Why A Straw Cup Is Better Than a Sippy Cup or Bottle for Oral Motor Development

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Poor Noah has to deal with a pediatrician as a mom.

That means that he didn’t get fun bumpers on his crib. (Not to mention that the crib must be following the new guidelines.) He won’t get a walker. He will get every immunization. And we will attempt to wean off that bottle by one year of age.

This may be asking a lot of my little man, but I believe he can do it.

Why the sippy cup is bad for oral motor development

down syndrome baby picture drinking from cup

“Sippy cup? Those are for babies!”

The sippy cup has become the go to cup after the bottle. This may be great for a typical child, but to help with oral motor development we need a regular cup or one with a straw. You saw us try with the straw a few weeks ago. First attempts are not meant to be successful and we have five more months to go right? We tried just a regular cup tonight.

Noah wanted to grab it right out of our hands and get his tongue on that pear juice. He thought it was awesome! Granted the majority of it ended up on the burp cloth underneath his chin, but it was a great start. :)

When should my baby stop using a bottle?

straw cup vs sippy cup

“Drink from a cup…? Yeah, I got this!”

Why do we ask parents to be off the bottle? For one it is really bad on the teeth. It allows the sugary substances to hang out in the mouth a little longer than they should. It is also thought that if once a child is older and feeding themselves that if they are walking around with a bottle in their mouth all the time they will not use their mouth to communicate.

If you’re baby is under one year old be sure to check out this post on how to choose the best bottle for your child.

Straw cup vs. the sippy Cup

The straw is important for proper tongue placement in the mouth and helps build strength for their oral motor skills. The sippy cup does not promote proper tongue placement. You can always buy a straw cup but other methods for trying a straw are using a juice box or capri sun. This way you can squeeze the fluid into the mouth. Seth’s mom taught me this trick. I have yet to try it, but it will likely occur soon at our house and we’ll be sure to post a video for you.

Drinking from the cup as Noah is doing also promotes good tongue placement and oral motor skills. While it may be messy, we’ll gladly  put up with it to help Noah with his speech development.

down syndrome boy pictures eating spoon avocado

Ok, let’s see. Does baby Noah like Avocado’s…?

down syndrome boy pictures eating avocado

“Ummm, no thanks…!”

down syndrome baby boy cute eating feeding chair

“Food is fun.” :)

We love the heck out of this little guy.

What cups, straws, bottles, sippy cups have you had success with? Take a minute to leave a comment below telling us about your experience with any of these.

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Comments

  1. Freddie is just starting with a cup – we tried him with all sorts of beakers with teats etc and he hated them. He watched mum and dad drinking their cups of tea (!) and it became clear that he wanted to do the same. When we tried him with a plastic cup and some water he got the hang of it straight away. He looks so pleased with himself and there’s much less water on him than with the dreaded beakers… We are going to pursue straws next though as I know they are excellent for improving tongue position etc

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      Let me know if you find any tricks with the straw! That is why I tried with Noah. He tried to drink from my straw the other day at lunch and I was like hmmm :) We will keep trying.

      • Lisa Herring says:

        With our kids we used straws really early. You make sure you start out with putting your finger on the end so that it picks up a bit in the straw and then drop the drops in their mouth so they know what comes from it. Then when they like what they can get from it and want more you suck up the liquid to the top and pinch it off so that when they start to suck they are not sucking it all the way up from the bottom getting frustrated that it takes so long. The should only have to suck a tiny bit to get it to their mouth. Then when they get the hang of that then you let them suck it all the way up the straw themselves. But I am sure you already knew all of this :)

        • Thanks for sharing Lisa!

          How old is your little one by the way?

        • That’s exactly how my brother-in-law taught one of his kids (almost a year old) to drink from a straw. Granted, he’s a typically developing child, but he figured it out in about five minutes at a restaurant.

          Avent has some straw cups that look pretty interesting. Don’t know how leakproof they are, though.

  2. Firstly, let me congratulate you on the amazing website!! Brilliant information, beautifully laid out and very accessible and positive about everything! Shame there aren’t more parents like you ;-)

    My daughter Seren (now 13 months) was breastfed, never had a bottle, and when it came time for her to drink, I went straight to a straw – which she still uses today. I bulk buy disposable straws and carry them everywhere. She only drinks water or milk, so I can easily dunk a straw into my water or a water bottle.

