Should a child use a sippy cup? I'm sure this is a question that you, as well as most parents, are considering. After all, it has been the center of a pretty large debate. Sure, sippy cups seem to be pretty mainstream, especially when we were growing up, but nowadays we have more information on the topic. This information hasn't entirely made things easier. Like most issues, there is no right or wrong answer — it's more like various shades of grey. Maybe not quite 50, but certainly a large amount. Or, enough to make things a little more complex.
This article aims to make parents aware of some of the researched benefits of their child using a sippy cup, as well as some of the researched complications, issues, and overall detractors that may arise from it as well. After all, when it comes to our children, we can never be too safe or on top of the ball when it comes to acknowledging what's the best on the market right now. From prevention spills to cavities — these are things parents should think about.
So, without further ado, here are 10 reasons that children should use a sippy cup alongside 10 reasons that they shouldn't...
20 Use: Prevention Of Spills
Okay, so maybe this first entry is more a pro for parents and not for the kids, but as you know, sippy cups do prevent things from spilling. Without a doubt, children have a tendency to cause a mess. Not just of their environment but of themselves too. This causes parents to constantly have to clean both their house and their child's clothes.
But using a sippy cup is also good for a kid's hygiene. If a spill of juice or milk isn't cleaned up, it can stick to a child's skin and become very uncomfortable for a child. Using a sippy cup pretty much completely mitigates this particular issue.
19 Avoid: Prolonged Use Causes Cavities
Take it from the doctor, Dr. Bill to be precise. In his article on Burriss Pediatric Dentistry, he details that the prolonged use of sippy cups can cause cavity problems. The sugars in both milk and juice combine with bacteria can create an enamel-eroding bacteria that can be very harmful to babies. It's basically the same reason why you don't want to send your baby to bed with a bottle. When they fall asleep the fluid pools around their teeth and begins the erosion process throughout the night. This eventually leads to very painfully tooth decay.
18 Use: Promotes Hydration
Without a doubt, the use of a sippy cup promotes hydration. This is because it's just so easy for children to drink. Not only is it easy, but it's fun. Kids love holding a colorful, unique shaped object in their hands. They also get to actively do something on their own, which, whether they know it or not, is something that they psychologically respond to. They like the fact that they can actually do something on their own without too much involvement from the parents.
Having a sippy cup full of water allows them to constantly keep their bodies full of the elixir of life. Something they, as well as we, need to constantly keep the body alive and active. However, if they are constantly drinking a liquid that may not be good for them in large doses, it can cause issues.
17 Avoid: Leads To Weight-Gain
Children have a tendency to latch onto the things that they like. They haven't yet developed the tools necessary to be able to part with something near-and-dear to them yet. Things like stuffed animals, blankets, and, yes, sippy cups, are things that comfort them. But this can lead to some bad habits that are hard to break out of.
Usually, a sippy cup contains sugary beverages that can lead to some health problems that come with weight gain. As talked about on Parenting For The Brain, constantly letting your kid have access to sugary drinks, like juices (even those made with real fruit juice), can lead to a dependency on sugars. We now know just how highly addictive sugars can be and therefore, as the child grows, it can be hard to break them out of their desire for it.
16 Use: Prepares Them For Adult Cups
Aside from avoiding constant spillage, the main reason why sippy cups were first implemented is the fact that they are a stepping stone. They are a wonderful training tool for preparing children to drink out of every-day cups. They are essentially the thing that exists between the bottle/breast and plastic cups. Or, glass cups if you really want to be a daredevil. (Seriously, avoid that until they're ready. They're bound to break a few of them.)
We often forget that drinking from a "normal" cup is a learned skill. Just like anything else, we need to be able to balance a cup as we pick it up and bring it to our lips without spilling or dropping it.
15 Avoid: Abnormal Mouth Developments
Enough of a read of Dr. Mark Burhenne's work on AskTheDentist.com or Parenting for the Brain will have you "in-the-know" on the detriments of prolonged sippy cup use on the mouth as it develops. Only breastfeeding lets the oral vanity develop properly. After all, it's our eldest form of parenting.
The delicate parts of a woman's breast are far softer than the rubber lip on a bottle. They also deform as a child sucks on it. Since it takes on a different shape inside a child's mouth, it promotes the proper development of the oral structures. This includes palate teeth development as well as oral cavity. On top of it all, it also makes sure that the tongue functions properly.
The rubber lip on a sippy cup or bottle doesn't conform easily, if at all. Prolonged use can lead to a misshapen oral cavity as well as some speech and sleep-quality problems.
