Noah’s making a straw look easy today! If you watched today’s video you may be wondering why in the world he’s “drinking” his baby food through a straw through! I’ll explain why at the end of this post. I’ll also tell you about how it’s a great oral motor exercise that you can do at home to help strengthen your child’s mouth muscles. So just stick with me.
Yelp, Noah’s DRINKING his fruits and vegetables for lunch!
My goal: Have Noah Transition Off The Bottle by 12 months..
It’s been quite the journey to get him to this point. We started using a straw when Noah was 6 months old. It was slightly successful initially but then Noah started pushing the straws away and was not interested so I gave up for awhile. (Sometimes it’s best to give our kids a break so that learning new habits remain fun instead of becoming frustrating; which ultimately have the reverse effect from what we want.)
I however was determined to have him off the bottle by 12 months. This is what I tell everyone else to do, so I better practice what I preach. I however realize that this is not possible for all children especially those with Down syndrome.
Bye, bye bottle….
There are different options for weaning off the bottle, you can go to a sippy cup, a straw cup or an open cup. The majority of pediatricians will now recommend a straw cup as it is better for oral motor development as well as keeping the cavities away. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, the straw cup was the only option I considered as I knew that it would serve the double purpose of building muscles and helping with speech development which you can read about in our post “Why A Straw Cup Is Better Than A Sippy Cup”
There are about 5 different types of straw cups in our cabinets as of now. Much like choosing a bottle, a straw cup is going to be an individual choice for a child. I am going to tell you what worked for us, but it may not work for your child. I also did this without the help of a speech therapist, so don’t consider this expert advice.
The Search For The Best Straw Cup
It is important to remember that this is not a quick process of “use a bottle one day” and “use a straw cup the next” (well maybe some of you will get lucky). You have to guarantee that the child is getting enough fluids while they are transitioning to the straw cup, so you will still be using the bottle until they figure it out. I however would get quite frustrated with my husband for breaking out the bottles because they were easier and less messy than the straw cups, especially as Noah was learning how to use a straw. (Just a quick side note to remember to be patient with your child as they are transitioning from the bottle to a straw cup; they will spill milk on themselves….and on you. It’s just something that comes with the territory.)
But he looks so cute with his bottle…..
Here’s a quick look at some of the various straw cups we used before finding the best straw cup. (And don’t worry, I promise to still tell you why Noah’s drinking his baby food from a straw.)
1. The Playtex Straw Cup
Playtex Baby Lil’ Gripper Twist ‘n Click Straw Cup
We started out using the Playtex Baby Lil’ Gripper Twist ‘n Click straw cup. The reason I chose this cup was that it was the only one labeled as being able to squeeze the cup and liquid would go up the straw. I knew that part of the process was being able to push liquid into the child’s mouth so that they realized what the straw was for. Noah kind of got the idea of what to do with his lips but rarely was successful at actually getting liquid. He eventually just started pushing the cup away or dodging the straw.
2. The Honey Bear Straw Cup
Honey Bear Straw Cup, by Talk Tools
Honey Bear Straw Cup is the famous straw cup from Talk Tools. Our occupational therapist was attempting to get Noah to like the straw again close to his birthday. We attempted to use the honey bear, which I am sure a lot of you have used with huge success.
Noah however thought it was terrifying and did not want that bear near him let alone in his mouth!
I have never seen him cry when presented with a straw cup, but this bear must have given him quite the look. Needless to say we didn’t try this at home. I think that we have found cups that mimic the good things about this cup minus the scary bear.
3. The Juice Box
The classic juice box! Easy, and cheap.
When I first started thinking about using a straw our good friends at The Fun House told me that I should use a regular, good old juice box. She said that she taught her son to drink from a straw the first time by using this. I don’t know why I didn’t listen to her initially. She told me that I could easily spray a little bit of the juice in the mouth and once they got a taste they would want to figure out how to get more.
So after months of trying to get him to drink from our straw cup, I tried the juice box. I kid you not, I sprayed a little bit into Noah’s mouth and he locked down on it and went to town. I do not promise the same results, but I do encourage you to try it out.
Why did the juice box work so well?
Here are my theories as to why the juice box worked well for us.
- Noah rarely, if ever, had juice and he thought it was awesome and wanted more.
- There is no valve on this straw (much like the honey bear) so you don’t have to work too hard to suck it up. The playtex cup doesn’t have a valve but it is much harder to actually get liquid up, it is even harder to push up.