    I managed to get Seren to drink out of a straw from 7 months old. I did it by using a shallow cup, half filled with water – quite cold water so she could feel it immediately in her mouth. I cut a straw down to about the length of the cup plus 1cm, so it just came over the rim. Then I brought the cup right up to her mouth and tilted it so the liquid was almost at the rim of the cup. By the time she got her lips around the straw and made any kind of sucking motion, the cold water was right in her mouth. She got the technique within the first couple of goes. As she got stronger with her sucking, I lengthened the straws to she understood she had to suck a little more to get the liquid. Now she is an expert!! I reckon I could give her a foot long straw and she’d be able to get the last of the liquid out of a cup!!

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      Those ideas are brilliant!! I am going to try the cold water. Congrats on breastfeeding for so long as well, that is awesome!

  3. The best part of today’s video is watching your mouth as you you watch Noah’s! Priceless! You are so trying to help!

  4. Oh I can tell you lots about this. It is so awesome you are starting really early. Julian “got” the straw at 11 months.

    We used the Honey Bear straw from http://www.talktools.com to start
    http://www.talktools.com/s.nl/it.A/id.771/.f

    Now we use the Rubbermaid litterless juice box. He drinks it like a champ, holds it on his own. So proud! (these are $5 on Amazon but can be found in most supermarkets for $2 or $3
    http://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-3117RDSPA-Litterless-Juice-Boxes/dp/B000VPBL98/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311677858&sr=8-1

    Don’t ever use sippy cups you are right!

    Now we need to start Julian with the cup….any suggestions anyone has?

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      I am going to have to get the litterless juice box. Have you done more of the talk tools stuff? I see they have a whole package for Down syndrome with the straws and horns and such. I know that they recommend the honey bear but I was thinking that things you can get at the store would be quite similar.

      • My client’s Mom did the straw kit and it really helped with keeping her tongue in her mouth- and now that she can hear (yay hearing aids!) her speech is really improving.

        Sippies are my worst enemy! I like the Playtex straw cups- they’re great because they have a valve in the straw and therefore won’t spill- great for the car.

  5. Here is a video of Julian drinking from a straw for the first time at 11 months! (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

    http://blog.gretchenmather.com/2011/05/07/videos-of-milestones-so-far-0-11-months/

    Julian is now 14 months and crawling around, pulling himself up on furniture, signing more and starting to wave hi!

    Very typical if you ask me. =)

    • Denise Smith.....A.K.A. Noah's Nana says:

      I loved watching the videos of Julian! He is adorable! He sure can handle that spoon well. And the straw! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Crap, one more thing! This is a great post at another blog I follow:

    The importance of straw drinking:

    http://gotdownsyndrome.blogspot.com/2011/07/importance-of-straw-drinking.html

    That’s all for today, Mr. Noahsdad. I continue to be your #1 fan!

  7. Firstly, this website is so lovely – and Noah is SO CUTE!

    We had Oskar with a sippy cup after the bottle, because he was a bit apprehensive about the straw when he was younger – so a few months ago, I started offering him the straw cup every couple of days, no pressure, and if he didn’t want it, I’d just put it on the bookshelf. After a couple of weeks of this, he went over to the bookshelf, unprompted, picked it up, and started using the straw like he’d been doing it for ages! It was so lovely to see! I should say he much prefers the hard straw than the regular straws, it took me a while to work it out, so if any of your babies don’t take the regular straw, you can buy cups with harder straws on the top. Now we have one sippy cup, only for milk after dinner (phasing this out at the moment!), and we have a doidy cup and a normal plastic beaker, both of which he loves trying to drink from (with some success now, woohoo!), so I’m hopeful that we’ll be using a beaker much more in the next few months. Since using the straw more, Oskar’s speech has started to come through, and the range of sounds he’s making is growing day by day – coincidence? I doubt it. We have ‘ball’, ‘no’, ‘yes’, ‘want more’ and ‘no more’ all coming through in the last couple of months – this, along with his first few steps, is making this a very exciting time for us all! :)

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      That is so fun that his speech is improving. And also walking at the same time. I can only imagine the celebrations going on at your house! Thanks for your cup/straw story.