14 Use: Reduces Ear Infections
How is that possible? I'm sure you're asking how the use of a sippy cup can prevent ear infections in children. It's a fair question. The answer has to do with prolonged bottle use. And, after all, the sippy cup is usually the next step after drinking from a bottle.
As spoken about on What To Expect, when a baby is constantly drinking milk from a bottle their stomachs will fill up at a far quicker rate and thus they will not be interested in taking in more nutritious foods that will benefit them. One of the first things that tend to happen for children who aren't getting a healthy, balanced diet, is ear infections.
13 Avoid: Sippy Cups Cause Mold
Due to the combination of moisture from your child's mouth and food remnants that get trapped in the spout of the sippy cup, mold has a strong chance of growing inside. This is an all-too-real issue when it comes to sippy cups. It mostly has to do with how unbelievably difficult it is to thoroughly clean out the spout. Even the most intense dishwasher cycle can't always get the dangerous particles out completely, due to how narrow the spout is.
A baby is generally more susceptible to the symptoms and illnesses that mold and mildew have on the human body, due to their bodies and immune system still being in development. This is why it's important to take the necessary precautions to clean the spout of your child's sippy cup should you choose to use one.
12 Use: Easier To Pack Lunches
Without a doubt, one of the reasons parents gravitate toward sippy cups is due to how easy they make life. Since it's so hard for them to spill as well as the fact that you can put basically anything you want into them, they have become a fixture to most parents everywhere. Yes everywhere. Sippy cups are world-wide. It's not just a North American thing.
When you are preparing to take your kid on a picnic or send him or her off to daycare, its so much easier to pack away a small sippy cup versus a thermos and cup, a spill-able bottle, or even a few juice boxes.
11 Avoid: Some Plastics Aren't Good For You
At one time almost all polycarbonate plastic products, including and especially sippy cups, were made with Bisphenol A (BPA). This was because the BPA hardened plastic, which not only kept bacteria out of food but also prevented rust in the containers. Although there was little scientific data that proved that BPA had negative effects on human beings, it certainly did on animals. Therefore most North American companies have completely moved away from sippy cups that contain BPA. The risk is just not worth it. Look for products that say "BPA free" on them.
10 Use: Breaks Kids Out Of Bottle Habits
According to the experts over at What To Expect, introducing a sippy cup earlier rather than later can have great benefits. This is because one-year-olds tend to be far more easy to convince and mold than toddlers. Toddlers tend to be far more stuck in their habits.
According to The Guardian, health issues are exactly what can happen if your baby is still dependent on bottle-feeding while a toddler. Issues with obesity and tooth-decay seem to be the most prevalent issues of prolonged bottle use. Sippy cups are a great, and fun, way for kids to learn that they aren't dependent on bottles and can eventually grow into using day-to-day cups, even if they are only plastic.
9 Avoid: Not All Sippy Cups Are Made The Same
If you Google "sippy cups," one of the first things you will find are sites that compare the different models of sippy cups. Something you learn quite fast is that not all sippy cups are made equally. Some are constructed with cheap plastics that wear down after a short time. These products tend to not only break-down but also don't screw together properly. This completely defeats the entire purpose behind why one would buy a sippy cup, to begin with. Why would anyone want a sippy cup that won't screw on tightly? Yeah... exactly... Nobody.
Test-driving a few different models with your baby are a good idea since you will quickly find out what kind of sippy cup works for them.
8 Use: Plugged Mouth
Though the same could certainly be said for sippy cups, a bottle tends to be stuck in a baby's mouth far longer. If a baby can't seem to pry his or her mouth away from the lip of the bottle, they are not going to have the time necessary to develop other skills. This includes talking. Think about it, how is your child going to be able to come up with those adorable, nonsensical words that will eventually lead them to say "I'm really depressed with all of this homework, Mom," if they can't keep that bottle out of their mouth?
Additionally, they won't be able to use their hands to play and explore the world around them as much if they are constantly grippy that darn bottle. Sure, sippy cups can cause the same problem, but not if they are seen as a bridge between the bottle and an actual cup.
7 Avoid: Could Cause Injury
Believe it or not, but according to the NCBI, The National Center For Biotechnology Information, as well as other sources, say that children are frequently seen in the emergency room for sippy-cup related injuries. No, this is not some sort of Monty Python skit. It's fact.
