Time to talk about more oral motor skills this week! Around this time, your infant has great head control and is probably sitting up with good balance. They are also most likely a pro at drinking from a bottle. Many of them even hold their own bottle because they have mastered bringing their hands to the midline. Therefore, it’s the perfect opportunity to transition into straw cup and open cup drinking.
Straw Cup – Using a straw is often difficult since you have to suck out of it, which means you have to build up pressure to suction in your mouth. Your child will not know what to do at first. Our recommendation is to always model it and then present it to them. Our favorite straw cup is the Zoli Cup from ZoliBaby . If they are not successful, show them how the liquid comes out of the top. With some bottles you are able to squeeze from the middle or bottom to show them how it works. The ARK’s bear bottle is perfect for this! You just squeeze the bear’s belly until the liquid reaches the top of the straw and just release. The liquid will stay at the top of the straw, which decreases the effort required to drink. It’s highly recommended for kids who aspirate or who have a weak suck and difficulties generating and maintaining suction. Straw drinking should be mastered by 12-18 months, but we encourage parents to introduce it by 6-7 months since most children are sitting up with adequate head control and are able to hold their own cup.
Open Cup Drinking – We know that the messiness of cup drinking is something that causes parents to hold off on perfecting the skill until children have increased dexterity, which is why we recommend a smooth transition by using a straw cup first. This gets them used to using a cup and promotes a more mature swallow. You can always sprinkle in some assisted cup drinking around 6-7 months as well. Cup drinking with assistance should be mastered by 9 to 12 months. When teaching your child prompted cup drinking, it requires you to lift the cup up to your child’s mouth and slightly tip it toward their mouth so they understand how to handle the cup. Do it slowly so they can keep up with the flow of water. You can have them hold on as you do it too. Modeling is also a great idea – sometimes kids want to do exactly what their family members or friends do! Independent open cup drinking with no spilling should be mastered by 24 months.
It is recommended you avoid giving your child a sippy cup as it continues to promote an anterior posterior movement of the tongue characteristic of a suckle-like pattern that infants use for breast and bottle-feeding. It also does not allow your child to develop mature swallow patterns, especially with continued use after the first year. Overall, a more mature swallow pattern is closely related to the production of more difficult sounds. Also, the spout of sippy cups blocks the tongue tip from rising just above the front teeth, which affects dentition and articulation (e.g. – sounds such as /t/ and /d/). We also advise parents to avoid pacifiers as much as they can since they can often cause vaulted ceilings and it can affect dentition.