Transitioning from Bottle to Cup: A Guide

Posted by Grant Oster on

Transitioning from Bottle to Cup

 Breastfeeding is the first step in a baby's drinking journey. It provides all the nutrients that a baby will need for optimum growth and development. As babies grow, they begin to take a natural interest in other forms of feeding, which will also naturally transition them from breastfeeding to drinking from a bottle. Their natural curiosity opens the door for this transition, as well as others.

As babies continue to develop, they also gain the necessary coordination they need to be able to drink from a variety of containers, like an open cup, a sippy cup, or a cup with a straw. The transition from a bottle to a cup is a major step in a child's developmental stage and it is important that parents understand how their baby is progressing.

What age should a child drink from an open cup?

Introducing one's baby to an open cup is a big step in their drinking journey. The best age for this transition will depend on the child's growth and development. Some experts will suggest that parents and guardians may start cup introduction as early as 6 months, while others will recommend transitioning to an open cup at 8 or 9 months.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, open cups can be introduced to 6-month-old babies; on the condition that they have already developed the ability to sit up straight and maintain good head and neck control.

We recommend that you start with a small amount of liquid first, and steadily increasing the amount as your child gains more confidence with the cup. Tip: it also reduces the mess during spills! Parents are also encouraged to serve meals and snacks in an open cup to inspire regular use.

It's important to keep in mind that every kid is different. They develop at their own pace, so there is no right or wrong time to transition from a bottle to an open cup.

You can find more information about the transition from bottle feeding to cup drinking here.

What type of cup would be the best to start with?

There are pros and cons to every kind of starting cup! The open cup is recommended once babies begin to learn how to drink. The main pro of open cups is that, unlike sippy cups or bottles, an open cup teaches a child to drink like they would from a regular cup, and may help them adjust to big kid cups as they get older.

Open cups also help a baby's motor skills and coordination. Drinking from a cup requires a child to use their tongue, mouth, and lips. This type of cup has no spout or valve, so babies will learn how to suck on the edge of the cup to be able to drink.

On the other hand, the pros of sippy cups and straw cups is that they are geared toward messy toddlers and reduce spills. However, one possible con is that it might slow children down from developing needed skills. The spout or straw of a sippy cup may also cause them to suck on the cup instead of using their tongue and lips. This can then affect how they learn to use their muscles in the future.

At this age the continuous use of sippy cups and straw cups can also lead to a level of dependence on things that make it easier to drink, which would make it harder for children to start using regular cups once they are older. This is why some parents choose to skip sippy cups altogether. 

Using open cups may also promote healthier oral hygiene habits for your child, as cups and bottles may lead to dental issues due to a frequent exposure to the mouthpieces. Open cups are also easier to sanitize because of the lack of small nooks and crannies where bacteria can potentially grow.

Another pro of open cups is that they can be a lot more practical since they do not need to be replaced quite as much. For parents transitioning from sippy cups or straws, gradually increasing the amount of liquid in the cup while reducing the use of the bottle will help your child transition to the new drinking method.

What do I look for in an open cup?

A good open cup for babies should have certain features that make it easy and safe for them to use.

First, it must be made out of child-safe materials. Good examples would be silicone, stainless steel and bamboo. The open cup should also be light and easy for a child to hold and drink, with a comfortable handle or an ergonomic design specifically for a child to use. In addition, the cup should have a wide base to provide stability and reduce spilling.

Another valuable feature of a good open cup for babies is that cleaning and sanitizing it should be a breeze. It should have a smooth surface for easy wipes, and it should be dishwasher safe for the parent's convenience. It should be designed with the needs of infants in mind, providing them with a safe and comfortable way to drink and learn valuable motor skills.

How to teach your baby to drink from an open cup

Introduction to the cup

Begin by showing the new cup to your baby and letting them hold, touch, and observe it. It's best to allow your baby to be comfortable with the cup.

Model drinking

Demonstrate to the baby how to drink from the cup by pretending to take a sip yourself. This will help your baby understand what is expected of them.

Gradual introduction

Fill the cup with a small amount of liquid first, and carefully tilt the cup towards your baby's mouth. Allow your baby to touch the liquid with their lips and tongue. Then, slowly pour some of the liquid into your baby's mouth.


Be a positive presence to slowly encourage your child to drink from the cup. Praise them for their efforts and give them plenty of positive attention.


Slowly add more liquid in the cup and continue to apply a positive atmosphere for your child. Once they are more comfortable with drinking from the cup, allow your baby to drink from it on their own.

Gradual transition

As the child gains more confidence with drinking from the open cup, begin removing the use of bottles and sippy cups from their daily routine. This will encourage them to use the cup during meal times and other times of the day.

Patience and consistency

It's important to note that every child is unique, and may take longer or faster to learn how to use any sort of drinking tool. Patience and consistency is required in your approach. Be willing to get creative with your approach if needed.


Finally, celebrate your baby's achievements with positive reinforcement, hugs, and kisses!

