Home Speech-Language Pathology Sippy Cups: 3 Reasons to Skip Them and What to Offer Instead

Sippy Cups: 3 Reasons to Skip Them and What to Offer Instead

by Melanie Potock MA

In the article Step Away from the Sippy Cup, I discussed how the sippy cup was invented for parents, not for kids. An engineer got fed up with his toddler spilling juice on the carpet and the rest is history. Today, sippy cups are marketed to parents as a vital piece of feeding equipment, causing parents to consider sippy cups an essential part of a baby’s development. As a speech-language pathologist and feeding specialist, I beg to differ on this point. Here’s why:

  1. As a baby matures, so does their swallow pattern, and over-use of hard sippy spouts may get in the way of development. During the first year of life, a baby primarily uses an anterior-posterior tongue movement to propel soft solids and liquids to the back of the mouth for swallowing. This is referred to as the infant suckle-swallow pattern. At around a year old, babies should develop a mature swallow pattern, where the tongue tip rises to the alveolar ridge (the bumpy gum-line ridges where we produce the /d/ sound) to start a wave-like motion in the tongue for swallowing more advanced textures. Drinking exclusively from a bottle or hard-spouted sippy cup might delay this feeding development. A bottle nipple or hard spout rests over the front third of the tongue, preventing that essential elevation so necessary for being an effective and efficient eater. When toddlers continue to use the infant swallow pattern, chewing and swallowing new foods can be challenging or messy at best.
  2. When a tongue can’t elevate, it tends to rest forward in the mouth, which can impede speech and language development. Often referred to as “paci-mouth,” the forward resting posture is seen in children who continue to use a pacifier for a prolonged period. The occasional use of a sippy cup may not interfere with age-appropriate mouth development. In today’s society, however, kids seem to have sippy cups with them most of the day. Strollers, car seats and backpacks usually contain special holders for a beverage container and parents often choose spill-proof, hard-spout sippy cups. When a child uses a “suckle-swallow” pattern past the developmental timeframe of 6 to 12 months, his speech-language skills can’t migrate to more advanced skills until a more appropriate swallowing pattern is established.
  3. When a tongue rests forward, the mouth tends to stay open, which can alter appropriate facial development. Kristie Gatto, certified SLP and orofacial myologist, states that the overuse of the suckle-swallow uses genioglossus muscle movement and promotes a tongue that rests low and forward in the oral cavity. This posturing exacerbates the lowering of the jaw musculature and typically leads to mouth breathing. Current research helps facilitate a better understanding of the detriments associated with mouth breathing and a lack of appropriate facial development.

Terrific alternatives can still protect from spills:

  1. Pop-up straw cups, like the Playtex Sipster, guaranteed by Playtex to be leak-free. Once the child masters straw drinking, suggest to parents cutting down the straw so the tip of the straw just reaches the tip of the tongue when the mouth is closed around the straw. This ensures the tongue can still elevate.
  2. Fun valved toppers, like the Good2Grow Spill-Proof Bottle Toppers. These character bottle toppers also help motivate kids to drink more water.
  3. Aluminum options with built-in straws, like the Kid Basix Safe Sippy Cup (actually a straw cup) with a straw specifically designed to be short and angled for little mouths.
  4. Some children with special medical needs may require a valved sippy cup to maintain a safe swallow. For your clients in speech, language or feeding treatment, you can determine the best cup for their needs. Ideally, children learn to drink from a straw cup by 9 months of age and an open cup, held by a parent, in the first year of life. Independent open-cup drinking, albeit somewhat messy at times, should be learned by 18 months of age.

 

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who experience difficulty eating. She wrote the upcoming book, “Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables with 101 Easy Activities and Recipes.” Potock also co-authored “Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating (2015), “Baby Self-Feeding: Solid Food Solutions to Create Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits” and “Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids, and produced the kids’ CD “Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food!” Potock’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is offered for ASHA CEUs. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). mymunchbug.com/contact-us/

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35 comments

Jessica Ayers February 28, 2017 - 7:21 pm

Any SLP have thoughts on the Munkin Miracle 360 cup for the 8-18 month range?

