How to Painlessly Transition from Breast to Sippy Cup

Is your baby old enough to leap to a sippy cup, but seems determined to breastfeed forever? Are you wondering if you’ll ever have your breasts back to yourself?

It may seem like an insurmountable obstacle when your baby is so stuck on breastfeeding. But that also means congratulations are in order — you did a great job at breastfeeding. So great that now the weaning may be more difficult than you anticipated.

Before you give up all hope of a peaceful transition, let’s look at some tricks you can use to make this a bit easier for everyone involved. Many of us moms have been in your shoes, and our experience can get you through this.


What To Know Before Beginning

Every child is ready for sippy cups at different stages. Some are early learners and are ready as early as 6 months old. Others don’t show any signs of interest until they are one year old.

Take Note

If your kid is on the later side of wanting to learn how to use a sippy cup, don’t worry about it. It doesn’t mean they aren’t as smart as the kids doing it earlier. A lot of factors play into when they are ready, including having older brothers or sisters who they’re trying to mimic.

But if they aren’t attempting to use a sippy cup and their first birthday is approaching, you need to move things along. The American Dental Association says children should no longer be using bottles around age one to prevent tooth decay (source).

Before you start the weaning process, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Buy a breast-like sippy cup: Your baby is used to your soft breasts as his primary feeding device, so going to a hard-feeling sippy cup would be a big adjustment. Look for a more breast-like one, like the Philips Avent My Easy Sippy Cup.
  • Try not to lose your patience: Your baby is winging it as the saying goes, just like you are with this mothering stuff. You’ll both learn together, and you’ll get there eventually. Try not to sweat the small setbacks or the occasional temper tantrum.
  • Get several kinds of sippy cups: Before committing to any particular kind of sippy cup, buy a small pack of several kinds. That can help you find one which works for your baby. The worst thing is investing a small fortune on ten identical sippy cups and later finding out your child hates them. You’ll be out a ton of money for something that doesn’t work for your child.
  • Watch out for mold: As you move along with this process, make sure you’re cleaning those sippy cups well. Depending on the design you buy, milk can get stuck in the valves and hiding spaces of the cup. That can lead to the formation of mold. Some sippy cups can be difficult to clean, so you have to pay attention to giving them a thorough cleaning.

When you try to wean your baby off the breast in favor of a sippy cup, you have two main options:

  1. Go cold turkey: With this method, you cut your baby off the breast 100 percent, only giving them sippy cups. They’ll adjust in three or four days, but the downside to this method is you may get a lot of crying during that time. Unless you’re still pumping to put the breast milk in a sippy cup, it could also lead to clogged ducts for you (source).
  2. The weaning method: If you don’t want every night to turn into a waking nightmare for you, you can gradually cut back on the breastfeeding sessions or offer them at bedtime only. That will help you both get some sleep. It also gives your baby a chance to adjust to the new method of feeding at a slower and perhaps more comfortable pace.
Whichever method you choose, remember that breastmilk (or formula) should remain your baby’s main source of calories until age one. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use bottles until then, only that your baby still needs to take the same amount from the sippy cup that he was taking at the breast or from a bottle.
Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Editor's Note:

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
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Introducing the Sippy Cup

Unless they have older brothers or sisters they observe or have been eyeing your cup for some time, your baby may not be interested in drinking from a cup. Here are some steps you can take to get your child through this milestone.

1. Decide Which Method You’ll Use

Before you begin your battle, pick your strategy. Your baby is a lot smarter than you give them credit for. If you don’t have a clear-cut strategy, you’ll be struggling before you’ve even begun.

If you’re going cold turkey, you need to be firm and not give in. It can be difficult when they’re crying. And if you’re up for a big promotion at work or have a massive project to complete, going cold turkey might not be the best method for you.

Even if you decide to make the move gradually and only give your baby the breast at bedtime, you still need resolve. If you continue giving in to your child’s demands for a noontime breastfeeding session, you’ll confuse your child.

2. Teach Your Child To Use a Cup

Show your child how sippy cups work. Make sure they watch you get out the breast milk from the refrigerator and pour it in.

The first time you hand them the sippy cup, you may have to show them what to do with it. If it has handles, show your child how to hold them correctly. If it doesn’t have handles, just put their hands around the round cup base. Show them they need to use two hands to hold it.

Then aim the spout of the cup toward their mouth if they don’t seem to know what to do with it. Once they taste the breast milk coming out of the spout, they should become more interested in the cup.

It can be a struggle even to make it to this point especially if you’re using a cup which requires active sucking before any liquid is released. In this case, you might have to dip the tip of the spout in breast milk and rub it on your baby’s lips (source). That might be enough to spur them on to investigate further.

3. If One Cup Fails, Try Another

If you can’t get your baby to take the first sippy cup you try, despite repeated attempts, try another one. Remember when I told you to buy a few different kinds of sippy cups before you started trying to wean your baby from the breast? This situation is exactly why you need more than one cup type.

Some babies hate the feel of certain cups. The flow might be too fast or too slow, or they just hate it for reasons you’ll never know. Let it go and simply try another.

4. Let Them Play With the Cup

Although it’s fine to help them get used to their new cup, when they show any signs of wanting to try it independently, get out of the picture instantly. You don’t want to mess up their interest by hovering too much or trying to micromanage them.

It might go against your instincts, especially if you’re worried about a mess, but let them play around with the cup. Allow them to shake it up and bang it against the floor. Doing all those things helps them learn how best use their cup and be comfortable with it.

Once they start liking the way it feels, they’ll forget all about your breast.

5. Don’t Let Them Walk And Drink

Letting a child roam around while drinking from their sippy cup is a bad idea. If they fall while walking, it could jab their teeth or the roof of the mouth. Even if they’re using a soft spout, it will still hurt and might dull their enthusiasm for using their cup.

Plus, you should never let your baby fall asleep while drinking from their sippy cup because it can cause cavities.


Stick With It

Introducing a sippy cup won’t be the easiest transition of your life. However, the key to success in this mama mission is never to give up.

  1. Choose your method.
  2. Make sure your child understands how the cup works.
  3. Use a different cup if your child rejects the first one.
  4. Let your child experiment with the cup.
  5. Never put them to bed with a cup or allow them to walk while drinking.

You’re bound to have some mishaps and stumbles in the beginning, but before long, your baby will master this new skill.

Have you introduced a sippy cup to your breastfed baby? What tips and tricks did you find helpful? Please let us know in the comments below!

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1 Reader Comment

  1. Sonya

    The thing about being on a sippy cup to prevent tooth decay is more about bottle feeding than breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year and then as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.

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