Speech Therapists: Say ‘Sayonara’ to the Sippy Cup!
If you ask any parent of young kids whether they’re game for a product that is affordable, reduces spills and messes, and is super convenient, of course you’re going to hear: Yes, Please! Unfortunately, convenience for parents isn’t always what’s best for children. Case-in-point: The sippy cup. Speech therapists who study feeding and swallowing development and speech-language development will tell you: You really should ditch the sippy.
It’s really made more for parents than for kids. Someone got tired of their toddler spilling all Tang on the carpet and the rest is history. Sippy cups are marketed to parents as a necessity. But our Fort Myers speech therapists will beg to differ.
Some things to consider:
- Overuse of the hard sippy cup spout impedes swallowing development. During the baby’s first year, he or she will primarily use a front-to-back tongue movement to pass liquids and soft solids to the back of their mouth so they can swallow them. Speech therapists call this pattern suckle-swallow. But by the time they get to be about 12 months, their swallow pattern will mature. The tip of the tongue will rise to the bumpy, gum line ridge (where you make the /d/ sound) and begin using wave-like motions. This is what allows them to swallow a greater variety of textured foods. If your child is drinking solely from a sippy cup or bottle, this development milestone can be delayed.
- “Paci-mouth.” Yes, this refers to the damage that can be caused by overuse of a pacifier, but something similar can occur with sippy cups. If the tongue isn’t able to go up during swallowing, it will generally come to rest in a forward position in the mouth. This can potentially impede speech-language development. If your child only uses a sippy cup very occasionally, this likely won’t be a problem. But for lots of kids, sippy cups are constant companions. Speech-language skills can be stunted for kids who don’t get past that suckle-swallow pattern by the time they’re 1.
- Facial development delays. There is a muscle in the face called the genioglossus. Heavy use of a sippy cup can impede its development, which can lead to mouth-breathing. Mouth-breathing is associated with slowed facial development.
Speech Therapists Recommend Sippy Cup Alternatives
We know it isn’t easy to give up something as convenient as the sippy cup. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of options for spill-proof cups.
Look for drink containers that have soft, leak-free straws. When a child gets to the point that they can easily drink from a straw, consider chopping the straw so it just barely reaches the tongue tip when the mouth is closed around it. (This allows the tongue to elevate.)
If possible, try practicing more with a regular cup. We recognize it requires more supervision, but it’s better for your child’s development in the long-run. It’s a skill that most kids have learned by the time they’re 18-months-old (even if it’s still messy).
Note: Some kiddos with special needs may need a sippy cup that is valved in order to swallow safely. If your child is receiving speech-language or feeding treatment, it’s a good idea to talk to your speech therapist and/or doctor first before deciding on cup options.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Sippy Cups: 3 Reasons to Skip Them and What to Offer Instead, Feb. 27, 2017, By Melanie Potock, ASHA
More Blog Entries:
Speech Pathologists Advise: Ditch The Sippy Cup, June 3, 2018, Fort Myers Speech Therapists Blog