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Introducing: THE SIPPY CUP!

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

So back to the baby questions!

My sweet son will be turning one in about a month. I am super excited to see his little personality emerging and I can’t wait for him to start talking so that I can know a little more about what is going on in that fascinating brain of his. I am ALSO very excited that 12 months is when (according to ALL the books) we get to give up bottles! Yay! I am tired of washing all the bottles especially the ones with all the stupid little parts that I swear did NOT help his gas problem one little bit (boy that seems like it was a long time ago). The pediatrician tells me the wee one “should” only need three feedings a day at twelve months. I should be able to manage those myself since I can nurse him during my lunch hour. Does this mean that I can give up the (oh so glad for the convenience but boy is it a pain in the a**) pump?

So here’s my question. I SOOOOO want to give up the bottles and the pump, but I do NOT want to stop breastfeeding until…. well for a while yet. So how do I wean to a cup, but still continue breastfeeding? Do I introduce cow’s milk? Won’t that make him not want boob juice? Am I jumping the gun in getting rid of the pump? Should I build up a stock (My freezer full of breastmilk is sadly depleted these days) and then give up the pump? Should other caregivers give breastmilk in a sippy cup? Why does that seem gross? GAH!

Everything about breastfeeding has gone so well, I am convinced that I am going to screw up weaning. Help. Oh right and I would like to see the pacifier go soon after the bottles. Any advice on that would also be much appreciated.


Well, okay. I will tackle this question, with the HUGE caveat that both of my boys weaned from breastfeeding before the 12-month mark, so our weaning from bottle to cup was a lot more straightforward than yours. No pump or breastmilk supply worries involved. So definitely rely on the comments section for better, first-person specifics after I’m done rambling.

(My boys also never took pacifiers. I mean, they did as newborns when I could still forcibly shove the thing into their mouths, but it was never a habit that stuck once they figured out how to suck on their thumbs. So again, can’t really help you with that one either. AM SO USELESS TODAY.)

First up: Don’t wait until his birthday to introduce a cup. Just do it, if you haven’t already. Ideally the cup should already be a familiar thing BEFORE you take the bottle away. I imagine your baby probably has the (good!) distinction that nursing= comfort and bottle= just a drink, so swapping out a cup for the bottle shouldn’t have the added challenge of taking away his beloved comforting nighttime baba. (That was Ezra, but more on that in a bit.)

Ezra’s first drink from a sippy cup probably happened around…jeez, he was young. I want to say seven or eight months, once he was sitting up in his high chair and eating a nice variety of solids and moving on to finger foods. So I started offering a small cup of water or pumped milk with his meals. He preferred the water — he was one of those babies who wanted breastmilk or formula only from the boob or bottle. (He still won’t use the sign for “milk” for cow’s milk. He signed “milk” when he wanted to nurse or get a bottle, and once those went away, so did the sign. Now he uses “thirsty” for everything.)

But every baby is different. Your son might love breastmilk out of a cup, or he might immediately assign distinctions to what he wants from where, with breastmilk being an in-person event only. Introducing cow’s milk SHOULDN’T affect his desire for breastmilk — even after Ezra weaned I gave him formula before switching to cow’s, and he much preferred formula to milk for quite some time, probably because it was so much sweeter.

My pediatrician, by the way, had ZERO patience for my stress around getting Ezra off the bottle at 12 months. Noah had made the switch so easily (again, he’d been experimenting with a cup since around 8 months and was happily drinking cow’s milk from one before we made the Final Switch) that I didn’t know what to do about that final bedtime bottle that Ezra seemed to so desperately need. He was closer to 13 months old at his one-year appointment and when I told her we were “working” on getting rid of bottles by offering cow’s milk in them instead of formula, she just about had a conniption and scared the pants off of me with statistics on bottles-past-a-year and cavities. Something like, on average, every month past 12 that a child continues to use bottles equals one cavity by three years old. While I’m SURE this is overstating things JUST A BIT, I was duly shamed and promised to go cold turkey that night, like she recommended.

(We did. Ezra cried for a little bit, then got over it. I felt silly.)

(One of my neighbors, however, recently confessed that her 3.5 year old still drinks a bottle at bedtime because it’s the ONLY thing he’ll drink milk from, as demonstrated by a five-month-long strike of absolutely no milk drinking. Personally, by that age I think I’d be more gung-ho about getting rid of the bottle and finding other sources of calcium for a non-milk-drinker, but I admit I’m one of those Judgey People who can’t believe Suri Cruise is still carrying around that bottle OMG COME ON.)

