Is your baby old enough for a sippy cup but seems determined to breastfeed forever?
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 breastfeeding. So great that now weaning may be more difficult than you anticipated.
Many of us moms have been in your shoes, and our combined experience can help get you through this. Before you give up all hope of a peaceful transition, let’s look at some tricks you can try as you introduce a sippy cup to your breastfed baby to make this easier for everyone involved.
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 1 year old.
But if they aren’t attempting to use a sippy cup and their first birthday is approaching, you should try to move things along. The American Dental Association says children should no longer use bottles after 12 months of age to prevent tooth decay (1).
Before you start the weaning process, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Buy a breast-like sippy cup: When you introduce a sippy cup to your breastfed baby, remember, they are used to the soft feel of your breasts. Switching to a hard-feeling sippy cup can be a big adjustment. Look for a cup with a breast-like feel, like the Philips Avent My Easy Sippy Cup.
- Try not to lose patience: Your baby is learning on the job, 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, try a variety of types to determine which will work best for your baby.
- Watch out for mold: As you move along with this process, make sure you clean your sippy cups well. Depending on the sippy cup’s style, milk can get trapped in the crevices or valves, leading to mold formation. When you’re shopping for big-kid cups, look for cups with fewer spaces for milk to get trapped.
When you introduce a sippy cup to your breastfed baby, you have two main options:
- 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 (2).
- The weaning method: If you don’t want every night to turn into a waking nightmare, 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 feeding method 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 they were taking at the breast or from a bottle.
Editor's Note:Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
How to Introduce the Sippy Cup
Unless your child has older siblings they observe, or they’ve 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.
If you’re going cold turkey, you need to be firm and not give in. It can be difficult when your child is crying. And if you need your sleep, going cold turkey might not be the best method for you.
Even if you decide to make the move gradually and only breastfeed your baby 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 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, put their hands around the 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, 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 that requires active sucking. In this case, you might have to dip the tip of the spout in breast milk and rub it on your baby’s lips. 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.
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 your child get used to their new cup, get out of the picture instantly when they show any signs of wanting to try it independently. You don’t want to mess up their interest by hovering too much.
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 to use their cup and be comfortable with it.
Once they start liking the way it feels, they’ll forget all about breastfeeding.
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.