Since babies are born with a strong sucking reflex, it won’t take them long to learn how to use a straw. In addition, it’s ideal to begin introducing a straw between 6-9 months of age. While you may not have thought of it, it’s important to learn how to teach a baby to use a straw. You want to give it some time, but encouraging your little one along the way will help with the process.
Benefits of Babies Using Straws
Unlike a sippy cup, a cup with a straw aids in your baby’s oral development skills. In fact, a large number of speech pathologists recommend skipping right over sippy cups and going straight to using a straw. Some children may develop a lisp if they are only drinking out of sippy cups.
A bottle or sippy cup forces your tongue to stay low in your mouth, and if your toddler is only drinking from one of these, it never will allow their tongue to rise as it should. Furthermore, your brain begins to think this is the way your tongue should always lay.
On the other hand, a straw forces your tongue to go towards the back of your mouth as you drink. That’s not to say your child only has to drink from a straw. An open cup helps with development as well. While babies might spill it, to begin with, you’d be surprised how quickly they will catch on.
Signs a Baby is Ready to Drink From a Straw
There are a few milestones your baby should hit before they are ready to drink from a straw. For starters, your baby should be able to sit up on their own and have strong neck control. A wobbly baby with a straw isn’t the best combination. Your baby could hurt themselves if they drink from a straw but don’t have the muscle strength to keep their head up.
In addition, it’s always a good sign if your child has been feeding themselves for some time. This way, they have enough coordination to bring something to their mouth. Your baby will get very unhappy if they keep missing their mouth and instead are poking themselves in the face with a straw.
Best Methods to Teach a Baby to Use a Straw
Squeeze Some Into Their Mouth
A straw is a foreign item to your baby. They may even look at it a bit puzzled when it’s first introduced. The simplest way to introduce a straw to your baby is to squeeze some of the contents into their mouth. This way, they know they can drink from it. Otherwise, you might end up getting one of those cute, puzzled-looking faces. Make sure to put your finger on one end, so the liquid doesn’t come right out.
If the liquid trick isn’t working, you can even try to put purees in the straw. The idea is to get them to understand that when they suck from a straw, something comes out. You can even poke a hole at the top of your puree container and stick the straw right in their food. While you won’t be serving them dinner through a straw, it’s an effective way to teach a baby to use a straw.
Tip the Cup Towards Your Baby’s Mouth
If your baby is having a hard time putting the straw in their mouth, try tipping both the cup and straw towards their mouth. It will likely take some time for your baby to understand that not only do they have to suck from the straw, but they also have to tip the cup slightly to ensure they are getting something to drink.
In addition, if you are struggling with how to offer the straw to your baby, think about the way you drink from one. While it may seem silly, thinking through how you use a straw will help teach your baby to use one.
Try a Variety of Cups
It always amazed me how my children could have favorites when it came to cups. They would drink from one straw cup but not another. Like finding the perfect bottle, you may need to shop around until you find a straw cup your child is comfortable with.
Since the cost of multiple cups can add up, you may want to start using straws in an open cup until they fully grasp the concept. Then once they master drinking from a straw, you can buy a cup with a straw. The benefit of a straw cup is they typically are leak-proof, so you don’t have to worry about your little one spilling their drink everywhere they go.
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Playtime With Straws
If your baby still doesn’t want to drink from a straw, place several in their play area so they can become familiar with the new object. Sometimes babies learn best through play. Give your little one a few straws while playing, and observe what they do with them.
In addition, you can play games with the straws where you blow light objects, like cotton balls, around the room. It’s a great way to make your baby comfortable with straws to where they want to engage with them, even if it isn’t by drinking from one.
My final piece of advice on getting your baby to use a straw is to keep practicing. It can be discouraging if your little one is having a hard time, but giving up on the process won’t help things in the long run. The more opportunities you allow your baby to have a straw, the quicker they will pick up the skill. Babies can be finicky little beings, and what was hard one day is second nature the next.
If you haven’t already, make sure you offer the straw cup when they are in the highchair. This way, they can’t get distracted and crawl away to something more interesting. You also don’t want them running around with a straw pointed right at their face.