Anyway. Thus ends my entire experience with introducing a sippy cup: Do it sooner rather than later, and be prepared for a lot of trial-and-error when it comes to the contents. (And a lot of spills. Non-spill sippy cups are a LIE, a DAMNED LIE, because none of them can match getting repeatedly hurled off the edge of a high chair onto the floor, though I found that Playtex cups probably had the best track record.) Make the cup a regular presence at all meals and snack times. Be heartless about the bottle, but generous with offers to nurse. Try to wait as long as possible to offer sweet, watered-down juices — like as a last resort if your baby REFUSES the cup no matter what, but it’s best for their teeth if you can hold out until they’re drinking from a straw instead of a spout.

And OH! RIGHT! My one other weird twitchy thing: the spouted sippy cups are a great option for BEGINNERS, but speech pathologists (and oh, I’ve known quite a few) recommend that you get your baby using the straw versions as soon as possible. The spout design is not great for a baby’s mouth muscles or getting his tongue into proper positions for speech. A straw is much, much better for developing good oral motor skills.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Claire

    May 7, 2010 at 11:12 am

    My baby was a bottle failure, so I don’t have a lot of expertise weaning from bottle to cup, but, I did nurse until about 15 months, and my daughter never had a problem with the cow’s milk/nursing issue. She just nursed (maybe 2 times a day), and then had cow’s milk in a sippy for all of her meals (and usually water for snacks). It worked out fine – she didn’t love the milk at first, but now that she’s 19 months, she drinks plenty of milk, and seems to like it. She loves water, and hates juice (tried it watered down after a virus to try to entice her to drink – not successful). It works for me!
    We use a mixture of spout and straw cups. I’d introduce the straw cups at the same time as the soft spout – it’ll take a while to get the hang of straws, but they are better in the long run. Again, my daughter didn’t take bottles, so she didn’t know that you had to tilt a cup up, so the straws were actually easier in some ways. We liked the Born Free toddler spouts, the playtex straws, and the munchkin “sport cup.” A lot of people like the Avent soft spout, too.
    I never gave breastmilk in sippies – then you’ll just set yourself up for another transition. I’d go directly to whole cow’s milk for cups, and keep nursing separate. Then you can give up the dreaded pump!
    Good luck – in a month or so, you’ll look back and realize it was an easier transition than you had expected! Although I hate to tell you – the sippy cups, they have lots of parts to clean, too. And make sure to clean inside the straws, or they get really gross (we use the Dr. Brown tiny cleaner for straws now).

  • Jen

    May 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I don’t usually comment as I often feel most readers know much more than I do, but I introduced both my boys to sippy cups really early (both continued to nurse past 1 year). But, I gave them a sippy cup that had neither a nub or a straw…I had seen way too may 3 year olds that still drank from those which to me meant lazy parents! The cups we used were shaped like a sippy cup but had a cup-like rim with 3 little holes…similar to this link
    (I of course can’t remember the brand) but I purchased them at [email protected] and couldn’t ever find them without some sort of Ni&k character on them, but no matter. Our children were drinking from glasses most of the time by the age of 14 months. It proved to be a really easy transition and I can assure you once they are able to drink from a glass the amount of stuff being lugged back and forth is much less…just my 2 cents, but with another one coming in August, I will once again be going with the non-sippy sippy cups!

  • Crabby Apple Seed

    May 7, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Well, we were incredibly lucky in this regard, as it was one of the few things my daughter actually made easy for us.
    We also introduced the cup extremely early, probably around seven months. I started weaning the week before her first bday- first eliminating first morning nursing and giving her a sippy with cow’s milk. She loved it. The next week I eliminated pre-nap nursing/bottles. She was not happy about it, but she was okay. The last we eliminated was pre-bedtime nursing/bottles. For a week, we gave her cow’s milk in a sippy at bedtime and then brushed her teeth before putting her down. Eventually we eliminated that altogether (now we just give milk with meals) and started giving her a sippy with water to drink during storytime that also goes in bed with her. It was really nearly pain-free. There were tears, but nothing horrible.

