Time to Start Using a Cup

Time to Start Using a Cup

January 31, 2024 Infant

Time to Start Using a Cup

When your baby can sit up and is ready for it, it’s time to introduce a cup. This may seem like an exciting milestone, but it can sometimes be challenging. Babies are used to their bottle or breastfeeding, which not only provides nutrition but also comfort and soothing. So, transitioning to a cup is a gradual process that usually begins around 6-8 months and should be completed by 12-18 months.

Using a cup is important because prolonged bottle use can lead to dental problems, cavities, difficulties with chewing and eating, speech delays, ear infections, unhealthy eating habits, and obesity. It’s also harder to take away the bottle once the baby reaches 18 months and becomes more resistant to change. For breastfed babies, introducing the cup is equally important. You can continue to nurse your baby while gradually incorporating pumped breastmilk in the cup.

child using cup

With so many cup options available, how do you choose?

Look for a lightweight cup with handles and a small opening. You don’t have to start with a sippy cup; an open cup is also a good choice. Babies usually develop the oral motor skills for using a straw around 12-18 months, but introducing one earlier can be helpful for practice. You may need to try different cups to find the one your baby prefers. Keep in mind that it will take some time for them to get used to the cup, so be patient and offer it several times.

Babies learn by watching, so let them observe you as you take a drink. Choose a time when your baby is awake, alert, and not too hungry to begin introducing the cup. At first, it’s all about learning and playing, so don’t expect them to drink much. For safety and to prevent choking, make sure they are sitting upright in a feeding chair when using the cup. Allow them to touch and play with an empty cup and explore the liquid on the tray. Let them bring the cup to their mouth for sensory exploration.

Start with small amounts of formula, breastmilk, or water in the cup. Watch and guide them as they learn to drink differently. They may cough initially as they adjust to the new method. Water may be harder to control because it is thinner. Avoid using juice, sugary drinks, or electrolyte drinks. Expect some mess as liquid may spill out of their mouth. Remember, using a cup doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding or giving the bottle right away. It’s a gradual process.

Once your baby can drink well from the cup, offer it during mealtimes. Start replacing nursing or bottles one at a time, beginning in the middle of the day, then morning, and finally at bedtime. Avoid allowing your little one to walk around with a cup. Keep cups on the counter or table so they can ask for a drink when needed. Carrying the cup around often leads to messes and may cause them to fill up on milk and eat less during mealtimes.

Not all babies are ready to start using a cup at 6-8 months due to prematurity or medical reasons, and that’s okay.

Work with your baby’s healthcare provider, and they will provide you with strategies. If you notice any issues with using a cup or feeding in general, talk to your baby’s healthcare provider and seek referrals to early intervention or other therapists in your area for assistance.

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: