Introducing open-cup drinking to your baby
Drinking from an open cup has multiple benefits for speech, dentition and more!

Move away from bottles as soon as you can and introduce your baby to an open cup.  There are all sorts of very good reasons to do this!

Speech and language therapist Justin Drew manages a caseload of babies and children who need specialist help with feeding and swallowing.  He is a firm advocate for moving away from the bottle as early as practical.  He points out that a spouted cup, whilst it might be popular with parents as it helps avoid spills, actually has a detrimental effect on the child!  ‘Spouted cups continue to promote a suckle pattern rather than controlling and managing fluid from the front of the tongue to the back of the tongue – thus developing better oral skills’. 

Here’s another really good reason to introduce an open cup:  Dentists prefer that children drink from open cups as it reduces tooth decay – frighteningly, the numbers of children in hospital for surgery to extract teeth outstrip all other reasons for surgery combined.

‘Tooth decay remains the main reason for hospital admissions among 5 to 9 year olds’

Part of Justin’s work involves supporting babies and children who ‘aspirate’.  This is where the fluid is not managed effectively during swallowing and ‘goes down the wrong way’.  This can have very serious implications for the child’s safety.  In such instances a thickener can be  added to the fluid to make it more manageable and safer to swallow.  This should absolutely not be seen as ‘OK’ and a reason to carry on using a bottle!

Justin says:

‘I have attended  Videofluoroscopic Swallow Studys (VFSS)

on 2-year olds drinking from bottles and, once we have

established open cup drinking it has made a significant

difference in reducing aspiration (as seen in follow up

VFSS assessments).  At the most recent VFSS I attended,

the mum actually said what a difference drinking from

an open cup had made, to the point that we could stop

 adding thickening agents to drinks’


Do we need any more convincing? 

Drinking from an open cup also develops early chewing skills.  Chewing and swallowing efficiently help develop good ‘oro-motor skills’ – i.e. the movement of lips, tongue, teeth and jaw.  The link between oral motor skills and speech sound development is well-known.  Good oral-motor skills are essential for being able to produce and use all the sounds needed to make words different from each other.

And finally …..using an open cup can lay the foundations for drinking water.  Water is a healthier (and cheaper!) option than juices (offer real fruit instead).  Introducing an open cup for water at 6 months is not only Justin’s recommendation but is advice widely available from a number of different sources.

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Once they’re old enough, you can start encouraging your baby to drink from a cup or beaker. Here we discuss your options and when to start.

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August 29, 2023

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