Deb March 1, 2017 - 10:47 am

Just make sure that you don’t have to use your upper lip to press down on anything to make the liquid come out! Take a drink out of a regular cup yourself and explore what is happening with your own lips. Your lower lip engages and your upper lip is slightly open.

Anny March 1, 2017 - 2:24 pm

With the 360, you have to close your lips around the lip of the cupand suck just like a bottle, sippy cup or a straw. I guess I’m confused if the 360 is then okay to use or not. Can you verify for us? Thank you!

Deb March 3, 2017 - 10:47 am

As a Speech-Language Pathologist I recommend the following for normal developing kiddos: Take and Toss or good old Tupperware cups (without any regulators) and move to a straw and then open cup. I do not recommend 360 cups at all. If your child is being followed for swallowing by a Speech Language Pathologist please follow their instructions because every child is different and they may need a certain cup for different reasons.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 11:28 am

HI! Just posted something about this at March 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm – scroll to see that comment and thank you for asking! (-:

Heather February 28, 2017 - 7:24 pm

Thoughts on 360 cups?

Jenn woodrow March 1, 2017 - 1:17 pm

Both my 13 month and 3yo use them. The 1 yo just started stealing her sisters around 11 months and got the hang of them real quick. They’re just not leakproof when she drops them on the ground ?

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 11:28 am

HI! Just posted something about this at March 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm – scroll to see that comment and thank you for asking! (-:

Riann February 28, 2017 - 7:29 pm

I have been thinking about switching to the Pura Kiki sippy cup for my son. It has a straw. Do you think it would be a good option? We use the Miracle 360 right now but small plastic pieces are already coming off of it. ?

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 1, 2017 - 2:53 pm

Hi Riann, I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Pura Kiki yet, but if it meets the suggested guidelines in my article, you should be in good shape! Thanks for bringing a new cup to my attention.

Leslie March 1, 2017 - 12:03 am

What about “zak designs” pop-up hard straw cups? content://media/external/file/17480

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 1, 2017 - 2:55 pm

Hi Leslie,
I have not tried that one, but when I look at the photos on Amazon it appears that the lid is similar to a plastic lid you’d find on a cup of coffee. Those short (almost spout-less) lids should work fine.

Sian March 1, 2017 - 2:24 am

These are great. Like real cup but no spill.
http://www.munchkin.co.uk/miracler-360-sippy-cup-10oz-296ml.html

Chelsey Fairchild March 1, 2017 - 3:56 am

What about an open cup concept cup like the munchkin miracle 360 cups?

Kara K March 1, 2017 - 9:34 am
Elissa March 1, 2017 - 9:53 am

Great article!

june March 1, 2017 - 11:00 am

Children who nurse into toddlerhood seem to have no speech problems. They must not fit into this diagnosis.

Lauren March 1, 2017 - 4:43 pm

I think toddlers who nurse into toddlerhood would be getting fluids from other methods as well as from the breast. When my daughter started daycare, she had a straw drink bottle for water and still nursed when she was at home. Other parents would wean from bottle to a sippy cup of milk.

Emily March 1, 2017 - 1:01 pm

My 21 month old son currently uses a 360 cup, a regular straw in cups, and an open cup. He would only use an open cup if it was up to him hahaha What type of bottles fit on the Good2Grow Spill-Proof Bottle Toppers? It looks like only their bottles of juice or whatever which I don’t want to invest in. I’d like to find something that fits on a regular water bottle. And I wish any website would let me pick the characters I want for the Sipster cups! Also, I’ve heard from a dentist that the 360 cups are best and NOT a straw cup for teeth development. So what is your response to that? I want to help my son the best— he is having some speech issues and I want to help him as much as I can! He’s already getting services. Thanks!

