From around six months, you can encourage your baby to start to drink water from a cup.
It might take baby a little while to get the hang of it, and they may need a little support at first to help them control the cup.
Choose an open cup with a soft rim and handles which can make it easier to hold. An open cup is best, but if you choose to start with a training cup, choose a free-flow cup without a valve under the spout - this will help your baby learn to sip properly, and it’s better for their teeth. Valves are not recommended as they stop baby from learning to sip and encourage an immature sucking pattern.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Encourage baby to hold the open cup with two hands and bring it up to their mouth by themselves.
- From the time your little one starts on solid foods, offer plain water from a cup with their meals and snacks.
- Check that the drinking water supply at your home is safe for young children. If baby is under 6 months of age, water should always be boiled and cooled before use. If using town supply water and baby is over 6 months of age, run the tap for 10-15 seconds before collecting the water. If you have a private water supply (such as a bore or well), you should boil and cool the water until your child is 18 months old. Water from a private supply should also be tested for contaminants like nitrates.
- If the weather is hot, formula-fed babies under 6 months of age might need to be offered boiled and cooled water.
- If you want to, you can start to offer expressed breastmilk (or formula) in a cup rather than a bottle. Start by replacing one bottle of milk with one cup of milk a day and build up from there.
- Keep at it! Getting them to use a cup every day is the key.
- Aim to have your baby off their bottle and using a cup by their first birthday.
A few benefits of using a cup are:
- Bottles over 12 months are not a good habit - babies and toddlers who are allowed to sip milk out of a bottle all day are much more likely to get tooth decay.
- Your baby is likely to drink less milk from a cup therefore encouraging more of an appetite for food, which is good because food is becoming a more important part of their diet.
- Using a cup can help improve your baby’s hand-eye coordination.
- Cups are the great time saver, they’re much quicker and easier to clean than bottles.
Only give baby breast milk (or formula), and once they are eating first foods, water can also be offered. Whole cow’s milk can be offered as a milk drink from 12 months onwards. Don’t give your baby or toddler juice, fruit drink, cordial, soft drink, flavoured milk, tea, coffee or alcohol as these are not suitable and can damage their teeth.
Watch our Drinking from a Cup video for more tips.
Ministry of Health. 2021. Healthy Eating Guidelines for New Zealand Babies and Toddlers (0–2 years old). Wellington: Ministry of Health.
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