Around the first birthday, training cups should be introduced to “train” a baby to graduate from a bottle to a cup. The use of a training or sippy cup will provide an easier transition for the child when going from the bottle to a regular cup. A cup with a snap-on or screw-on lid with a spout for sipping is highly recommended by the American Dental Association. A cup with two handles will also make it easier for the child to hold. Avoid using a no-spill type of cup. The valve inside these cups, which prevents the flow of liquid from spilling out, requires that the child suck on the cup to release the liquid. This sucking action imitates the same sucking action required with a baby bottle thus defeating the purpose of training a child to sip from a cup rather than sucking on it. A good alternative to a no-spill cup is a self-righting one with a weighted base to keep spills to a minimum.
As with a bottle, don’t allow a child to sip on sugary liquids for long periods of time. Frequent and prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to liquids containing sugar including milk, formula or fruit juice is a risk factor for early childhood caries (decay). Ideally, milk, formula and juice should only be offered at mealtimes, offering water between meals. During a meal, the production of saliva increases which helps to neutralize acid production and rinses food particles from the mouth. Cups should not be used to pacify a child or used at nap or bedtimes. Frequent sips of sugary liquid can encourage tooth decay. Once the child has learned how to sip, a regular cup should be introduced.