From Bottle to Sippy Cup: A Parent’s Survival Guide for a Seamless Transition

At 12 months old, babies no longer need to drink milk. Calcium and protein are available through other sources, but milk is an easy way to ensure your little one gets these essential nutrients. Sippy cups help transition to drinking from a normal cup, which should begin soon after your baby starts eating solids.

It may sound strange to suggest that babies older than 12 months do not need to drink milk. However, if you think about this logically, considering your pediatrician’s advice, you’ll understand that milk is more of a security and comfort food past this age.

Weaning your little one off the bottle is essential as the negative impact on their teeth can cause many problems that may carry into adulthood.

Sippy cups not only help your little one transition to drinking from a regular cup, but they also promote normal dental development.

Most parents face the problem of introducing a sippy cup that will nearly always be initially rejected.

Parents should be resilient about feeding and hydrating their one-year-olds, and this begins with easing their dependency on the bottle, which is an early blessing but a later curse if not phased out.

Ensuring your baby is happy and enjoys eating and drinking shouldn’t become a time of anxiety but should instead be a time to explore and enjoy new things. Babies will hold on to what they are familiar with, which centers around security and comfort.

Your responsibility as a parent or caregiver is to provide a sense of security and comfort, which involves much more than just milk in a bottle.

Let’s face it, a sippy cup with a hard spout is nothing like a mom’s nipple or the soft teat of a bottle, and it’s why most babies will reject the sippy cup in the beginning.

There are sippy cups with soft spouts, but it is recommended to use one with a hard spout. This is because your little one has to learn to drink from a sippy cup which is different from sucking on a bottle.

If this change is suddenly introduced, your little one will most likely express frustration and reject the sippy cup. This should be a slow transition over weeks or even months.

Remember, you might also be transitioning from breast milk or formula milk to cow milk, which can overwhelm your baby.

Benefits for a one-year-old drinking milk

A toddler boy is holding up a bottle with whole milk in it

Everything your little one consumes is vital in their development, and milk has many essential vitamins and minerals for healthy bone development.

Milk also helps to regulate blood pressure and to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re moving over to cow milk, there is a wide variety of milk to choose from, which is great, but it can cause some confusion.

Buying a specific milk type can help with allergies or intolerance, but you must first discover before you become selective.

Many of the plant-based milk options do not match up to dairy’s essential nutrients, and it’s vital to know what milk will be best for your little one.

What is plant-based milk?

Plant-based milk is produced from various plants, nuts, or seeds that include soy, almond, oat, coconut, pea, and rice milk.

Some plant-based milk is fortified with vitamins, while others are sweetened with sugar additives. This makes checking the milk labels essential, as you still want to provide a healthy alternative to dairy.

Why is milk important for babies?

Dairy milk has essential nutrients that support early development.

Vital nutrients in dairy include the following:

  • High-quality protein
  • Calcium: for strong bones
  • Potassium: to maintain healthy blood pressure
  • Vitamin D: supports bone and heart health
  • Vitamin B12: helps to build red blood cells
  • Vitamin A: helps to improve the immune system
  • Phosphorus: supports bone health
  • Vitamin B2: riboflavin which helps to convert food into energy
  • Vitamin B3: niacin which also helps convert food into energy
  • Vitamin D ensures healthy bone development, and many young children have lower levels of vitamin D, which our bodies naturally make from sun exposure.

Young children with a vitamin D deficiency can develop rickets, a condition that softens bones and impedes growth. Dairy is one of the best ways to ensure that your little one gets sufficient vitamin D.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that children under 5 years old should avoid plant-based milk unless a dietary restriction is recommended.

Dairy is recommended for children 12 months and older as it supplies all the essential protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients for healthy growth and development. The best plant-based alternative is soy milk.

Flavored milk should generally be avoided as most contain added sugars. This includes sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, juices, and sports drinks. The best option is to stick to water and pasteurized milk.

Your child will get their fair share of sugar in the right form, and creating early dietary boundaries will make life much easier.

Many parents give their little ones things to eat and drink to keep them happy for the moment, but this casually develops into a habit.

Eventually, your child will kick up a big fuss if they have to eat or drink the normal healthy stuff without the added sugar or flavoring.