  8. Hi there
    Great website. I got my little girl straw feeding using a Honey Bear cup – but you can use pretty much anything. She will also drink from a cup. I was given a really good bit advice before I started with the cup which was to use a thickened liquid which therefore moves more slowly. We used smoothie and it worked a treat!Sarah

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      Oh thickener, my worst enemy. We had to thicken Noah’s formula when he ate from a bottle, but the ST would tell us to use different amounts each week so I got a little frustrated with it. Have you found something that is similar to the honey bear in stores?

  9. He is soooo gorgeous!

    We went from bottle to straw. I remembered the very first time Kaela sipped from a straw on her own. SUCCESS!! Ohh, the small joys. Kaela now will drink from a cup or straw.

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      How old is Kaela now? I love the small things. I am pretty sure I appreciate those a lot more now than I used to.

  10. samantha says:

    Hi! I have a gorgeous lil man named Max who is always surprising us with his amazing abilities! He will be 5 tomorrow but when we were doing the cup transition because he was born premmie he is still quite small so I found his little hands couldn’t grasp the cups easily, so I got some small disposable cups ( like the babycino ones at Mcdonalds and cafes) and I cut a half circle from the top of one side so that when he tipped it up his nose wasn’t buried in it. His little hands could control this cup very well and now he is a pro with any cup! We had many attempts at the straw but a can of coke helped with that! He doesn’t have soft drinks but obviously thought it was something he wanted. He now uses straws but no more cokes. (sorry Max)! lol

    • Noah's Mom, MD says:

      I love that idea about the cup! I keep thinking I need to give Noah a smaller bottle as I think he could feed himself then.

  11. Hey, just thought you guys might like to know that they make a sippy cup with a straw that is slightly squeezable. Basically, the parent can squeeze it just a bit to get a taste to go from the straw and into baby’s mouth. It’s not enough to replace sucking, but enough to give some encouragement for the baby to try to get more out. I believe it’s made by playtex.

    One warning though…don’t try to open it on an airplane. Poor US Airways is probably still trying to get that red juice off the ceiling.

  12. Just chiming in here once again! I did purchase the Honey bear cup from talk tools, and the straw set. I havent’ used the straw set at all, and am not sure I am going to use it (wasted $30!).

    I think the honey bear is well worth the $8. However, you could try learning with the litterless juice box fisrt for $3 ish if you want.

    The difference between the two is that the honey bear has a softer, smaller round straw. The litterless juice box’s straw is sort of squarish so it is in my opinion “step two” of the straw drinking journey.

    There are some people who have “made your own honey bear cup” basically taking a honey bear honey plastic container and doing something with it. I’m not sure.

    Just google “make your own honey bear straw cup” and perhaps you will find something!

    have a good day everyone

  13. Good info!
    We used a free straw cup from kids meal and then got a honey bear (which really wasn’t necessary) All you need is a cup with a lid and squeezable sides so you can get the liquid to the top of the straw when the straw is on your child’s lips. They will learn very very quickly-esp. if the liquid is a favorite kind!
    The talktools straw hierarchy is great but I felt much more confident using it after watching the DVD about it (not cheap but they have been know to give parents a 50% discount at times if you ask nicely-even then it’s still pricey).
    We then got an appointment with a Talktools trained ST and it works! We have seen major improvement in lip closure/tongue retraction even though we are still on the first straw. FYI-the straws aren’t special, you could buy them anywhere–the magic is in the therapy instructions and in that they’ve done the legwork and gathered a nice gradually increasing in difficulty set for you).
    And I highly recommend a cut out cup to start-either buy or DIY as above. The thing to remember is all drinking is in chin tuck position as much as you can manage-naturally retracts the tongue. Do you guys use Playtex nurser bottles?

  14. ahhh i knew our early intervention person was full of crap – she told us sippy cups were okay but i keep hearing and reading over and over that a regular cup is better. we use a regular cup every now and then but will start being more consistent now! thanks for the advice :)

    • EIs are only as good as the OT/ SLP they’re working with on these things unfortunately. At least in my experience- schooling for EI is based more on general development- it doesn’t get to specific. So unless the EI has experience in that area before from working with an OT/ SLP, they aren’t going to know much. EI is a team sport!

