Transitioning is not just about your baby moving on to solid foods. It’s about learning to drink from a cup too. The ideal time to start introducing a first cup is about 6 months.
Learning to drink from a cup is a gradual process and can be quite messy at times. Although it may be difficult and take some perseverance, you should aim to have your baby off the bottle by their first birthday. After all, using a cup is much better for baby’s teeth.
When choosing a baby cup, remember that:
- A cup with handles is easier for your baby to grasp.
- A see-through cup will help you see if your baby is drinking well.
- A hard spout is recommended by health professionals because it doesn’t encourage your baby to suck, but if your baby finds the transition from bottle to hard spout too much too fast, a soft spout would be an easier intermediary alternative to a hard spout cup.
- Health professionals advise mums to use a free-flowing cup (a cup without a valve) to help children learn how to sip instead of suck.
- If you are concerned about your child spilling their drink and making a mess, a non-spill cup may be the best solution for you, but remember it will require your baby to suck.
What Cup Should I Use?
As with food transitioning, there are three stages to baby drinking transitioing, each requiring a different type of baby cup.
Stage 1 - A cup with a free-flowing hard spout and no valve is recommended by Health Professionals. This free-flowing spout means that baby will not need to suck to get the drink, ensuring healthy development of his teeth and jaw. The alternative to a free-flowing spout is a valved, non-spill spout. A non-spill spout will prevent spillages and mess, but it will require your baby to suck.
Stage 2 – Once baby is happy drinking independently, it is time to try and move him on to drinking from an open top cup. Using a sipper lid will encourage your baby to learn to drink from the rim of a cup.
Stage 3 – Remove the sipper lid so that your baby can start to drink from an open cup.
What Should I Let Baby Drink?
Young babies don’t know the difference between sweetened and unsweetened drinks. Don’t give your baby a ‘sweet tooth’ by offering sweetened versions. Water is the best drink you can give to your baby.
- If baby is less than 6 months old you should give them cooled boiled water.
- After 6 months baby can have ordinary tap water
- Bottled water is best avoided as it tends to be high in mineral salts, although there are some that are suitable for infant feeding.
If you must give your baby fruit juice, it is recommended that you do this at mealtimes only and especially not before bed time or during the night. Use real fruit juice and dilute 1 part juice, to 10 parts water.
All of these are different names for sugar which can decay your baby’s teeth:
- Glucose syrup
- Concentrated fruit syrup
- Invert sugar
- Hydrolysed starch
Try not to worry about mess and spills. Water can be mopped up and it's rewarding when your child can eventually drink from a grown-up cup.
Healthy Oral Development
Now your baby is transitioing and has started to eat solid food and drink independently, it is important to consider their oral hygiene and development. Consider the following:
- Establish a teeth cleaning regime.
- Get your baby used to the dentist - if you’re going, take him with you.
- If your baby is taking a bottle, you should try and make sure he's given it up by the time he's a year old.
- As your child learns to talk start to discourage use of his pacifier.
For more information about health and safety during the transitioning stage, view our transitioning safety section.