Moving from a bottle to a sippy cup is often seen as a developmental milestone. A step in the journey from helpless little bundle to fully independent child. What most people don’t know is that the sippy cup we all see as pivotal in a baby’s journey to self-feeding freedom, was not invented with the child in mind at all.
Where it all started…
In the late 1980s mechanical engineer Richard Belanger became tired of following his son around clearing up the spills from a clip top cup that thought it could outsmart a toddler. It obviously didn’t take long for little Bryan to discover that if he shook it upside down all the juice would dribble out and soak the floor, an exercise that was regularly practised. Belanger used his work designing hot glue guns to create a nozzle that used air pressure to trap the liquid inside the cup, so the nozzle didn’t leak, even when it was held upside down. Belanger negotiated a licensing deal with Playtex a few years later and the rest is history. All very good for living room carpets but, as it turns out, not so great for the oral development of young children.
The occasional use of a spouted cup will not cause any irreversible and devastating damage to your toddler and may even save the back of the car from a Ribena bath on a long journey. However, it is not uncommon for children to drink solely from this style of cup all day, every time they need a drink. While this is convenient it may not allow them to develop at the rate they may do otherwise.
Here comes the science
Babies principally uses an ‘anterior-posterior’ tongue movement to move soft solids and liquids to the back of the mouth for swallowing until they are around 12 months old. This is called the infant suckle-swallow pattern. After this age they start to develop a more mature swallow pattern using a wave like motion of the tongue created by bringing the tongue tip to meet the bumpy ridge behind the teeth, the ‘alveolar ridge’, enabling the baby to swallow a wider range of food textures. This is a major development that drinking exclusively from a hard-spouted cup can delay as the spout sits across the front of the tongue meaning it is impossible for the tongue tip to be elevated. This forces the child to continue using the immature suckle-swallow pattern beyond the developmental timeframe of 6-12 months.
When the tongue cannot elevate it finds a natural resting place further forward in the mouth, often causing a delay in the advancement of a child’s speech and language skills which go hand in hand with the development of the swallowing pattern.
Babycup to the rescue
Babycup First Cup has been designed with all of this in mind, so we have kept it simple. As the cup is completely open there is no spout or no-spill valve causing the unnatural tongue position. It encourages the advancement of swallow pattern, promotes fine motor skills and has no damaging effect on emerging tiny teeth.
The argument from a 1980s parent (such as my own mother) may be that ‘you all had a sippy cup and you were fine’ but armed with this understanding of the developmental process and easily avoidable stumbling blocks it seems silly to ignore it. Yes, the occasional use of a hard-spouted cup will save a sleep deprived parent from having to sacrifice the nearest tea towel to mop up a spill but in the long run open cups such a Babycup will help your little one to not only feed themselves earlier and more efficiently but also enable them to make their way to one of the best and most exciting milestones: speech!