  15. My daughter Jaydalyn never drank from a bottle. She was on the G-tube for months and months. The only kind of cup I could get her to drink from was one with a straw and she got it right away thankfully. Now she drinks from a sippie cup with a stopper because she loves to throw things. I try her with a regular cup every now and then she does alright but just isn’t ready yet =)

  16. We have a honey bear cup but took one look at the instructions and just didn’t go there. I try it every now and again just by squeezing it and seeing what happens. We have more cups and variations than i know what to do with and i always feel i must try harder to have ago at using them with Lauren, who is 19 months now. she seems very interested in drinking from our open cups so i let her try and i think she is interested some days. Others not. Our SALT had never heard of the Honey bear cup which annoyed me slightly and i am slightly unsure whether i should be concentrating on getting Lauren to drink something other than milk from a bottle so she can be independent or tying the straws and open cups with milk in or other liquids. SO far she pretty much refuses all but milk from a bottle. She was on an ng tube for a week when she was born then we got her onto a bottled to escape hospital, she successfully breastfed from 8 weeks so i know she can manage change i just wonder if it’s me making the time to try it holding her back!

  17. Just what an amazing suggestions! Reading this side really made my day!
    I am going to get straws first thing tomorrow and also a can. We have a cup which had a closed top, the rim however has a silicon ring and you have to suck it properly before any liquid comes out. Our little lady still has to improve a bit on her technique as she doesn’t always press her under lip against it and the drink ends up on her spill cloth.

  18. Hi again,

    Don’t mind me for chiming in based on experiences now 20+ years old. We did use the sippy cup and Carson kept at that until he went straight to a regular cup – but if memory serves correct, it did take a year or so. Now to preface the following personal observation, every child’s experience is truly unique – so our own results may not reflect any generalities what so ever. But the proof is in the pudding – and in our son’s case, the time with the sippy cup didn’t diminish his oral development. That said, if we had access then to this absolutely wonderful sharing resource, we may have tried other options as listed above. Our son’s oral musculature development and subsequent language skill success may be contributed a full year of breast feeding – his adeptness with both the sippy and regular cups[for some reason I can't recall straws being of any significant usage back then], or the early language development programs and access to speech therapists that we were fortunate enough to have had. Locally we refer to that time – 23 years ago – as the “Golden Age” of child development for an infant with special needs. Here in BC, Canada, since that time there has been diminished government funding support resulting in long delays in accessing these services at that critical time of development. Which is why sites such as Noahsdad is so vitally important to not only provide the moral support families need, but real family experiences results using techniques and approaches that can make a difference in the life of the child and their families. KUDOS!!

  19. In addition to straw drinking as the children get older, there are a whole parcel of oral motor exercised they can do [once they understand what is being asked of them]. Students that I have worked with, [that have had an oral motor program from a very early age] have much better tongue placement and lip closure than ones who don’t. 

  20. Noah’s mom…I saw that u breastfed Noah right away. My second son was just born in February with down syndrome and I’m wondering if he will get better at breaastfeeding. He did it for awhile and has stopped..seems to get too sleepy. Any suggestions?

  21. MADDISON JACOBS says:

    omg to funny his face  id say that was a dont put that nasty stuff in my mouth again daddy  it is NASTYYYYYYY.

  22. We have been trying a juicebox and, to our surprise, he understood it straight away.
    I´m curious, what kind of a chair have you got for Noah? 

  23. Lisa Hoffmann says:

    keep the straw as short as you can, this will help develop the mouth and cheek muscles!
    mixing milk and yogurt as a thick smoothie and put it in the cup with a straw will also help in strengthening the mouth muscles ;)

  24. Oliveplants10 says:
  25. Littleladydiver says:

    We totally agree!!! Enzo has been drinking from a special cup for weeks now. It’s still a mess but this week he has shown great improvement. He will definitely gain weight now!!!!

    Noah is so funny! I love the avocado face. Too cute! I’m sure he’ll change hisind down the road!

    I also have no doubt that having you as a doctor and mom is very calming for Rick!

    I’m trying to catch up. Great pictures by the way!

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