Transitioning From a Bottle to a Straw Cup
Babies often have a hard time transitioning off of a bottle. In fact, some babies may refuse to eat if it isn’t from a bottle. So, how do you go from a bottle to a straw cup? It’s important not to rush the process. It’s a good idea to start by introducing a straw cup once a day and work up from there. If your baby has been using a bottle for their entire first year, they likely won’t be quick to let some foreign cup replace it.
Since it’s ideal to be off the bottle by the time your baby is one, it’s a good idea to start introducing a straw cup between 6-9 months of age. This way, they have plenty of time to learn the art of drinking from a straw before it’s time to say sayonara to their bottle.
What to Put in a Straw Cup
My kids had no issues drinking breastmilk from a straw cup. In addition, you can offer formula or water to your baby in a cup. Your little one can start drinking water when they reach 6 months. Give small amounts of water at a time. Since babies don’t need water for hydration yet, you don’t need to give them a bottle full of water.
In addition, it’s best to hold off on offering juice to little ones. While technically they can have juice at 6 months of age, it’s recommended to wait a while longer. Juice adds unnecessary calories to a baby’s diet and does not have the nutrients that breastmilk and formula provide.
Cleaning Your Straw Cups
As an important note, it’s essential to thoroughly clean out your cup, which includes taking each piece apart. Unfortunately, straws are more prone to get a build-up of mildew if they don’t get cleaned and then properly dried. While it’s ideal to clean them out every day, you can get away with cleaning them every other day.
If water sits in the straw, you’ll notice some black spots starting to form. Unless it’s beyond repair, please don’t throw it away yet. Make sure you have effective dish soap and consider adding some vinegar if it does not budge.
I also recommend having a set of straw brushes to make sure you get a thorough cleaning. They are the perfect size to ensure you clean every nook and cranny of your straw.
FAQs – Teaching a Baby to Use a Straw
At what age should a baby know how to use a straw?
It’s a good idea to start introducing using a straw to your baby when they turn 6 months of age. As with any baby milestone, there is no exact age when a baby should use a straw. However, most babies can use a straw by the time they turn 9 months.
Another reason why it’s good to start early is that there is a greater chance they will have it mastered by the time they should be ditching the bottle. It will help make the transition much smoother.
As a gentle reminder, babies develop differently, and your 9-month-old may not be able to drink from a straw. With a little practice, they will be drinking from a straw in no time.
What’s the best straw cup to get for babies?
Everyone has their favorite straw cup, but I’m going to share mine with you. I really like the Munchkin Any Angle Cup. The straw is weighted and will move dependant on the angle your child is holding it. My kids would get so frustrated that they couldn’t get those last drops in their cups. The Munchkin Cup prevents that issue from occurring, and I find that amazing.
In addition, you can add a straw to an open cup. Be sure the straw isn’t too tall for the cup; otherwise, your child will have a hard time drinking from it and likely get frustrated.
Does my baby need to learn how to drink from a straw?
With all the milestones you’ve heard babies should hit, you might wonder if your baby has to learn how to drink from a straw. Kids will eventually pick it up. While this is true, it’s good to start the habit of drinking from a straw early. It will help with your child’s speech development and prevent the chance of them being attached to the bottle longer than they should.
When can a baby drink from an open cup?
Believe it or not, you can introduce an open cup while introducing one with a straw; however, you don’t want to confuse them with the two different methods. While a 6-month-old doesn’t have the steadiest hands and will have some spills, there is no problem introducing an open cup at a young age. You likely don’t want to put any liquid gold in there, but putting an ounce or two of water will encourage them to take sips.
Since an open cup has no outer extremities, like a straw, you won’t have to worry about them injuring themself. While there will be plenty of spills, that’s much better than an injury to your little one. You also want to get them used to the open cup because they will use them for the rest of their lives. Plus, cups are much cheaper than stocking your kitchen with bottles, sippy cups, and other fancy drink holders.
Now that you know how to teach a baby to use a straw, you can slowly wean them off their bottle or sippy cup. While it’s always hard to get out of certain baby stages, using a straw will help develop their oral skills to ensure they are on the right track.
It’s important to start slow and not rush the process. Otherwise, your baby may push back completely and be totally uninterested in drinking from a straw. As with most things in life, patience will make the process much easier.