WHY YOUR BABY SHOULD BE USING AN OPEN CUP!
By Dr Jemma Hook aka @The Mummy Dentist
Did you know that it is recommended to introduce your baby to drinking from an open cup from around 6 months onwards? Early introduction and following guidance about baby’s liquid intake can help to establish good feeding preferences. Tooth decay in children’s front milk teeth is often associated with certain drinking habits, therefore open cups can be great for babies for many reasons including;
- It encourages a sipping action (rather than sucking)
- This is good for promoting jaw development
- It also prevents liquids from pooling around the upper front teeth
- Using a cup helps your baby practice their fine motor skills
The main concern parents have with infants using open cups is – the mess! Well firstly weaning is always going to be a messy time and it’s actually a key part of how a baby engages with food stuffs: the sensory experience of ‘playing with their food’ helps them to learn about new textures and flavours. An open (or free flow) cup is preferred by dentists and other health professionals, as opposed to a spouted or sippy cup, for the properties described above.
By introducing an open cup during the weaning process a baby will experiment and refine their grip and the dexterity needed to drink effectively. Using a small amount of liquid in the beginning means that the cup won’t be overloaded or too heavy to lift. If it spills there’s only a minimal amount to clear up! Initially you can support the base of the cup to help guide it up towards your baby’s mouth. With a Doidy cup the unique slanted design supports the natural upward/downward physical motion of their arms and hands. It has small handles suitable for baby fingers to grip onto and it encourages the drinking action of ‘sipping’ from the rim. Using a Doidy Cup infants are able to ‘lap’ their drink: as this is a similar action to breastfeeding it comes naturally to babies. And with 14 different colours available the trickiest thing is choosing which one to go for! You can also get matching Doidy Bowls which also feature the slanted design to help little foodies scoop up their food more easily. And with a super suction base its ideal for baby-led weaning.
When we’re thinking about keeping little ones hydrated it’s obviously important to mention the types of drinks babies should be offered. Top tips regarding liquids for babies are:
- An infant under 12 months should only be given plain water or their usual milk (breast or formula) to drink.
- From age 6 months the water does not need to be pre-boiled.
- Whole cows’ milk can be given as a drink from age 1 (but used in cooking from 6 months).
- Try to avoid giving little ones fruit squash/cordial as it contains free sugars which can easily damage baby tooth enamel.
- Fruit juices do contain vitamins but also natural sugars and acids. If you choose to give these to your child the advice is to dilute it (1 part juice: 10 parts water) and limit to mealtimes only.
- Be aware that ‘flavoured’ water may be labelled as ‘sugar-free’ but these contain citric acid which can cause tooth erosion.
- Obviously any sort of fizzy pop drink should not be given to young children or infants.
- From age 1 ideally you should offer only plain water as a night-time drink.
- Bottle-feeding should be discouraged from age 1 onwards, whereas breastfeeding is supported by the World Health Organization up to age 2 (and beyond.) This is influenced by the differences in physical mechanisms between these forms of feeding. Breastfeeding involves more frequent sucks to stimulate milk flow. Breastfeeding also offers other health benefits to both baby and mother.
We know that early childhood is such a key time for establishing healthy eating and drinking habits. The latest advice by Public Health England (published June 2019) reviewed evidence and reiterated the message that “from 6 months of age infants should be introduced to drinking from a free-flow cup”. So using an open cup will definitely benefit your child as part of their weaning journey and into their future!
Copyright Dr Jemma Hook July 2019
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