By: Susan Sorensen
By the time most babies are about 9 months old, they have the motor skills to drink from a cup, so I recommend starting then. At first, fill a sippy cup with water and let your child experiment with it. Expect him to dribble and spit — that’s part of the fun. Within a few weeks, he’ll get the hang of it and before you know it, he’ll be willing to take all of his drinks from the cup.
Work toward a complete transition to the cup by about 13 to 14 months. The longer babies hang onto their bottles, the more attached they get to them. Switch to a cup before your baby is too attached, and you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration. If the bottle is your baby’s security object and he’s reluctant to part with it, let him choose a special sippy cup, maybe one that has pictures of a favorite character or animal on it.
What’s so horrible about toddlers drinking from bottles? If you’ve ever seen a picture of a child with bottle tooth decay, a.k.a. “bottle rot,” you’ll toss out every single one of your baby’s bottles faster than you can say root canal!
A child’s teeth are susceptible to decay if he habitually nurses a drink with sugar in it — formula, milk, or juice. Every time he takes a drink, natural bacteria in his mouth feed on these sugars and attack the teeth for 20 minutes. If he’s taking sips from a bottle every few minutes for an hour, his teeth are exposed to the sugars for at least 80 minutes. Over time, that causes tooth decay. Children are less likely to nurse drinks for long periods of time if they’re offered in sippy cups.
The best way to avoid bottle rot is to give your child his drink and have him finish it within about 20 minutes. Then use a toothbrush or washcloth to wipe his teeth clean. Never put a baby in his crib with a bottle or sippy cup. If he falls asleep, tooth-decay causing sugars can pool in his mouth for hours.