Think about it, your child is running, their mouth is wrapped around the spout of a sippy cup, they trip... It all goes bad from there. So, the obvious solution is to only allow your child a sippy cup when they are seated. But we all know how difficult that can be. If a kid wants a sip of something while out on a walk in the park with the dog, you're probably going to give it to them. Just be careful, folks.
6 Use: It's Good For Water Even When Using A Bottle
Some parents will use both a bottle and a sippy cup at or around the same time for different purposes. They will use a traditional bottle to carry milk for the baby when they aren't around to breastfeed themselves or are simply weening their kids off of breastfeeding. While doing this, some will use a sippy cup to keep their child full of water. Since it seems somewhat strange for a baby to be drinking water out of a bottle that resembles a female breast. This way, a child can not only stay hydrated with water but also learn the diversity of beverages and the containers they come in. Thus, it becomes a good way to make sure your child isn't dependent completely on one of these things.
5 Avoid: Stunting Swallow Pattern
Throughout the growth process, a baby's swallow pattern changes. The over-use of a hard sippy cup spout may just get in the way of healthy development. This is because, during the first year of a baby's life, they primarily use anterior-posterior tongue movement to move liquids to the back of their mouth in order to properly swallow. Eventually, most babies begin to develop a mature swallow pattern where the tip of the tongue rises to start a wave-like motion. Little do we all know, this is essentially what we do when we guzzle our morning espresso.
If a baby exclusively, or almost exclusively, drinks from a hard-spouted sippy cup (which, let's face it, are most sippy cups), this will prevent the tongue from learning how to great that wave-like motion efficiently.
4 Use: They Are Soothing
Much like bottles, sippy cups can be really soothing to a child. This is important because they will be more willing to drink the liquid, as well as begin to learn some of the necessary techniques behind drinking and holding things. Sure, prolonged use of a sippy cup can end up having the opposite effect on a child, but for a short time, or as a transition between bottles and real cups, they can be a wonder.
Think about it, wouldn't you love something to hold all day? Sure, it's a bit different as an adult. After all, children seldom care where they are holding their hands during a conversation like we do...But as a child, they love having the ability to wrap their hands around something fun and colorful that makes them feel good.
3 Avoid: Could Cause Speech And Language Issues
Due to the previously mentioned issue of the tongue not being able to properly flick up and down to create that wave-like motion when liquids enter a child's mouth, a child could develop certain speech and language issues. If the tongue can't properly rise, it will rest forward in the mouth which does impede speech as well as language development.
When a child has to struggle with this particular issue, their language skills can't accomplish more advanced skills until they've properly mastered a healthier swallowing pattern. This issue is referred to as "paci-mouth" as the same issue can occur for children who rely too heavily on a pacifier.
At the end of the day, this is not an issue you want your children to have to deal with. Therefore, it seems its certainly better to limit sippy cup time.
2 Use: Minimal To No Supervision Required
Not only is using sippy cups great for avoiding major spills and accidents, but they are generally physically safe as opposed to cups and even bottles. They don't require the same sort of head-tilt that a child needs to do if they are going to be successfully drinking out of a bottle. Additionally, they aren't as breakable as cups. Even the plastic variety could break and the sharp pieces could cause damage to your child or the environment around them. This means that very little supervision is needed when your child is using them.
This makes it a heck of a lot easier for busy parents who are needing to do more than one thing at once. They don't need to be constantly vigilante when their child drinks or even physically help them as much as when they are using a bottle or just learning to use a cup. In short, it's a life-saver.
1 Avoid: It Can Alter Facial Development
Don't be too scared off by this particular title. It's not as severe as it may initially read. But due to the issue of the tongue having to rest forward in the mouth due to hard sippy cup lips, the mouth tends to stay open more which can alter certain facial developments.
A certified SP and orofacial mycologist, Kristie Gatto, states that the overuse of the anterior-posterior tongue movement ("suckle-swallow") uses muscle movement that promotes a tongue that rests low and forward in the oral cavity. This exacerbates the musculature of the jaw to lower. This issue also leads to more mouth breathing.
To avoid this issue, it's suggested that pop-up straw cups are used. Once a child is capable of drinking from a straw, parents are urged to cut down the straw so the tip just reaches the tip of the tongue when the mouth is closed around it. This allows the tongue to be able to elevate and create that all-important wave.
Sources: Burrissdds.com, ParentingforTheBrain.com, AskTheDentist.com, Blog.Asha.org, SpringerLink, OrofacialComplex, MomsLoveBest, WhatToExpect, The Guardian, MondaysWithMelissa, TherapyCenterOfBuda, NCBI, Baby Center.