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Ask Dr. Sears: Offering a Cup

Q.  I am trying to get my 8-month-old to drink from a sippy cup, but all he does is chew on it! He's been exclusively breastfed until now, so he's not used to being fed from a bottle or other source. How can I get him accustomed to using a cup?


A. Many infants who are exclusively breastfed develop a natural preference for the breast, and are therefore slow to accept a cup. It's even normal for some bottle-fed babies to resist sippy cups, since sucking from a nipple is much easier than slurping from a cup. Because your baby is drinking breast milk, he's getting all the nutrition he needs, and supplemental liquids aren't necessary. So there's no real reason to start using a cup. However, you may want to get a head start on introducing other fluids to your baby's diet and enable caregivers to offer him liquids when you're not around. These sippy-cup tricks may net you some success:

Use a baby-friendly cup. Give him a plastic, two-handled cup that's easy to grab and hold. Make sure it's wide and weighted on the bottom so it doesn't easily tip over. To start, put a small amount of liquid into the cup. As he begins to enjoy sipping more, gradually increase the volume.

Use the cup as a toy. To overcome fear of the cup, let him play around with it. When you set him in his high-chair or on your lap, place the cup on the table within his grasp. Eight-month-olds love to grab and transfer toys from hand to hand, so use this to your advantage. Once he enjoys the cup as a toy, he'll be more likely to accept it as a source of fluids.

Put your milk in the cup. Exclusively breastfed babies show a marked preference for the sweet taste of mom's milk. Express some of your milk and put it in the cup for him to enjoy  -- it will add some familiarity to this new feeding experience.

Use peer pressure. If you have friends with babies the same age as yours, invite them over for a playdate and hand out sippy cups. At this age, babies love mimicry  -- when your son sees his playmates enjoying the cup, he'll likely want to join in on the fun!

Use the cup yourself. Babies also love to copy their parents, especially when it comes to eating (which is why babies often grab food from mom's plate!). During meals, use the sippy cup yourself  -- and if your partner and other adults at the table are willing, have them use the cups as well. Though you may feel a bit silly, your baby will likely want his own cup when he sees everyone enjoying this new "toy."

Bear in mind, there is no magical age for babies to begin using sippy cups. The best you can do is offer it, have fun with it, and enjoy your child's own developmental timetable.

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