Did you know that toddlers drinking from a sippy cup could not only have a negative impact their speech development, but could also cause potential feeding problems? As infants (0-12 months), children use an immature feeding pattern (called a suck-swallow) to move foods and liquids from the front to the back of the oral cavity. After about 12 months of age, typically-developing children should begin to develop a more mature feeding pattern during which the movement of the tongue changes to include elevation. When a child continues to use a bottle nipple or hard-spouted sippy cup, they are prevented from elevating their tongue, which in turn prevents them from developing a more-mature feeding pattern. This has potential to cause children to have trouble chewing and swallowing a variety of textures as they get older. It can also lead to difficulty with speech and language development. Specifically, production of several speech sounds (i.e. /t/, /d/, /l/, etc.) require tongue tip elevation to the alveolar ridge. Lack of early practice elevating the tongue during feeding and drinking may lead to a child having difficulty with articulation. Additionally, difficulty with lingual elevation could lead to an “open mouth” posture with mouth breathing.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to forgo a sippy cup! Try having your child drink from a cup with a pop-up straw attachment. Typically-developing children should be able to drink from a straw at or around 9 months of age. By around 18 months, children should at least be attempting to drink from an open cup with mom or dad’s help.