You might not have appreciated the luxury of dining out with standard straw cups before having children. Sippy cups and placemats are not a concern for you. Just relax, get comfortable, and get your drinks. However, once you have kids, you spend your restaurant days yearning for the time when your child can sit down and drink from a regular cup without all the pomp and circumstance.
Although we frequently take it for granted, being able to drink from a straw is a necessary skill. It’s crucial for proper drinking as well as oral and speech development. Eating and drinking become much more independent activities once your child masters the straw.
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When Can Babies Use A Straw?
The first topic to discuss is age. At nine months old, the majority of infants can learn how to use a straw to drink. Typically, toddlers will discover it on their own by the age of 2. My older son started learning when he was 8 months old, and my younger son started learning when he was 5 months old. That was crazy, and I’m not bragging; he simply kept watching his older brother do it and put it together on his own. When he reached for it one day and drank from it like it was nothing, I was pretty shocked. Even though it doesn’t happen very often, it might.
One crucial word of warning: if a baby or toddler is sucking on a straw quickly, they may swallow too quickly and choke on the liquid. Most people take for granted that swallowing is very coordinated action. However, if something “goes down the wrong pipe,” liquid may actually enter our lungs, causing us to cough to expel it. It’s okay if this happens once in a while, but if it does so frequently (which it might with babies), you might want to give up the straw for a while or try giving them something thicker to drink instead, like milk, milkshakes, or even applesauce, until they get the hang of it. If not, they might develop pneumonia. Additionally, make sure they are seated because a toddler may find it challenging to manage walking and swallowing. Tell your child’s doctor if they are older than 15 months and are still frequently hacking up mucus while drinking from a straw.
Is Your Baby Ready?
In addition to age, you can watch for physical indications that your child is prepared to use straws. Make sure your baby can sit up on their own, they have steady neck control, and a steady core. You don’t want them stumbling around while attempting to drink from a straw because they could suffocate or hurt themselves on the straw.
Another telltale sign that your baby is ready to try straws and/or open cups is their interest in self-feeding. They’re also prepared to learn if they’re actively reaching for the cup and putting it in their mouths. Instead of just taking sips out of your hand, you want them to participate in the learning process.
Open Cup VS. Straw Cup
Good news: We advise introducing both open cups and straw cups simultaneously, so there’s no need to choose. There is no right order; just start with whatever! While some experts advise a specific sequence, there is no evidence to support the advantages of introducing an open cup first and then straws, or the reverse. If your baby is 6 months old, we recommend starting with both, but at different meals (i.e., an open cup at breakfast and a straw cup at the next meal). After a few weeks, if your baby still seems to have trouble with both skills, pick the cup they prefer and stick with it until they are doing okay before reintroducing the other.
We advise using a small cup that is simple for baby’s hands to hold when selecting an open cup. Look for a cup that holds no more than 1-3 ounces because you’ll be dealing with a ton of spills. Additionally, a smaller cup reduces the possibility that your child will overfill it with liquid. Although there are many cups available that fit this description, a shot glass or small glass yogurt cup will also work perfectly well!
Before selecting a straw cup, we advise teaching your infant the techniques for using a straw on its own, which we’ll go over below. Once your child understands the fundamentals of the straw, you can choose any straw cup you like knowing that your child can use it.
Are Straws Preferable To Open Cups?
There are benefits to using straw cups. Children undoubtedly learn it and will require it in the future. However, you can introduce an open cup if your child is simply not on board and doesn’t show any signs of doing so anytime soon. Even with small cups and amounts of liquid, it’s still a good idea to practice. Sure, there will be spills and shaky hands if your baby is still quite young. Open cups and straws can both be introduced simultaneously.
How To Teach A Baby To Drink Through A Straw?
