches to get the transition completed.


2. Start with a week or two of “cup play” before you put any liquid to drink in the cups. Put a cup in the bath and use it to pour water on your baby. Put a few cups on their play may and fill with cotton balls or interlocking rings to let them practice holding the cup and to familiarize themselves with it.

3. Let your baby watch you drink from a cup and straw and then offer sips of water from your “grown up” cup. As he watches you, most likely your baby will reach for your cup. Let him help hold it while you guide the cup to give small sips. (You’ll probably end up with backwash in the cup and most of the water down the front of you both, but that’s part of the fun!) Do this every time they reach for your cup for the first few days or weeks to help develop the interest and coordination to take small sips of a drink.

4. Consider trialling a few different types of cups. Lidded cups are awesome, of course, to prevent spills but that doesn’t automatically mean a sippy cup. You can try straw cups or sports tops too, even at 6-7 months. I prefer these to a standard "sippy" cup because sippy cups are a short-lived solution--a stepping stone--until you move on to an adult type cup (standard cup, a straw cup, or a sports bottle.) If you’re brave, forgo the lids right from the beginning in favor of an open cup or even a nosey cup (also called cutout cup, which has a cutout so your babe doesn’t have to tilt his head back to take a drink.) Either way, with a few different options, you should hit on at least one that your child has more aptitude for or more interest in.

5. Don’t push it. Have the cup of choice out at meals and let her play with it and drink as she wants. Let her reach for it and initiate. Once she does, feel free to help her manage it.

6. Try offering both water and milk (or formula) in the cup of choice so your child get used to the idea that many different drinks can be in a cup.

7. If you’re trying a sippy cup:

- consider the soft spout that feels similar to a bottle nipple, which may be more familiar than a hard spout intiiatlly.

-trial removing the slow flow/no spill valve until he gets the idea that something comes out of the spout. Once he starts sucking on his own, put the valve back in. (Use caution with this method if your child has any swallowing difficulties.)

-Let your child hold the cup but you help tilt the cup back as needed to take a sip.

8. If you’re trying a straw cup:

- consider using one that has a slight amount of “give” in the cup so you can squeeze it while they have the straw in their mouth, which will push liquid up the straw. This will cause them to automatically seal their lips around the straw and will help them understand that liquid comes out of the straw. (Avoid squeezing too hard and flooding them! Also use caution with this method if your child has any swallowing difficulties.)


- if she is not getting the concept of the straw at first, try taking the straw out of the cup then use your finger to trap water in it and bring it to your baby's mouth. Then let your baby hold the other end of the straw as you remove your finger:


This gives them the idea that liquid comes out of a straw. Once they tolerate this several times, hold the straw lower when you put it in your baby's mouth with your finger still over the other end to hold the liquid in, and see if she sucks at all to get to the liquid. If so, put the straw back in the cup and try again to let them drink straight from straw/cup.

-use a short straw (or cut the straw in half) so that even a small suck will be enough force to draw liquid up the length of the straw and into your baby's mouth.

9. Once he gets the hang of a certain cup, start increasing the amount of milk he takes from this cup or even offer a full feed once per day in that cup. You can hold your baby as you would if you were going to give a botle, or if he doesn't seem to mind, let him sit up and drink. Meanwhile, reduce the bottle feeds by 1 feed per week. (If your child is a rock star, you can go at a faster pace than this, but this gives plenty of time to adjust.) If you your baby is under 12 months and you are breastfeeding, wean out one breastfeed per week but pump to give that milk in a cup, or just stick to water in cup, milk from breast until your're ready to wean. If your baby is over a year and you're ready to wean, wean out one breastfeed per week and replace with whichever milk you are using (cow, sheep, rice, almond, etc.)

10. As you get down to only 1 or 2 bottles of milk, if your baby/toddler is still super attached to the bottle of milk, consider adding small amounts of water to the milk that’s in the bottle, little by little to make it less desirable. Concurrently, give her the regular milk only in a cup. This should be enough encouragement to get her to make the switch.

#cupdrinking #introducingsolids #selffeeding #transitioningfrombottletocup #usingsippycups

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