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 1, 2017 - 3:00 pm

Hi Emily,
Thank you for the questions – let’s see if I can help break it all down. It’s confusing right? So many cups out there! First, if you click on link in the article regarding the Good2Grow tops, you’ll find another article about how to use those to help kids drink more water. The link to the various tops is in that article. I typically buy a few of the apple juice containers and use the apple juice in cooking, rather than giving it to the kids, since we know that juice isn’t really very good for little ones. But, as you’ll see on Amazon, those tops will fit certain bottles of water too. Regarding the dentist’s opinion, he may be referring to hard straws that go past the teeth. We want to cut the straw down so that the tip of the straw reaches the tip of the tongue. Please refer to the handout (see link in article) on how to teach straw drinking and you’ll see more info on that. Best wishes to you and your son! I love the way you are thinking and the questions you’re asking. (-:

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 1, 2017 - 2:49 pm

Hello everyone,
I see that many readers are asking about the Miracle 360 Cup. I like what Deb had to say – try it yourself and assess what your lips are doing. I personally find it to be a different motor pattern than what I’m trying to teach kids to do with an open cup. I feel it’s a bit early to make a final decision about this type of cup, and so I’d like to suggest that we teach open cup drinking and use short straws, as noted in the article. Like any utensil or cup, there are exceptions to every rule. I personally have found the 360 cup helpful for my pediatric clients who came to me after learning open cup drinking at home, and accidentally learned to put their tongue inside the open cup, rather than beneath the rim. To teach “tongue under, not in” I place a tactile cue, like a bumpy sticker, a half inch from the rim. “Put your tongue on the sticker” I say. That cues them to put their tongue under and of course, the top prevents them from putting the tongue in the cup. But, always supervise and don’t keep the sticker there, for safety sake. It’s simply a teaching tool. Now, transition to open cup and use this strategy as a bridge to learning “tongue under, not in”. Hope that’s helpful and thank you again for all the kind words and interest in this article. (Melanie Potock, author of the article)

JMo March 1, 2017 - 8:27 pm

Hi – Thanks for the article. Interestingly, our daughter learned to use a straw before she mastered the hard tipped cups. Now we use mostly hard tipped (at 19 months) and the 360 Rimmed cups, since she runs around with them and prefer less mess 🙂 . Curious your thoughts on the 360 cups (ie: https://www.amazon.com/Munchkin-Miracle-Trainer-Green-Ounce/dp/B00MRZIFD0/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_img_6?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=KYCNY03B6N5DPY0MHEWR) To me they seems to mimic a “real” cup pretty closely.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 11:37 am

Hi, thanks for commenting. Please see the comment on 360 cups just above yours – at 2:49 p.m. Lots of questions here about that cup, so I tried to answer in one spot. (-:

Allison March 2, 2017 - 12:37 am

This article is wonderful. I wish I had seen it 21 years ago. learned that sippy cups were a problem after my second child was in speech therapy. My first child went to therapy to learn Rs and my second THs. That was many years ago. My second child is 16, now, and is a mouth breather. Is it too late to undo the damage. I had no idea that the mouth breathing could be from the sippy cup.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 11:31 am

Thank you for commenting here Alison. By the way, if you’re not already familiar with oral facial myology to treat mouth breathing, you can find out more on http://iaom.com/ where many SLPs receive training in this facet of mouth development.

Melissa Harris M.S. CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 11:44 am

Definitely not too late! I’ve seen adults for the same reason. I would recommend looking into myofunctional therapy in your area. These slp’s work on correcting tongue posture among other things.

Melissa Harris M.S. CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 9:36 am

As an slp, my opinion is that 360 cups are great as long as they are not the only means of drinking for the child. While they are still sucking, as Melanie stated, their tongue is not being propelled forward into or under the cup to an excessive degree. However, they still need to be exposed to open cups whenever possible.

