Could Sippy Cups Hurt Your Child’s Speech Development?

sippy cup speech developmentIn 1988, Richard Belanger decided he was tired of cleaning up spills, according to The New York Times. Belanger – a father and mechanical engineer – decided to find a way to stop toddlers from making messes when they dropped, tilted or toppled their cups. His solution, the sippy cup, has become a staple in many households with small children (and parents who want to minimize the amount of time they spend mopping up puddles of juice).

However, although sippy cups are convenient for adults, they can potentially cause issues for kids when it comes to speech and language development. Sippy cups encourage children to continue suckling like they would when breast/bottle feeding, Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, wrote in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Leader Blog.

“Sippy cups limit the child’s ability to develop a more mature swallowing pattern, especially with continued use after the first year,” Potock writes. “The spout blocks the tongue tip from rising up to the alveolar ridge just above the front teeth and forces the child to continue to push his tongue forward and back as he sucks on the spout to extract the juice.”

In addition to causing potential issues with feeding and swallowing, the improper tongue placement promoted by sippy cups can also lead to speech issues like lisps and difficulty with articulation, according to the WebMD article “So Long Sippy Cups, Hello Straws.” Thumb sucking and pacifier use can cause the same problems.

It’s still ok to use sippy cups temporarily to help kids transition from breast or bottle feeding to using cups, Joslin Zeplin, a speech pathologist in New York City, told WebMD. However, it’s important not to rely on sippy cups for more than about a month.

Instead of using sippy cups, Potock recommends transitioning children to either an open cup held by an adult or a straw cup so that they can develop mature swallowing abilities. There are straw cups with leak free designs available, so you can still avoid spills while reducing your child’s risk of issues with speech development and feeding. Typically, kids should know how to drink from straw cups by the age of 9 months and should have the ability to drink independently (if messily) from an open cup by 18 months.

If you have any questions about what’s best for your child’s speech and language development, our pediatric speech therapists can help. We offer the highest level of individualized pediatric speech, language, swallowing, and social communication services. Don’t hesitate to contact us today by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing

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