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Why open cup drinking is an important part of weaning babies

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Helping your baby to learn to eat is a special time as they explore new foods and experiences, but sometimes teaching them the all-important skill of open cup drinking is overlooked until the toddler years when in fact it can start at any time. In fact, the sooner you start the job of teaching your baby how to sip, the sooner they will learn this crucial skill alongside other key weaning skills like learning to use cutlery.

When weaning starts at six months old, by giving your little one a set of cutlery (we like doddl cutlery sets), putting on a bib (preferably a Tidy Tot bib!) and giving them an open cup like the one from Babycup, you’re simulating what a ‘normal’ mealtime looks like. You’re giving them all the ‘tools’ they need to eat and drink themselves. These are skills for life that you’re teaching and the sooner you start getting them familiar with these ‘tools’, the sooner they will become independent eaters (and drinkers) in their own right!

At the start cutlery and cups are often seen as a thing to play with, and that’s completely fine. It can be hit or miss whether they use them to get any food or drink in their mouth, what’s important is that they are comfortable with them and copy you when you use your set.

TOP TIP – Have your own cup and set of cutlery with you at baby mealtimes and show them how to use them. Babies love to mimic you and they’ll get the idea quicker if you do it with them.

Why choose an open cup

There are lots of different types of baby cups available and it can be overwhelming. Some have straws, some are funny shapes, some are big and some are small. One of our favourite cups is Babycup Sippeco First Cups which have been designed specifically with little hands in mind. These little open cups are easy for little hands to grasp and control and just the right size for little sips to learn the art of sipping! Plus, these open cups are the only ones to be approved by the Oral Health Foundation. Dr Nigel Carter, Oral Health Foundation CEO and dentist for over 40 years, says, “Developing proper drinking habits at an early age is vital for oral development. Primary [milk] teeth are crucial to jaw development, speech development and adult teeth placement.”

Open cups are recommended by dentists as the best cup for healthy oral and tooth development in babies. As The Mummy Dentist says, “The position of a child’s teeth can be affected by habits such as prolonged use of a dummy or bottle. This is one of the reasons why the early introduction of drinking from an open cup is recommended.”

She goes on to say, “Learning a ‘sipping’ action is good for promoting oro-facial muscle and jaw development as babies practice new skills including ‘babbling’ and early speech patterns at a young age. It also prevents liquids from pooling around the upper front teeth helping to reduce the risk of decay. An open cup rim is preferred to a spouted or sealed cup as the spout may impede natural tongue movements or a seal can cause a suck not a sip.”

But if you didn’t introduce an open cup when you first started weaning, it’s not too late to introduce one when your baby is older. Open cups are great for all ages for cup-feeding infants, supporting breastfeeding and supporting those with feeding challenges such as tongue-tie.

How and when to introduce water to babies

The NHS recommends introducing ‘sips of water with meals’ when your baby starts their weaning journey at 6 months, it is simply about getting baby used to drinking water, rather than a source of hydration. Little open cups like Babycup First Cups are the perfect size for these little sips.

Up until age 1, babies don’t need much water, as breastmilk or formula provides all the hydration they need. Exclusively breastfed babies will not need any water at all until 6 months, this is because breastmilk adapts to babies’ needs depending on the climate. Before 6 months, formula fed babies may need small amounts of water but only in hot weather. Once your baby reaches 1 year old, you can start offering larger amounts of water between meals and let your little one lead.

Amie Lunn, aka The Mummy Nutritionist, offers some good advice about the amount of water your baby is getting: “The best way to know if your little one is getting enough fluids is to keep an eye on nappy output and the colour and smell of their urine. If their nappies are looking yellow and smelling strongly, they could do with additional fluids.”

Take a look at the Babycup blog for more great advice on open cup drinking from experts.

Here’s Babycup’s top tips to start sipping

It’s good to remember that spills are part of the learning process so start with small amounts, and wear a good bib like our Tidy Tot bibs to protect baby’s clothes. Here’s some top tips to encourage those sips:

  • Be on your baby’s eye level, use their name to encourage them and praise their attempts
  • Have a drink yourself and let baby mimic your actions – you can always try using a Babycup too!
  • Use your hand to guide the cup to their mouth on their first few attempts, and to lower it back down again
  • Help them tip the cup only slightly to let them get used to the cup on their bottom lip
  • Resist the urge to take over and let them by watching you and following your lead – you’re the best teacher
  • Download Babycup’s free sipping guide https://babycup.com/pages/sipping-guide here

Cheers to you and open cup sipping!

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