Babies are ready to learn how to drink from a straw once they can suck soft foods off their fingers or purees from a spoon. Here’s how:
- Offer the baby the soft, silicone straw by holding it out like a spoon after dipping it into a small bowl of smooth puree. This aids the infant in becoming accustomed to the shape of the straw in their mouth.
- Count to two before removing the straw once they are at ease and have closed their mouth around it. If you leave the straw in place for a short while, babies will suckle.
- One inch of puree should be placed inside the straw before you present it to the baby. What is this method’s secret? It’s the puree on the outside of the straw. That’s what causes the baby to seal his lips before sucking.
- Once he can handle that little puree, prime more puree for him gradually until he can suck, swallow, and breathe while taking several sips of puree through the straw.
- Reduce the straw so that only one inch of it protrudes from the puree container. To entice a baby to close his mouth on the straw, make sure the straw’s tip is coated with puree. Now, give the baby the container and allow him to sip from the straw.
- Smooth purees are a thickened liquid, which makes them much easier to control in the mouth than something thin and runny, like water. When baby is able to comfortably “drink” purees, gradually thin the puree until he is able to do so with no difficulty.
- Provide straw cups with shorter straws so that the tip of your child’s tongue resting behind his front teeth can be reached.
- Use your finger to trap a *small* amount of liquid in the bottom of the cup while using a straw (a standard plastic restaurant straw will do).
- Wait for your infant to open their mouth and take it by holding it out to them.
- Take your finger off the top when the baby puts the straw in their mouth and lets the liquid pour into their mouth. This usually teaches your baby that when their lips are closed, the liquid will dispense from the straw.
- Put the straw back into the cup and offer it to your baby. Repeat this process a few times as long as they are interested. If your infant pushes it away or simply tries to grab and play with the straw, tell them you’ll try again later and put the straw away until the next meal. Your baby will typically learn how to use the straw after a few attempts.
Try first to place a typical straw in their mouth. Because most no-spill straw cups require you to suck really, really hard, it’s crucial that it be just a regular, old-fashioned straw without a valve. When a baby tries to suck but doesn’t immediately succeed, it may give up. Who knows, they might embrace it without your assistance right away. More frequently, they won’t sucke; instead, they’ll simply hold their mouth open or rest their mouth on it. I’d use the siphon method in this situation.
- Put your finger over the opening of the regular straw’s top portion and insert it into a cup of water so that it touches the bottom. As you pull the straw out of the water, keep your finger over the top opening to ensure that you are holding the liquid inside, as I am doing in the photo above.
- Hold the straw over your baby’s open mouth while they are securely seated in a chair. Carefully release the liquid into their mouth, being careful not to let too much water in at once.
- If your baby shows any interest, say this again several times. Try once more the following day if they aren’t interested in taking part. Ideally, your infant will begin to close his or her mouth around the straw. If they aren’t, stroke the sides of their cheeks while demonstrating so they can do it themselves!
- Maintaining your finger over the straw’s other end will force them to suction the liquid out once they have closed their mouth around it. As they continue to suck through the straw, keep adding more and more water to it.
- In order to give them a drink, try inserting the straw straight into the cup. At this point, some people will have figured it out on their own and won’t require any further assistance. If they start by holding their mouth open again, try starting over and flipping the straw into the open cup of water when they begin to suck the water out of it. You must move quickly because this is a little tricky. The idea is to keep them sucking, and hopefully, they will begin to understand that sucking results in a drink.
Straw Trainer Method
There are some cups that actually aid in forcing the liquid up the straw. The honey bear cup, also known as the “Mr. Juice Bear” therapy cup, is designed specifically to teach straw drinking. The take and toss straw cup is less expensive and has a similar function even though it wasn’t designed for this. These cups have a very short shelf life because your child outgrows them as soon as they accomplish their intended purpose of teaching them how to drink from a straw, which is when they do! (The fact that they can squeeze it and use it like a fire hose will also become apparent to babies!) But the reason we bring it up is that it works wonders for babies who are having trouble sucking on the straw. Here’s how to use straw trainer cups like Mr. Smith if the pipette method did not work with your baby. Take-and-throw straw cups or the juice bear
- Bring the straw trainer filled with water, breast milk, or formula to the table and offer the straw to your child by holding it in front of their mouth. Most babies will happily accept this adorable little bear, even those who may have already decided they detest straw cups! The take-and-toss cups are also colorful and entertaining.
