Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, at some point you will want your baby to start drinking from a cup. It is not only healthy for your child’s overall development; it is better for their teeth.
While weaning can be a gradual process, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests putting the bottle away for good by age 18 months.
The Danger of Baby Bottles
Prolonged bottle-drinking can be harmful to your child’s oral health in two ways: First, long-term sucking can cause your child’s palate to narrow, increasing the likelihood they will require orthodontic treatment later on; second, bottles expose a baby’s teeth to sweet liquids over an extended period. Formula, cow’s milk, and juice contain sugars that increase the risk of tooth decay.
To help protect your child’s teeth, encourage them to start drinking from a cup by their first birthday. Additionally, you should begin wiping your baby’s first teeth with a damp gauze or washcloth, graduating to a finger brush or baby toothbrush and a rice-sized smear of toothpaste.
The Best Types of Sippy Cups
Look for a cup with a simple spout rather than a “no spill” spout. Those advertised as “no spill” contain a special valve beneath the spout. While it protects against spilling, it also prevents easy sipping. Instead, these cups require your child to suck hard on the spout, essentially replacing one type of nipple with another. This can slow your child’s sippy cup training.
If spills are a concern, look for a cup with a weighted base that helps keep it upright.
Keep the Bottle to Cup Transition Gradual
Be patient as you phase out the bottle in favor of the cup. Once your child can use the cup, limit the bottle to plain water; this makes the bottle less desirable. Provide the bottle less often over time to allow your child time to adjust. Once your child has mastered training cups, start offering a small plastic cup without a lid and phase out the training cup.
Breastfeeding moms can skip the bottle phase altogether and decide how often they want to nurse in tandem with the sippy cup.
Decisions about weaning can be challenging, as every baby is different. Keep in mind, however, that everyone learns to drink from a cup eventually. For more information about bottle to cup transitions or to schedule a pediatric dental appointment for your toddler, contact our office.