  • ras

    May 7, 2010 at 11:28 am

    For what it’s worth, both of my girls started on sippy cups at around 9 months, and both continued nursing well past that (DD1 was 22 months when I weaned her, DD2 is still nursing at 15 months). Neither one of them seemed to make any connection between the sippy and the breast — as in, they didn’t see any reason why one would supplant the other.
    Mind you, we’re insane people who INTRODUCED a bottle to our first daughter at around 11 months, in an effort to get her to stop nursing to sleep at night. I seem to recall that we took the bottle away at 2 years, by slowly watering down her milk with increasing amounts of water. I also seem to recall all of my mom friends freaking out around this time that we HAD to get our kids off of bottles, but not a one of us can remember now what the big deal was.
    Anyway, not sure you needed that tangent. Sorry. My point is that you should just offer the cup, either filled with milk or with water. It’ll take a while for him to get used to it, but he will get there. And in the meantime, if you keep nursing, probably it will never occur to him that the two could possibly be mutually exclusive.
    Oh, and if I could offer a bit of gear advice — we’ve really liked the Take-and-Toss sippy cups. The tops from the 9 oz cups fit perfectly on the 4 oz, easily-gripped snack cups. We used them as first cups for both of my kids, because they were lightweight and easy to drink from.

  • Eliza

    May 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

    ok, my baby isn’t here yet but i know that my niece has been taking sips out of cups and straws since she was around 5 or 6 months old (she’s a total ice-water thief! of course the ped. would prob freak out about cup sharing too but whatever…)
    She’s never used a bottle at all as far as I know. Now that she’s a year old she nurses at night before bed (totally cracked us all up when my mom was babysitting her one night and my Sis got there later than she expected and little niece starts asking all the women in the house for nu-nu! haha sorry baby… only mommy can help you with that one)
    Anyway, it hasn’t seemed to be any kind of a problem for her because its been a gradual transition over time (plus she’s surrounded by grown-ups using cups and she just wants to copy everyone else)

  • Michelle

    May 7, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Amy, yeah I think your ped was probably overreacting on the off the bottle by 12 months or the teeth will fall out business. My older son was actually still had a bottle at bedtime until around 18 months and the he still needed a bit of water in a bottle to settle down. He turns 4 on Monday and according to the dentist, has perfect teeth. Granted he didnt’ fall asleep with the bottle and we wiped his teeth down afterwards but still. It was kind of a tumultous time (very sick older child in the hospital for an entire summer) so I picked my battles and that wasn’t one of them.
    Anyway, my son didn’t take to nursing so he always drank from bottles (expressed breastmilk, then formula and cow’s milk after 1 yr). He was never a fan of the sippy cups until I tried the straw cups around 12 months and he was sold. Love them. Hated the Nuby ones but was all about the Munchkin cups. He drank cow’s milk fine and very watered down juice.
    I have a 9 month old currently and he has been drinking from a sippy for a month or so now. I got the Nuby trainer cups first and he seems to like them fine although he is fascinated with big brother’s old Munchkin cups, he can’t quite figure them out yet.
    I 1000% hear you on getting rid of the pump/bottles. I work from home so the baby only gets 1-2 bottles a day from the nanny but still. Ugh! The baby will not take a bottle from me but will drink breastmilk from the sippy. So we do that sometimes or the aforementioned watered down juice (really water with a splash of juice) to keep everything regular if you know what I mean.
    I’d definitely try giving a sippy cup now. You might have to try a few bramds to get one that your child likes.
    I personally loathe the sippy cups with the hard plastic spout. And I’ll probably be transitioning the baby to more straw cups as he gets bigger. Not that it directly correlates but my older son? Drank exclusively from straw cups and has extremely advanced verbal skills (per his preschool teacher, I just feel like he never shuts up ever) 🙂
    Good luck

  • Stephanie

    May 7, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    What about some suggestions for the baby who DOES NOT LIKE sippy cups? I’ve tried giving my 10 month old a sippy cup since she was six months old. No interest whatsoever. And now I’m stressing because we’re switching daycares and the new place won’t let her move to the toddler room until she can drink from a cup. I’ve tried the rubber spout and the non-rubber one, neither works. GAH!!!

  • Carmen

    May 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Hmm, interesting statistic about the cavities. I nursed my son to sleep until he was 18 months old. He had SEVEN cavities in his teeth at age 3. Seven, despite my brushing 2x a day with fluoride toothpaste since the day his first tooth poked through. Now my daughter is 19.5 months and I’m still nursing her…phoooey.