- Allow your child to open their mouth and tuck the straw into their mouth. Then, squeeze the cup just enough to get a tiny bit of liquid into their mouth. Most infants will immediately seal their lips around the straw to swallow, which teaches them how to do so later on.
You can offer your baby the straw trainer after practicing in this manner several times, but don’t squeeze. Watch to see if they make an effort to suck the liquid out on their own. It might take several introductions, but once they master the technique and are able to use the straw without the squeeze feature, you can move on to other straw cups so that they can become proficient with all straws.
When Will My Child Be Able To Use Their Cup On Their Own?
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Ages and Stages Questionnaire classifies independent cup drinking with little spillage as an 18–24 month skill, despite the fact that there is a wide range for when a child will develop this ability. Expect a few minor spills even when your child is 3 years old, but these should lessen as their focus and graded fine motor skills advance. However, if they started practicing at 6 months, many kids can use a spill-proof straw cup on their own much earlier than this, closer to 12–18 months.
When To Seek Help
Talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider if you’ve been trying for a while or if something seems off. Definitely consult your doctor if:
- You and your baby have been trying with cups for several months without success
- Your baby is not maintaining their weight when you reduce breast or bottle-feeds
- Your baby is not increasing solid food intake or not taking water or milk in a cup despite reducing breast or bottle-feeds
- Your child is older than 15 months
To help your baby learn this skill, we advise you to seek assistance from an occupational therapist or speech therapist who specializes in feeding, eating, and swallowing.
Patience And Practice
It takes a lot of repetition and practice to learn to drink from a cup. If possible, begin early (6 months) to give your child a lengthy, stress-free learning period. While it may take several months to master, you’ll be saying “cheers” with your cups soon enough.
The Best Straw Sippy Cup To Get
I have a few that I like and that have worked well, but use the guidelines below to make sure you find a straw that is suitable for you and your infant or young child.
1. Some have extremely wide straws that give out an excessive amount of liquid and don’t work the muscles as well. Select a thin or skinny straw without a doubt.
2. I prefer using these for milk but buy plastic ones for water because they are insulated. Nevertheless, it’s up to you.
3. Can you turn inside the straw? It means that the straw can be covered by a lid that slides over it. While obviously unnecessary, this aids in reducing the spread of germs while traveling.
I have tried and like Munchkin and Playtex varieties well enough, skinny straws are the most important feature. However, the plastic straws start to break down and tear after 6 to 12 months, necessitating their replacement for the majority of these. This Playtex version is very simple if you don’t want to deal with threading the straw through though after washing.
Remember that using a straw necessitates a lot of coordination and muscle control. It will be much more difficult and likely require several tries before a child with low muscle tone learns how to do this.
If your baby doesn’t like drinking from a straw, don’t ever force one on them. You can gently encourage and continue to offer the straw, but if the experience is distressing to them, you’re doing more harm than good. It’s always possible to wait it out or, in the interim, try an open cup.
Consider saving the straw exercise for lunch or dinner, when hunger or thirst can act as a motivator. If your child isn’t actually thirsty, they’ll frequently just play with the straw or the open cup and make a mess. In the same way, if your child is too preoccupied to interact with the cup during mealtimes, you might try providing a straw to them otherwise. It’s a fickle balance when trying new things with kids, so don’t be afraid to engage in a little trial and error.
Additionally, keep in mind not to be afraid of the mess. Lay down a towel or diaper-only your child. Reduce the amount of liquid and try again if things get a little chaotic and someone chokes.