As a speech therapist who works in feeding therapy, I have very strong opinions about cup drinking. Yes, teaching your toddler how to drink from a cup is a precursor to speech development, and making a smooth transition now will prevent problems down the road.
How Bottle Drinking Effects Tongue Position
We live in a bottle obsessed society. Bottle feeding, rather than breast feeding, has become the norm. As a result, children are having difficulty developing “natural” tongue patterns. When breast feeding, the tongue presses upward to elicit liquid from a nipple. During bottle feeding, the child’s tongue moves down. So, from a very early age, children are being reconditioned on where to place their tongues.
Then come teeth…
Parents are very familiar with the mouthing and gnawing associated with teething. But did you know that teeth come equipped with “sensors” that tell them when to stop growing? Teeth will only grow until something disrupts their path (i.e. gums, other teeth, tongue). So continuing to provide a bottle after teeth begin making their appearance may effect the growth of baby teeth.
But you said it can effect speech development?
So, bottle fed babies move their tongues down, bottles block teeth from growing to their full potential…down the road, children with prolonged bottle feeding may develop immature speech patterns that require a full course of therapy. Because the child spent so long “mis-learning” tongue position, intervention is now required to retrain the tongue and strengthen lip, jaw, and tongue muscles.
Introducing Cup Drinking
This is where cup drinking comes into play. Parents often ask when they should begin to introduce a cup and when I say “around 8-9 months or when the first teeth erupt”, they think I am crazy. Cup drinking is MESSY!
Yes, cup drinking is messy for a few days. But open cups are much easier to clean than sippy cups and straw cups. By introducing an open cup so early, children are able to discover correct tongue positioning through a natural learning environment (drinking!) and avoid tooth and dental problems caused by cup drinking.
My clients have had the most success with the Oxo Training Cup, which can be found here.
For more information on infant and toddler feeding, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the mailing list!