As a parent, the variety of baby products available can be overwhelming. Furthermore, a lot of equipment can only be used at certain developmental stages. As a result, even the process of choosing what your baby should drink from can be daunting. Luckily, this guide will tell you what's what and help you pick the most suitable drinking vessel for your little one. First, let's find out about the main types of baby cups:
Baby bottles are used when the baby is very young. The type of bottle you get may be determined by whether you breastfeed or not. If you decide to breastfeed you might not need a bottle at all. Bottles are generally used for the first six months, and exclusive breast-feeding is recommended for the same length of time. However, you might want to breastfeed but also have a supply of breast milk to store for later. In this instance, you'll purchase a breast pump and use it to fill your baby bottle. The main reason for doing this is for the convenience of the mother: a lot of mothers feel strongly about feeding their baby breast milk but dislike the inconvenience and potential embarrassment of doing it in public, so they use the pumping method. A tip: make sure that the brand of the breast pump and the baby bottle you buy are the same or are compatible.
The main factors to consider when choosing a baby bottle, whether you use formula, pump breast milk, or both, is the material used, shape, and nipple size:
Material: Baby bottles are usually glass or plastic. It's more common to see people using plastic ones. Glass ones are sturdy, but an obvious disadvantage is the fact that it shatters when dropped. Plastic ones are pretty much invincible, and most mainstream brands ensure the plastic is BPA free (BPA is an industrial chemical sometimes used in the manufacture of plastics that is known to have potentially harmful side effects to babies and young children).
The recent concerns about the materials used in plastic baby bottles has led to a new contender in the baby bottle market: the stainless steel bottle. It's a smart design because even though the body is steel, the nipple is still made of soft plastic. It has the sturdiness of a glass bottle, is manufactured using natural materials, and doesn't break. Plus, stainless steel bottles have a natural insulating quality. Thermal bottles are used to store warm milk, which can have a very soothing effect on the baby. There are also bottle heaters available. If thinking about a thermal bottle, a stainless steel one will keep the fluid warm the longest.
Shape: A baby bottle is either standard or bent. Standard ones have a straight body; bent ones have a curved body. Although standard ones are still the most common option, the curved design of a bent bottle is thought to reduce the swallowing of air that occurs when a baby feeds. The result of this is that the baby is less gassy and (presumably) fussy. There are also baby bottles available that have disposable liners: these are thought to have similar advantages to bent bottles, although the refills can be quite expensive.
Nipple size: Babies are all unique, and have different sucking styles. Nipple shapes and sizes that complement your baby's sucking style are the recommended option. Bottle buying is quite often a process of trial and elimination because of this. If the nipple size is too small, your baby will have to exert a lot of effort in order to suck even just a little milk; if too big, the baby will splutter and milk could go everywhere!
Sippy cups are a popular choice for mothers who want to proceed to the next level after using baby bottles for six months. Note: some babies might not transition to a sippy cup until their first birthday: again, every baby is different, so don't worry.
Sippy cups are a plastic cup with a screw-on or snap-on lid and what's known as a 'spout'. You see them in supermarkets: they usually have a kid's design like Peppa Pig or Dora on them. It is thought that sippy cups are the stage between bottles and a straw cup, but some mothers go straight from a bottle to a straw. Sippy cups allow for your child to get used to the design of a straw cup, but isn't quite ready to hold one without spilling it. The lid prevents spillage, so it can be a good method to use before transitioning to a straw cup.
Some experts believe that sippy cups can be detrimental to motor co-ordination: they claim that a sippy cup doesn't train the child to position their tongue in the correct way. This is a highly debatable argument, as many mothers use sippy cups and their kids turn out just fine.
Sippy cups are introduced around the six month mark, depending on the individual developmental progress of a child. They can be used until your child is ready to transition to a straw cup. It is generally recommended that they learn how to use a straw cup as soon as possible. It isn't unheard of for a kid as old as nine to still use a sippy cup, but it's not very good parenting to do this because it hinders the child's development: it's similar to the awkwardness of seeing a nine-year-old still sucking their thumb. In order to ensure the best for your child, firmness when it comes to controlling their drinking habits is probably the best route.
A baby can technically use a straw cup from six months upwards, but it depends on how adventurous and patient the parents are. At six months, handing a baby a straw cup can be very messy, but it's not unsafe; particularly if you squeeze the straw and hold the cup in order to control their fluid intake. There are also straw cups that are essentially sippy cups that have a straw instead of a spout: they have the same lid to reduce spillage, so they're probably the best option for all you adventurous parents out there! As with all things baby-related, a lot of parenting is based on learning and experience. Try giving your kid a straw cup and if it doesn't work out go back to the drawing-board temporarily.
Innovative baby bottle manufacturers have started to release cups that can change according to your child's development. It starts off as one kind of vessel, and then you add extra components onto the same bottle/cup in order to cater for the different transitional stages. If you're a parent who likes extra convenience whenever available this might just be the cup for you! Popular adjustable cup brands include 'Pura Kiki', 'Thinkbaby', and 'Lifefactory'.
Trending on the market is the UK made 'doidy' cup. This unusual cup is actually designed in order to get your baby drinking from a cup from the very beginning. It is a plastic, slanted cup with no lid and two handles. The mouth action the baby uses when drinking from it is the same as in breast feeding, so they learn how to use it pretty quickly. If you decide to opt for a doidy cup, you don't need to bother with sippy or straw ones: you can skip right to a regular cup once your baby can use the doidy confidently. It's recommended to transition to a regular cup at around age three or four. In the meantime, your baby will love the independence they get from using a doidy cup.
It's important to get enough fluid for anyone, but babies and young children need it especially. First, they're entirely dependent on their primary care-giver, so you should make their fluid intake a top priority: they can't go to the faucet or water filter themselves! Second, and most important, babies six months and younger only need their formula/breast milk and possibly water: no other fluids are necessary during this time. After six months, you can introduce other fluids if you desire, but water remains the best fluid for maintaining fluid balance and preventing dehydration. Try to instill the value of drinking water regularly into your child as they grow in order to prevent them from over-indulging on sugary drinks.
As a parent, you want what's best for your child. The tips above aim to reassure you about what stage your baby is at and whether they're ready to transition to the next stage. Parents are only human, so don't worry if you have some messy experiences with your baby: this only adds to the fun of parenting! Overall, this guide informs you about what cup to choose, and when. Good luck!
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