One of my favorite aspects about doing these blog posts is that I am constantly learning.
I recently heard and read some opinions about the downside of sippy cups. A child who completely skips the sippy cup stage is the exception rather than the norm, so this seems like something worth looking into. I set aside some time to pick the brain of Jennifer Katz, who is a well known speech therapist here in the Bay Area.
Speech therapists are expects on the movements of all of the mouth and tongue muscles. My time with Jennifer was very informative. She explained to me that as babies grow, their swallow pattern should change and mature. The way in which an infant swallows involves a tongue thrust that is necessary for sucking and latching. As the babies grow, we would expect that they should be moving away from this pattern. With the more mature swallow, the tongue rises higher in the mouth and can do wave like motions that are needed for dealing with more textured foods. Drinking from a sippy cup prolongs that infant tongue thrust.
It isn’t just about eating. When the tongue doesn't elevate, it will tend to rest forward in the mouth and this can impact speech and language development.
In extreme cases, kids can end up with high narrow palates and lower, more forward jaws. Those kids can in turn end up being mouth breathers with an increase in drooling issues. This is the proverbial slippery slope.
Most of the time this doesn’t become an issue, but if we can avoid the possibility in the first place by offering alternative to the sippy cup, it seems like a good choice.
Jody Vaynshtok, one of my favorite speech therapists here in the Bay Area agrees that she is in the anti-sippy cup camp and encourages families to explore some of the wonderful alternatives. Any cup with a retractable straw or real straw can keep liquids in the cups and out of the messy zone.
Have your child practice drinking from a straw:
There are several pop-up straw cups that don’t leak. Once they learn how to use the straw, go ahead and cut the straws so that they are pretty short.This ensures that the tongue can still elevate.
Some cups come with valved toppers. Good2Grow spill-proof bottle toppers have a good shape. The character tops are pretty cute and might encourage some kids to drink more water. Sports bottles work as well.
Kid Basix Safe Sippy Cup is another good option that gets good marks from the speech therapists
I understand the convenience of the sippy cup. I would even say that if you are in a situation where a spill can’t be tolerated, then occasional use of a standard sippy cup is just fine.
And calm down all of you moms and dads who have kids that have come to rely on sippy cups! We can’t undo the past. Let’s just move forward with a better plan.
sippy cups! We can’t undo the past. Let’s just move forward with a better plan.
Here is an addendum from Superstar pediatric dentist Dr Rothman.
Thanks for the sippy cup note. I am an anti sippy cup person for many reasons. Totally in agreement with my friend, Jennifer. Let me add that it also changes tooth and jaw development and causes tongue thrust swallowing patterns. In order for the maxilla to grow in length the nasal septum pulls it forward. There is no primary growth factor like cartilage growth for the maxilla to grow in width. It widens because the tongue solidly pushes on the lateral palatal shelves and expands the upper arch with bone eventually filling in to maintain stability and prevent relapse. because the tongue loses the proprioception of tongue on roof of mouth and is displaced anteriorly, this becomes becomes the habitual placement of the tongue during all swallowing. The roof of the mouth does not grow laterally and the plastic lip from the sippy cup displaces the upper teeth forward and the lower teeth back oftentimes leaving an open bite that may or may not self correct. Optimum time to stop is before 18 months. You can see the parallel with a pacifier. So many people in healthcare just say if it calms the baby then leave it be but it has the same long term effects on the teeth and roof of mouth. Studies have shown an increase in malocclusions and crossbites in children who remain on the pacifier and sippy cup for prolonged periods of time.
Here is another PS from Mama Sarah who says she loves the following cup for her kids