Reasons a one-year-old may not drink milk from a sippy cup

Your baby is accustomed to breastfeeding and/or feeding from a bottle, and introducing a sippy cup creates a new challenge for your little one.

A toddler boy is sitting down and drinking milk from his sippy cup

Infants typically reject most unfamiliar things, and introducing new things to your little one should be timed right.

Trying a sippy cup for the first time when your baby is hungry and is expecting either your breast or the bottle is not the best time for this introduction.

Your little one will quickly become frustrated and begin crying and fussing, mainly because they can smell and taste the milk in the sippy cup but cannot use it correctly to feed as usual.

Their bottle represents their security and comfort. It stands to reason that the best time to introduce a sippy cup is about an hour or so after a normal feeding session when your little one is not very hungry.

They may initially play with the cup, so using a non-spill cup is a good idea. Your task is to introduce the sippy cup to your baby when they are relaxed and not eager to feed.

If breastfeeding, you can offer a little breast milk in the sippy cup or formula in the same way. This is a way to familiarize your baby with the cup and practice this new drinking technique.

Tips for getting a one-year-old to drink milk from a sippy cup

You should begin this transition to a sippy cup a few months before your little one turns one. You will still provide the same milk as regular feeds, but you will teach your baby a new way of drinking.

By 12 months old, your little one should be able to drink from a sippy cup, and this is the time to introduce dairy or the recommended milk in line with your baby’s needs. It’s important that your baby identifies the sippy cup as a milk cup and not a water cup.

A toddler girl is sitting up and holding her orange sippy cup

Only after a successful transition should you use the cup for drinks other than milk.

It’s also important to begin weaning your baby off the bottle early. The longer you wait, the more dependent your little one will become on their bottle, and the harder it will become to break the habit.

You can introduce a sippy cup when your baby is 6 months old. In the beginning, most of what you serve in a cup will end up on the floor or on your baby.

But by 12 months old, most babies will have developed the coordination and hand skills needed to hold a cup and drink from it.

Once your little one begins eating solids, their milk consumption will drop slightly, but you will still be offering three or more bottles per day.

Once your little one is familiar with their sippy cup, you can incorporate milk in the sippy cup with a plate of solids. Your baby will eat about six times a day, and you can slowly replace one bottle feeding at a time with a sippy cup feeding.

This could be a slow process for some, but with continued practice, your little one will master using a sippy cup. Having said this, you should never force your little one to drink from a sippy cup or to finish all the food on their plate.

Your little one will eat or drink when hungry or thirsty. Only when your little one is sick should you be concerned about liquid and nourishment intake.

If your little one keeps asking for a bottle, find out what your baby needs or wants and offer that instead. If your baby is thirsty or hungry, use a cup or a plate and praise your little one often.

If it’s comfort, offer hugs, and if your little one is bored, get involved in a fun activity with your bundle of joy.

The last bottle feed to stop is the bedtime bottle, as this is closely tied in with your bedtime routine and your baby’s comfort zone.

You can try a non-spill sippy cup in the lead-up to bedtime and offer a bit more cuddle time, where you read stories and give your little one a lot of hugs and kisses.

Always remember that you have to do all you can to help your little one transition between all the development phases.

  • For example, good dental hygiene should not include drinking milk before bed without washing away any milk residue in the mouth with water.
  • The sugar in milk or juice will stick to your baby’s teeth and not be washed away by saliva during sleep.
  • So if you give your baby milk before bed, rinse out their mouth with a few sips of water, and don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle.

Young children thrive on emulating adults. This begins from a very early age, and as parents, we can promote and encourage our one-year-olds to copy how we drink from cups.

When your little one tries to drink from their sippy cup, offer a lot of praise and brag to others about how big your little one is becoming. This helps reinforce your baby’s confidence, making the transition much easier.

Some babies don’t take to sippy cups and will want a big person’s cup from the get-go. Don’t fight it. Your little one must understand that you have to hold the cup until they can do it independently. You’ll still get some resistance, but this will be short-lived.

Every baby is different, and you will know best how to introduce change, but keep in mind the word transition does not mean immediate.

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Hi! I'm Jennely. My hands and mind can't be still; neither can my three-year-old. So I'm either chasing him or my next project. I like to work smarter, not harder. This is why I write on topics that will help parents solve problems and enjoy precious moments with their little ones.

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