- The straw was bent and rested against his tongue rather than hitting the top of his mouth. I think that was the biggest realization as I continued working on this with Noah, he only sucked when it was against his tongue. Granted this is not the ideal way to suck, but it is a good place to start. I think one reason he pushed the straws away was because he didn’t like it hitting the roof of his mouth.
- You are able to easily squeeze liquid into the mouth
- The straw is small and therefore requires less force to actually get liquid up by sucking. I would get into the physics of that but I don’t want to bore you.
4. Rubbermaid Litterless Juice Box
Just look at that lip closure!
Now that I knew that Noah was capable of using a straw I just had to find the right cup that replicated the juice box so he could get his milk. Our friend Gretchen recommended the Litterless Juice Box. You can order them from Amazon (see the previous link) but I have also found them at Wal-Mart and The Container Store. I think that the latter consistently has them whereas I have yet to see another Wal-Mart with one. They worked great, I just kept losing the straw inside. There is an angle to the straw so that it is not hitting the roof of the mouth and Noah was able to suck well. It also has the ability to be squeezed and liquid easily goes into the mouth.
5. Take and Toss Straw Cup: Our Favorite Straw Cup!
The winner of straw cup show down however was the Take & Toss Straw Cups. They do not have a valve and are surprisingly spill proof (although they do not survive drops to the floor as well as others.
6 reasons the Take and Toss Cups are so awesome!
1. You can easily squeeze liquid into the child’s mouth.
2. You can hold it vertically without it spilling to rest the straw on the child’s tongue.
3. They are also extremely cheap and easy to find.
4. You get 5 cups for about 3-5 dollars.
5. They come in fun colors.
6. They seem to work (at least for the people I have suggest them to.) I have sent a few friends home with these to try and they usually have good success.
6. Our next cup to try: The Lollacup!
The Lollacup is fun…and functional!
There is one cup out there that we have yet to try but when I saw it on TV I knew that the people who invented it were brilliant.
One of the shows Rick and I enjoy together is Shark Tank. A couple went on with their straw cup and it looked to me like pure genius. The Lollacup has no valve, a soft straw, a weighted straw inside so that it got all the liquid when it was tilted in the hands of a toddler and had handles. Knowing the wave of the future will be straw cups based on what pediatricians are recommending, it was one of those things where you say “why didn’t I think of that”.
Regardless of what straw cup you choose, remember to stay at it!
Noah had lots of leakage around the mouth initially and has consistently gotten better. Rick used to get very frustrated with the leaking hence the reason he offered the bottle. We have done off and on beckman oral motor exercises that may have helped, but considering
how often we actually did them the fact that we didn’t do them as often as we should have, I doubt it was a lot.
I think simply using the straw consistently built strength in the mouth. So don’t give up if it is a mess for awhile, they will get stronger.
We have now been able to use straws with valves, however I do not like the straw cups that make you almost bite the straw to create an opening and then suck through a valve. Those cups are hard even for me. They are meant to be completely spill proof, but they are practically drink proof as well.
We have had great success with the playtex brand now that Noah knows what he is doing and Noah can used their “advanced” straws. With these cups I actually trust him to drink in the backseat as well as around the house. I would not put a Take & Toss cup in his hands alone in a backseat for fear of the top coming off.
Ok, so why was Noah drinking his baby food from a straw??
He’s getting this whole drinking from a straw thing down!
If you watched the video at the top of the page, you may be wondering why Noah is drinking his pureed baby food through a straw. Well, I guess you can say we “upgraded” the food Noah takes in from the straw, so to speak. Let me explain.
Anna, the wonderful mother of Ellie, taught me how to really give the mouth a workout. She recommended putting a straw through the tops of pureed baby food, and so in this video you see Noah doing that for the first time today. As Anna mentions in her blog post, this is a great exercise to help strengthen your child’s oral-maxillary facial muscles (try saying that 3 times real fast!)
We like to use the small plastic containers like the one you se in the picture above. It’s a much cheaper way to easily eat the purees. And for those of you who have to use thickening fluids in your child’s milk or formula, the straw through the top of the baby food container may be something you want to consider trying. As far as finding a good straw to use; I use the straws from the Take & Toss cups I mentioned above. They are hard plastic and hold up nicely.
It think Noah definitely enjoyed it, just don’t let his mouth know it got quite the workout.
What tips do you have for teaching your child to drink from a straw? What are you favorite straw cups? By the way, if you try out this little tip, be sure to come back and leave a comment telling us how it went. Bonus points if you post a picture!