Why Parents Should Skip the Sippy Cup and Start with Straws

Cute little boy is drinking milk using straw while sitting at table
Share this Page:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

When it’s time to say “bye-bye” to bottles, parents may think that giving their child a sippy cup with a similar spout is spill-free, natural next step to transition to. In fact, sippy cups have become somewhat of a staple in many households. But here’s the thing. While sippy cups may be convenient for parents to “grab and go” and avoid messes, they can actually impede your baby’s speech, language, and feeding development. Here’s the science behind why you should skip the sippy cup and the benefits behind your child using a straw instead.

Differences in the Development of Oral Muscles

Sippy Cups Can Delay Muscle Development

Did you know that the way a child sucks and swallows changes as they grow? Babies use what’s known as anterior-posterior tongue movement (from the front to back of the mouth) while breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle. Around 1 year-old, babies usually develop a mature swallow pattern. The tip of their tongue touches the roof of their mouth (just behind the top teeth) and makes the motion of a wave to propel liquids into their throat. If you think about the hard spout of a sippy cup in a child’s mouth, you’ll realize that this blocks his or her tongue from reaching up to that spot. Without practice learning and developing this more advanced way of using their tongue to swallow, a child can have trouble chewing and swallowing new textures of foods.

Straws Strengthen Oral Muscles

Drinking from a straw encourages your child to develop that more advanced way of sucking and swallowing. When using a straw to drink, he or she is strengthening the lip, tongue, and cheek muscles. Instead of using a “suckling” method of drinking (like with traditional sippy cups), little ones are able to practice using the mature pattern of swallowing that will allow him or her to safely drink and eat. More good news about using straws? It doesn’t mean you’ll have to clean up more spills! This Thinkbaby cup has a no-spill straw, and there are several other fantastic cups like this on the market.

Helping vs. Hindering Speech Development

Sippy Cups Can Impede Proper Speech Development

When a child uses a pacifier or a sippy cup with a hard spout frequently or for an extended amount of time, he or she can start to show signs of a speech delay. That’s because the muscles in the mouth that he or she might not be strengthening and developing while drinking from a sippy cup are the same ones that are used to speak. Children who often drink from sippy cups might rest their tongue more forward in their mouth at other times throughout the day. Doing this instead of “tucking” it on that bumpy ridge (known as the alveolar ridge) behind the top front teeth can stop speech and language skills from advancing. The tongue has to be strong and coordinated enough to make sounds like “T”, “D”, and “L”. Research tells us that there’s a correlation between where the tongue is positioned during swallowing and a child’s articulation of speech sounds.

Straw Drinking Supports Speech Abilities

Around the same time parents transition their child from a bottle to a cup (about 1 year-old), they’re also likely to be anticipating his or her first word being spoken! When a child drinks from a straw, he or she develops strong lip muscles by sealing them around the straw. These lip muscles are also needed for little ones to produce early consonant sounds like “M”, “P”, and “B”. To prevent your little one from putting the straw too far into their mouth or biting it, consider cutting the tip of the straw so it’s shorter or use a lip block. Reusable silicone straws are convenient and easy to stick in your child’s cup, wherever you might be. By drinking from a straw, which encourages your child to keep their tongue in the right position, you can prevent him or her from the negative effects of becoming a mouth breather.

Consider Consulting a Speech-Language Pathologist

A Speech-Language Pathologist (also known as a “Speech Therapist”) can assess your child’s speech, language, and feeding skills. If you feel like your child is having trouble transitioning from a bottle to a cup, drinking from a straw, or is delayed in speech and language development, consider scheduling an evaluation. After an initial assessment, the Speech Therapist can provide you with recommendations and strategies for helping your child in these areas. Additionally, regular therapy sessions may be recommended to continue improving your child’s feeding and speech skills. TherapyWorks provides Speech, Occupational, Feeding and Physical Therapy Services in-home and via teletherapy – a safe, convenient, and effective option.

Therapyworks Erin Michelle

Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides in-home speech, occupational and physical therapies in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and teletherapy nationwide.

Related Posts

Outdoor Activities that Promote Gross Motor Development

Have you ever watched your kids swinging from the monkey bars, running, or climbing seemingly nonstop and thought, “that looks …

Outdoor Activities that Promote Gross Motor Development Read More »

‘Preventing the Summer Slide’: How to Keep the Learning Going During the School Break

Kids around the country are getting ready to say goodbye to the morning rush and evening homework. They’ve got visions …

‘Preventing the Summer Slide’: How to Keep the Learning Going During the School Break Read More »

Road Trip Activities that Promote Speech and Language Development

Planning to hit the road with your kids this summer? You might have thought about packing the snacks, tablets, and …

Road Trip Activities that Promote Speech and Language Development Read More »

What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech

“Mama”, “Dada”, “Hi!”, “Uh oh!” Hearing a child’s first words can be one of the most exciting milestones for parents …

What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech Read More »

“What, Mom?”: Signs Your Child May Have Auditory Processing Disorder

Does your child have trouble following directions, often ask you to repeat things you’ve said, struggle to learn the words …

“What, Mom?”: Signs Your Child May Have Auditory Processing Disorder Read More »

Follow Us

COVID-19 Protocol

We hope you and your family are continuing to stay safe and healthy! We have outlined our protocols for in-person sessions during COVID-19. As you know, the health and safety of our clients and therapists remain our highest priority. As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we work together through these unprecedented times.

Hand Washing:
Upon arrival at your home, your therapist will wash their hands with soap and water and/or use hand sanitizer. We ask that you and your child also wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer upon your therapist’s arrival.
We are asking our therapists to wear masks upon entering your home and throughout your child’s session. That said, we understand that some children have adverse reactions to seeing adults in masks and will leave it up to you and your therapist to decide your comfort level while still taking safety precautions.
We ask that parents and caregivers also follow the guidelines and wear masks when sitting in on sessions. We will not enforce that policy, but we do kindly ask for compliance.
As for your child, we realize that masks may not be appropriate for every child so we will not enforce the rule that children over the age of 2 should wear a mask.  However, if your therapist insists that your child wear a mask, then that will be a requirement directly between the two of you. We respect our therapists’ individual comfort levels with safety precautions and ask that you respect them as well.


Protocol Acknowledgment and Health Certification:

Before your child’s first in-person session, we are asking clients to submit an acknowledgment of these protocols and a health certification, which you can find here. Thank you again for your cooperation and for helping all of us stay healthy!