  • Erin

    May 7, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I would TOTALLY put breastmilk in a cup. I don’t think it’s gross at all. The only issue then is the sudden disappearance of said breastmilk when you decide to wean. My doctor said that my son didn’t need any formula/breastmilk at all after one year old, so if you just wanted to nurse once or twice (or however many times) a day, I think that’d be fine. Do whatever you think is right, I don’t think there’s a wrong answer there.
    Although it took a couple of weeks for him to get the hang of it, my baby loved the cup. We only do water and milk (no juice because he already eats in such small quantities that I don’t want him filling up on it)and pretty soon we’ll be switching to lowfat milk to celebrate his 2nd birthday. (The doctor said, and I was like…huh? Ok…) We started with soft spout cups that SEEMED bottleish, so that he didn’t have to work too hard to get the liquid out and that he understood what was going on. And then worked into the Take and Toss (or whatever they’re called) sippy cups with the click on lids (but no valves, because I WAS DONE WITH VALVES!!!)and then transitioned to the straw at mealtimes.
    So it took us a couple steps to get to straws, but it was worth it. Because I am bottle-free and life is INFINITELY better!

  • Sunshine

    May 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Stephanie – NEITHER of my children wanted anything to do with sippy cups. Nothing. We went straight to the straw version (at 12 months…find one with handles) and regular cups around 2 yrs. Yes, people thought I was crazy but we had surprisingly few spills (like, less than five total and I just didn’t give them things that stained like purple grape juice or anything red).

  • Julie

    May 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    First off, I wouldn’t go by what the Dr says your baby “should” be able to do – I’d go by what your baby seems ready to handle. Just because the Dr says he “should” be down to three feedings a day, doesn’t mean your baby is quite there yet. Go with trial and error and gradually reducing to that, and see how it goes.
    Having said that, here’s how things worked for me.
    First off, the getting rid of the pump/milk transition. I was lucky enough to only need to pump for one bottle a day, two on Mondays. Around 11 months, I stopped responding to the pump, and wasn’t able to get that second bottle. So I started sending in what I had, and a half bottle of cows milk, and told day care to give him the cows milk if he finished the breastmilk if he was still hungry. He accepted it without any trouble, so I then started sending just cows milk for the second bottle on Mondays. He seemed to be handling that well, so I then started replacing all of the bottles with cows milk, and he had no problem with it. I think it may have been easier since it wasn’t coming from me, so he didn’t have the option of the “better stuff” being right there. I’d say start the transition gradually so you can see if milk agrees with him – start by replacing one bottle a day, or even mixing a bottle half and half, then work your way up.
    For sippy cups, I started giving them as soon as he was eating solids. I started with the straw cups, but the valves on the no-spill straw cups were so stiff that I even had a hard time sucking water through them, so it’s no surprise my kid couldn’t! So I switched to the soft spout sippy cups – he had a hard time figuring out the hard spout sippies, the soft ones were more similar to a bottle mechanism, so we went with that. He would get water in his sippy with meals. When we’re out to eat he’ll often get water through a straw or from a cup, so he’s used to using those too.
    The past few weeks I’ve started having day care offer milk in the sippies instead of in a bottle, and that went well, so now he just has one backup bottle in the drawer at day care in case he seems to really “need” it for a nap one day, but he’s been completely on cups for the past week.
    All along the route, there hasn’t been any real pickiness from my kid, but that’s how it worked for us. (For reference, he’s 13 months now.)
    As for the need to wean off the bottle – I think the worst time for bottle feeding is the nighttime feeding, since the drink tends to pool more as they sleep, so you get the cavity and ear infection risks there. Since you’re breastfeeding and only going to be using bottles during the day, I wouldn’t be quite as worried about getting off of bottles right at a year.

  • Julie

    May 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Oh, and on the breast milk vs cows milk thing – I don’t think you have to worry about the kid refuing nursing for cows milk. Most babies I know definitely prefer to nurse – mom’s milk is the good stuff, plus there’s the comfort issue.
    (Though I did have an amusing moment last week when my kid got fussy at a restraunt, so I started nursing. Then he grabbed the sippy cup of water off of the table and tried to put it in his mouth without unlatching first – poked himself in the cheek and then looked confusedly at it, then put it down and continued nursing.)

  • eva

    May 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    My two and a half year old never took to sippy cups, but loved the thermos stainless steel version with the pop up straw from the time she was around 10 months old. She had a bedtime bottle until two months ago because it worked for us and we were too cowardly to give it up (and because we want nothing but cavities for her apparently!). Then we told her one day “no more bottles, bottles are for babies” and just didn’t give her one that night and really it was totally fine. She understood, which is the advantage of an older kid – they have some rational ability vs. a one year old who just can’t understand abstract concepts at all.
    I also think the straw thermos thing went over so well because my husband and I always drink from these camelbak bottles with pop up straws when we’re out and about, and she just wanted to be like us!