Tips for Transitioning from Bottle to Cup

Transitioning from a bottle to an open cup can be a scary experience for babies, but with the correct technique, it can turn out to be a smooth process for everyone involved.

To help your baby get used to drinking from an open cup, start by introducing it one drink at a time. You can offer the cup and gently encourage your baby to take sips during feedings. Remember that babies take some time to get used to new things, so you will want to be really patient and persistent throughout the process.

Start by introducing a small cup that is easy on your baby's grip. Ensure that the cup is not too heavy, and that your baby is comfortable holding it with both hands.

You can offer your baby different types of liquids, such as water, juice, or milk, to encourage them to drink. However, concentrating on water and milk is healthier. Be ready to offer the bottle as well, to allow for an easier transition. With continuous practice, your baby will begin to enjoy drinking and will be able to use the cup independently.

When should you use the other types of cups?

While this is mainly down to preference, there are some recommendations based on motor skills development. Straw cups are a great option for older children who are ready to switch from a sippy cup to a more advanced drinking tool. They usually start using straw cups at around 12-18 months, but the exact age will greatly depend on the child's individual development. Straw cups still provide a similar drinking experience to that of a regular cup, but with a straw to help control the flow of liquid.

The straw cup is made with toddlers in mind - to help provide them with an avenue to develop their oral motor skills and improve their coordination and dexterity. It is also a great choice for little ones who feel that they are too old for a sippy cup, but would like the comfort of a spill-proof cup.

Heavier cups and water bottles are often advised for preschoolers who already have a developed set of motor skills and have mastered drinking from a bottle. Kids usually start using bigger drinking containers at around 2-3 years old, but this will still depend on their developmental milestones.

Your little ones need to have a developed oral motor control and balance to be able to work with a heavier cup or water bottle. Most kids at this age are also more confident in their ability to drink from a cup or bottle, making the adjustment to bigger drinking vessels a natural step.

Using heavier cups and water bottles also improves a child's hand-eye coordination and enhances their grip, which is important for their overall growth. Children develop motor skills at different rates, so this can still differ from child to child, but these tips might help if you’re wondering about switching from one cup to another!


How do I know when to move on from an open cup to a straw cup? 

Before transitioning from an open cup to a straw cup, it's important to remember that children should already be able to easily use their tongue and mouth. You should only start to give them open cups when you feel like they would actually be able to drink water or latch onto the side of the cup. Your child should eventually be able to take tiny sips without spilling, and even block too much liquid from pouring into their mouth at a time.

It's also important for our toddlers to be able to hold an open cup on their own without help. With these skills, the transition from an open cup to a straw cup should be much easier.

What do I Put in My Baby’s Cup?

When introducing the use of cups to babies, the following liquids are great to start with:

  1. Water
  2. Breast milk
  3. Formula
  4. Diluted fruit juice
  5. Decaffeinated tea

It would be best to avoid giving your child sugary drinks such as soda or concentrated fruit juices. This will result in dental problems and have a poor impact on their overall health.

It's best to note that these drinks are to be offered in moderation, and not to allow them to drink uninterrupted throughout the day. Cup drinking should be encouraged with meals to incorporate it into the child's routine, as well as to supplement the child's fluid intake.

What should I do if my baby refuses a cup?

If your baby refuses to drink from an open cup, there are a few ways that parents can try to engage their child to drink:

  1. Modeling: Parents can show the baby how to drink from an open cup, so the child has a visual on how it's done. This can encourage the child and will build more confidence in cup drinking.
  2. Practice: Parents can give the open cup to the child during feedings, and coax them to take sips. In time, the child will begin to enjoy cup drinking and this will build a sense of independence.
  3. Patience: Parents should be patient with their child. If the child is not ready, do not force the open cup on them. Kids grow and learn at different speeds, and it's important to remember that parents should also respect their child's needs and preferences.

With these solutions, children can smoothly transition from a bottle to an open cup. Make sure to put your kid's needs before your own, and make it fun, too!

How much fluid do toddlers and older kids need?

Toddlers and older kids need plenty of fluids to support their growth and development.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 should drink about 1 to 1.5 liters per day, which can come from a variety of sources including water, milk, and juice. Like we said earlier, water and milk are still best for their health. For older kids between the ages of 4 and 8, the recommended amount is about 1.7 to 2.1 liters per day. These recommendations can vary based on a child's age, gender, and activity level. Children who are more active might require more.

To make sure that your child is drinking enough, it's important to have a variety of drinks available for them throughout the day. Continuously encourage them to drink regularly. Water is the best choice to keep your children hydrated, but other fluids like milk and juice can help in meeting their daily needs. Resort to sugary drinks like juice only as a last resort.

Keep soda, concentrated juices, and other sugary drinks to a minimum. Too much sugar can negatively affect a child's overall health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should not drink more than 2 cups of 100% juice per day.

You can find more information about the recommended amount of fluid for children here.

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