Is My Baby Ready for a Cup?

The little boy drink from a cup.

Clover No.7 Photography / Getty Images

A lot of parents may wonder when it's appropriate to introduce their baby to a cup. And while it really depends on your baby's motor skills and interest level, anytime between 5 months old and 9 months old is the prime time for testing out a cup.

In some cases, children who are already holding a bottle might take more readily to a cup than a child who has been fed exclusively from the breast. But don't worry if your baby cannot hold the cup properly in the beginning. There is no magic age by which a baby should be using a cup during meals.

Additionally, don't replace your baby's bottles or breastfeeding time with a cup at this age. Instead, view the cup as an addition to your baby's expanding diet. For instance, you baby can use a cup to accompany the solid food you're introducing at this age. Plus, it's good practice for when you begin the weaning process. Here are some additional things you should know before introducing a cup to your baby.

Type of Cup

When it comes to selecting the right cup for your child, it usually comes down to personal preference. For instance, some parents prefer sippy cups with valves that keep the cup from spilling no matter what position it's in.

These cups require your baby to use a sucking motion to get the fluid out, which most kids are used to with the breast or bottle. They also keep your baby and everything around them cleaner.

Keep in mind that if you use these cups, you may have to go through a second training period when your child is older and moves to cups without lids.

Plus, the dependence on no-spill lids can delay your child from learning how to avoid spills. For this reason, you might want to consider using no-spill cups only when it really matters, like in the car. In the high chair, you might use a cup without a lid, or a cup with a lid and no valve.

Another type of cup that works well at this age is a cup with a straw. This type of cup can be useful in teaching your child how to drink from a straw. By practicing at home with this cup, your child will already have the skill of drinking with a straw.

Types of Fluid

When it comes to filling your child's sippy cup, you should start out with water. This is especially true if you're using a cup without a lid or valves. Start with just a little bit at a time—maybe a few spoonfuls or 1/4 cup to start with.

Keep in mind that spills are inevitable, and there probably won't be much real drinking going on. So using small amounts of water helps you reduce waste while allowing your child to experiment with using a cup.

Once your child understands what the cup is for and has a bit of a grip on how to use it, you can start to add other fluids like expressed breast milk or formula. Skip the juice for now: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not giving a baby juice until the child is a year old. Even when your baby is old enough, be careful not to overdo it. Four ounces or about 1/2 cup is the limit for the entire day.

Giving more than 1/2 a cup of juice a day can lead to problems like cavities and diarrhea. You also may find that your little one will stop eating enough healthy food if you offer juice too often.

Even small amounts of juice can cause these same issues. So try to get the nutritious foods in first and then offer the cup, or just don't offer juice at all.

Water and milk (breastmilk or formula for babies under a year old, whole cow's milk for those who are older) are the preferred choices, says the AAP. Some kids are so entertained with the cup that you can get your kitchen cleanup done while they enjoy their treat after the meal!

Additional Tips

If your child isn't interested in using a cup, don't force the issue. Just put the cup away and try again later. Remember that whatever is in the cup isn't replacing the nutrition your child is getting elsewhere at this point, so it's not a necessity. Here are some additional tips to consider as you introduce a cup to your child.

  • Make sure your child is sitting up when you offer a cup to avoid choking. Sippy cups can be used even when they aren't upright, so encourage your child to drink sitting up.
  • Remember, learning to use a cup takes practice just like any other skill. Don't get angry or discipline your child for spills or accidents.
  • Keep the contents of the cup nutritious. Sodas and sugary juice cocktails don't add any benefit to your child's diet. So, don't add them to your child's cup.

A Word From Verywell

Learning how to use a cup is an exciting experience for most kids. But don't worry if your child doesn't get the hang of it right away. Every child is different. If you try when your child is 6 months old and they can't seem to hold the cup or don't really understand what it's for, don't fret. Just put the cup away and try again in a month or so. Eventually, your child will be handling a cup with ease.

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  1. Heyman MB, Abrams SA. Fruit juice in infants, children, and adolescents: Current recommendationsPediatrics. 2017;139(6). doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0967