  • Jenn

    May 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I wanted to chime in on the pacifier thing, just to say “do not stress” if you can’t get your son to give up the paci at night. I have two kids, one who never wanted a paicifier and another THREE YEAR OLD who still uses it at night. I was very anti-paci once she turned 2, but my ped told me not to fight it at all (as long as she wasn’t walking around all day with it and — gah — taking it out only to talk). He said some babies are more oral than others and that it’s no big deal for older kids to use them at night. It was very very easy for us to make a “no paci out of the bed” rule at around 12-14 months (we just did it, with very little talk and NO flexibility). Just my 2 cents.

  • Ms. K

    May 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    @Julie is right on – go by what your kid seems able/willing to do, not by what the pediatrician says they “ought” to be doing.
    And FWIW, research does not support the idea that nursing your kid to sleep is bad for her teeth. (Bottle feeding formula/milk is different in a number of ways, and does seem to lead to cavity formation) KellyMom links to a bunch of research on this:

  • caleal

    May 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Dude, no joke on the bottle with the milk at bedtime thing. It can be devestating. I had to have four or five of my teeth removed when I was young due to my mom not knowing any better, and then I just didn’t have front teeth until around, oh, 10? And that? Sucks.

  • Susan

    May 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    From the time Snackbox was about 8 months old (and self-weaned), we have tried almost every brand of sippy cup out there (except Avent, ’cause I heard those leaked like crazy). Seriously, I have an entire kitchen drawer devoted to sippy cups – if I had put that money in his college fund, he’d be going to Harvard when he’s 12. Turns out his favorite ones are – the Take N Toss from Walmart, $3 or so for 5 cups (and you don’t have to toss them – they are durable enough to go in the dishwasher). They also make a straw version, but I like the playtex straw cups better since he can’t pull out the straw himself.
    He started drinking water out of the other cups (Munchkin with the handles were good to start out with), but would not drink formula (before 1 yr) or cow’s milk – until a friend brought over the Take N Toss at his 1st birthday party. He still took a bottle for naps, though, and our pediatrician insisted that if we didn’t stop that by 15 months, we’d have a demon Suri Cruise on our hands (nothing to do with cavities; apparently 15 months is when habits get REALLY ingrained and much more difficult to break).
    I was freaking out about taking away the bottles, but then he developed toddler’s diarrhea at about 13 1/2 months, and the ped suggested switching to soy or rice milk. I figured, well, if I’m switching the milk, why not switch the cup too, and so gave him a cup of soy milk for nap – presto, change-o, no more bottles. [For the record, eliminating dairy had no effect on the 5 poops a day so we went back to whole milk and the diarrhea stopped on its own after five weeks. Yay.]
    Snackbox gave up the paci at about 11 months – just decided he didn’t need it, and glared at us if we offered it. Really think about the times your son “needs” it – is he asking for it or are you automatically reaching for it out of habit? If it’s the second, he might give it up easier than you think if you retrain YOURSELF to wait a beat before popping in it without thinking.
    Good luck!

  • Jaymee

    May 7, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I started introducing a sippy cup at 6 months. The 6 month sippy cups are pretty much just like a bottle(obviously they look different, but in order to get the liquid out it’s only slightly different than a bottle) As the months on the sippy cup increase the more it becomes more like a sippy cup and less like a bottle. This results in a very easy transition. Quite honestly though, sippy cups are nice for a child to carry around with them, but when it comes to meal time or whenever they are going to be stationary you should just give them a regular cup(like one that you would drink from). I started using a regular cup at mealtimes around the same time I started the sippy cup(6 months). Now he is a pro!

  • Elizabeth

    May 14, 2010 at 1:35 am

    I think there’s a difference (in terms of cavity promotion) between drinking from a bottle and having a bedtime bottle without brushing afterwards. My older daughter drank a bottle of milk first thing in the morning until she was almost 3.5; she’s 4.5 now and she’s never had a cavity. We did stop the bedtime bottles (by gradually watering them down) some time around 18 months.

    As far as sippy cups go, we taught both my girls to use them (with water) around 7 months by taking out the valves. That way the cups dripped into their mouths and they got the idea pretty quickly.

  • cagey (kelli oliver george)

    May 14, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    My kids weaned at 15 mos and 18 mos, respectively. Neither one took a bottle very well and sippy cups were a complete failure for us. I began teaching them how to use straws around the 10-11 month mark (the technique I used was simply dipping the “drink” end of the straw into their mouths and letting them practice that way. Because they could use regular straws, we moved past sippy cups into strawed cups (I recommend Munchkin, they are very smell resistant, says she who has discovered more than one lurking underneath the couch. bleh)

    One advantage of straws is that traveling is simple – a handle of straws in my handbag and I am set. No traveling with bulky cups needed.