No bottles, more of the cup

No bottles, more of the cup

By the time your little one reaches 12 months, hopefully they have got the hang of holding and drinking water from an open cup. From 12 months, you can also include whole-fat cow’s milk as a drink in a cup. By now ideally you’ve completely stopped using bottles or have a plan to move onto cups for your toddler’s drinks.

It might take your little one a while to get the hang of using a cup, and they may need a little support at first to help them control the cup. 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.

Here are a few tips to help you:

  • Offer water from a cup with every meal and snack.
  • Check that the drinking water supply at your home is safe for young children. 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.
  • If your toddler is still having milk in a bottle, start by switching one bottle of milk each day to a cup of milk instead, and build up from there.
  • Keep at it! Getting them to use a cup every day is the key.

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 little one 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 hand-eye coordination.
  • Cups are the great time saver, they’re much quicker and easier to clean than bottles.

Recommended drinks:
The recommended drinks for your toddler are breast milk, cow’s milk and water. From 12 months of age around 350mL of whole-fat cow’s milk (with the dark blue lid) can be offered in a cup each day. If choosing a plant based milk, toddlers can be offered soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin B12 (as soy milk is higher in protein and fat than other plant based milk alternatives).   Don’t give your toddler juice, fruit drink, cordial, soft drink or flavoured milk as these can damage their developing 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.

The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.


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