Right Start

Teaching Open Cup Drinking


At Right Start Inc we know and understand that transitioning from the breast or bottle to sippy cup to a big-kid cup is an important, if sometimes tricky, milestone. 

Here’s when you can make the switch to an open cup and how to do it.

Learning to use an open cup is an important life skill for your little one to master. 

It teaches them sipping and swallowing, which helps hone their oral motor skills, aids jaw development and even protects their teeth from cavities.

Why Should My Baby Use an Open Cup Instead of a Sippy Cup?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s best to wean your baby from the bottle by 18 months of age, as it can cause tooth decay or the potential for drinking more fluids than needed.

In fact, skipping sippy cups all together is greatly encouraged in an article on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association blog for 3 reasons:

  • Overusing a hard sippy cup spout can get in the way of development
  • It can impact speech and language development
  • It can change appropriate facial development

When should I introduce an open cup to my baby?

You can begin to introduce your baby to open cups from six months old. 

At six months they should be able to hold their head up and sit upright in a highchair.

Six months is also the recommended age to begin weaning your baby onto solids and open cup drinking compliments this. 

Having sips of water at mealtimes helps them rinse out their mouth after eating and develop feelings of independence.

At six months of age, having a baby drink from an open cup is not about replacing their milk feeds from the breast or bottle, but about practicing a new independent skill. 

Breast milk or infant formula should still be their main source of food and nutrition at this point.

  • Six months of age is an ideal time to start introducing an open cup
  • Open cup drinking can compliment the baby food weaning stage
  • It is not about replacing breast or bottle feeds


Generally, there are two main things to look for when looking for an appropriate open cup for your baby:


The reason for this is because harder rims like those found in stainless steel or glass cups can be hard on baby’s teeth! 

Sometimes babies can go in for a drink too quickly and can bop their teeth on the hard rim, causing damage (and pain!).

If possible, go for one that has a soft rim made of silicone so that plastic is avoided and you have a flexible, soft and durable material to work with.


Keep the cup size small for your baby to wrap their hands around and be able to lift and maneuver it to their mouth with ease! 

Some baby cups are pretty much the size of an adult cup or are made for toddlers. These are yet hard for a baby to manage. 

Think about it this way – if you had to drink out of a bucket of water;  it’s hard to do and near impossible not to spill water all over yourself!

It’s pretty much the same thing for babies when they’re given larger cups! It’s also much easier to be able to access just a small amount of water in the cup at a given time when it’s a smaill cup suitable for their little hands- (less tilting needed).


Handles help little hands grab onto something especially when they are trying to drink from the cup independently. 

Although, it’s not necessary if the cup size is small enough for them. Some cups have angled rims which are nice (like a Doidy cup) which helps with not having to tilt their head back so much to get the water out. 

Others even have weighted bottoms to prevent them from toppling over which can be great. However, this sometimes makes it difficult for the baby to pick up. 

These features are great to experiment with and you may find one type works better for your baby than another.

Tips and ideas

Here are a few more tips and ideas for encouraging practice and mastery of open cup drinking.

  1. Introduce early and often 

Introduce your child to drinking from an open cup as early as six months. Introduce it after every meal. 

Start with a small cup with a somewhat soft or flexible lip to avoid any accidental bumps to your child’s teeth or gums. 

  1. Use milk or a preferred drink/puree 

If your child is not motivated by water, try using a preferred drink to entice them to practice this skill. 

If your child has difficulty with cup control and is frequently spilling water try a thicker substance, such as watered-down puree, smoothies, or yogurt. 

  1. Choose helpful alternative cups 

Open cups are not always the most realistic on-the-go option when you are outside of your home or kitchen. But when choosing a more portable option, avoid traditional hard spouted sippy cups.

  1. Reinforce your child’s attempts 

Be sure to praise your child whenever he/she attempts to practice this skill! Reward your child’s efforts with celebration, praise, or even a fun reward activity! 

This will show your child that their efforts are valuable and will keep them motivated!