The key to straw cups is that you are using a small straw that does not protrude into the child’s mouth. Soft straws are great because they can be cut to the desired length (think of the pouring spout on a honey bear). As skills become established, longer straws are fine as long as more of the straw isn’t put into the mouth. In therapy, I take a latex rubber band and put it on the straw as a cue to not put more of the straw into their mouth. Again, only while the child is supervised for teaching purposes only.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 2, 2017 - 11:31 am

I like that idea!

Julie Ray March 2, 2017 - 8:23 pm

I have a problem with the fact that the research article linked to under point 1 does not really support this post. I can see that a sippy cup *may* affect the overall swallow pattern, but this post doesn’t offer any actual evidence. It seems to be anecdotal report mascarading as evidence-based.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 3, 2017 - 11:15 am

HI Julie, Thanks for that input. Please click on the first link to see the earlier article I wrote a few years ago. The point is, that just like the literature on pacifier or thumb sucking via the ADA and other professional journals, an object that holds the tongue down promotes the motor pattern that we want kids to grow out of. So, rather than parents viewing sippy cups as an essential part of their child’s feeding development (that’s they way it’s marketed to parents) it’s important for parents not to linger there. I’d prefer that they just skip them. In my 18+ years of experience in speech and feeding, plus a background in orofacial myology, I can offer practice-based evidence on the influence of anything holding the tongue down with repeated use to be detrimental to facial growth and resting tongue posture, for reasons noted in the article. Blog posts are not intended to have a list of research articles and links are limited, so I truly see your point. I would welcome more research in this area, but for now need to make suggestions based on my clinical experience and the current research. Please be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the link you mentioned and you’ll see over 25 articles related to this topic. Thanks again for your comment, I appreciate it and your viewpoint, and agree – Yes, we need specific research. That’s why I hope to raise awareness of what we are seeing in our clinical practice.

Cynthia Bales March 13, 2017 - 4:17 pm
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 14, 2017 - 12:13 pm

Hi Cynthia,
I like these! They meet the guidelines described in the articles. Just be careful of anything with a valve and make sure that liquid doesn’t pool around the lower teeth if the child keeps the straw in his/her mouth at rest. But if they are putting the cup down between drinks, that won’t happen. Hope that’s helpful info!

Vanessa Fanourgiakis, M.S. CCC-SLP March 20, 2017 - 5:33 pm

Hi Melanie,

As an SLP and new mother I found this article to be very helpful. I’ve shared it with members of my local parents’ club as well as many SLP colleagues. Thanks for the great blog post!

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP March 21, 2017 - 11:59 am

I’m so glad to hear that Vanessa! Thank yo for taking the time to let me know that you are sharing it and enjoying the ASHA blog!

Ang March 25, 2017 - 3:03 pm

Hi,
I have a 23 month old with a speech delay. He has only used bottles (stopped at 11 months old) and straw munchkin cups. In fact, he has no clue how to use a sippy cup (can’t tip it right). He has been in therapy and has about 15-20 words now but articulation is poor. I don’t know where his tongue rests but he can babble with d and n. I also have an 8 month old. How do you teach a 8 month old to use a straw cup!? I didn’t really teach my oldest, he just found one and sucked liquid out one day. My 8 monther is already eating finger foods (fruits, veggies, grilled cheese, toast, meatloaf etc) so he can chew pretty well but when I put the cup in his mouth he doesn’t know what to do with the straw. He just started to babble with consonants (mostly g and d) but it’s pretty muffled. That being said, he had a posterior tongue tie that reattached but it’s not as tight and due to feeding aversions in the past we were told that if he can eat and drink ok then don’t touch it so we aren’t doing another revision no matter what. I almost feel like this article can be related to tongue ties more than sippy cup usage since tied babies probably rest their tongue forward I’m guessing? Anyway, advice on how to teach a straw cup is useful. Thanks.

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