The sippy has so many wonderful features… mainly its convenience! It’s spill-proof, easy to carry for your child, can be taken on the go, and is practically indestructible from all the tosses, bumps, and drops it encounters daily. Now when the professionals (typically dentists, speech language pathologists, and pediatricians) are telling you to toss the sippy cup, we are referring to the plastic cups with the tight lip and bill-shaped spout. So what’s the problem?
Sippy cups are not part of the progression in feeding. When you’re ready to move on from breast or bottle drinking, the next step is cup or straw drinking. This helps develop tongue retraction (aka tongue BACK posture) and eventually tongue tip elevation, which helps with speech down the road. The sippy cup does the exact opposite. The sippy is encouraging the tongue to move forward and backward, which is an immature tongue pattern used in suckling! This is something we especially want to avoid in individuals with Down syndrome, as we want to avoid promoting the tongue forward posture. That tongue forward posture impacts later feeding skills, such as drinking from a cup and straw because individuals will use their tongue to rest the cup or straw on, and speech clarity due to inaccurate positioning of the tongue for certain sounds. The tongue forward posture also impacts facial development. With the constant encouragement and use of the suckle and a tongue forward posture… the tongue will begin to rest low and forward in your mouth. This will result in lowering your jaw and then mouth breathing.
So if we are suggesting you step back from the beloved sippy… what does it come down to? Pretty much avoiding a bottle nipple/hard spout that inhibits the movement or rests on the front third of your child’s tongue. We want to avoid those cups because they prevent the movement required to make your child an efficient and effective eater… and eventual speaker!
There are MANY alternatives! Here are some of my personal favorites:
If you have additional questions, contact your current speech and language pathologist, or always feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.