3 Essential Steps to Be Sure Your Child Is Drinking the Right Stuff
If you’ve got a toddler, chances are that somewhere in your kitchen lurks an entire cabinet or drawer that has been commandeered by sippy cups, with cascades of colorful cups, lids, valves, spouts and straws tumbling about. At least, that was the case at my house when my own children were toddlers.
A generation ago, “sippy cup” wasn’t even in our parents’ toolbox; today it is a mommy “must-have” due to its ease in providing nutrition, comfort and convenience for our multitasking lives. But with childhood obesity on a dramatic rise, and a whole host of sugar sweetened beverages aimed at toddlers, just what exactly should be in that sippy cup?
Here are 3 essential steps to help you ensure your child stays nourished and hydrated, while building healthy drinking habits for life.
Step 1. First, Know the Basics
Sippy cups can be a helpful bridge for infants who are transitioning from the breast or bottle to a cup; their handles, spill proof tops, and shatter proof design act as a sort of “training cup”, letting your child learn how to drink for himself without constant spills or breakage. Afterward, the sippy cup can also help support his or her budding independence, as well as practice with hand-eye coordination. If you use plastic, look for non-BPA packaging options. And remember never to give your child a sippy cup at naptime or bedtime. ; the naturally occurring sugars in milk and juiceor added sugars in other drinks may lead to tooth decay.
Step 2. What’s In That Sippy Cup? And How Much?
For children age 6 months to a year, try breast milk or your choice of Earth’s Best Organic® Infant Formula. Water is also an excellent choice. A good habit to get into is to offer your infant a sippy cup every time you pour a glass of water for yourself throughout the day. A small amount of 100% juice (diluted with water) is also an acceptable option.
For babies 1 to 2 years of age, full fat cow’s milk (not skim, low fat or reduced fat), or a fortified non dairy beverage can be offered- the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends up to 16-20 fl oz. of beverages per day for toddlers (2-4 years of age). And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more then 4-6 fl oz. of 100% fruit or vegetable juice per day for infants and toddlers.Choose water, milk and juice instead of sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened bottled water including vitamin water.that may contribute discretionary calories and subsequently higher body weight compared to those who drink less sugar-sweetened beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages should be consumed for enjoyment only after meeting daily nutrient needs and without exceeding calorie requirements of your child.
As your child moves closer to the family dinner table, a good rule of thumb is to offer reduced or low fat milk or 100% juice at meals and snack times, and water throughout the rest of the day. A healthy toddler needs an average of 1.3 liters of water a day-more in hot weather or during periods of high activity. While some of that water may come through consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to offer your child plenty of drinking water throughout the day – busy toddlers are notorious for ignoring their thirst when having too much fun at playtime; suddenly they become cranky and tired. The other benefit to keeping your toddler well hydrated? It helps with constipation, a common concern with toddlers.
Step 3. When to Start…And When to Stop the Sippy Cup
Children vary in when they may first show interest in using a sippy cup; some children may be eager to drink from it as early as 6 months, while others may wait until their first birthday or longer. See what feels most natural and comfortable for your child. Of course, if your child never shows an interest in a sippy cup, or if you decide not to use one, that’s perfectly fine too; moving directly to a reusable water bottle for hydration, and serving milk and juice in regular (toddler sized) 4-6 fl oz cup at meals and snacks is a healthy alternative.
How long is too long? No doubt about it, sippy cups offer real convenience for families on the go. Frankly, perhaps a little too much convenience-as their ease and minimal mess make them incredibly useful for parents. Both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the AAP recommend transitioning directly from a bottle to a lidless cup, and to do so by 12 months of age to prevent dental caries… sippy cups may tend to linger a bit longer in our own “toolbox”. The bottom line? Health experts agree, as soon as your child is ready to handle a real cup, move to one.
While your child may need a little more time to master drinking like a big boy or girl, between ages 2 and 4 sippy cups should be swapped out completely for regular cups (toddler size, or unbreakable options are fine). Just as you transition from Stage 1 Earth’s Best to Stages 2 and 3 to support your child in growth and development as they explore more complex textures and tastes, so too should you support your child’s independence by being sure they’re drinking the right stuff and at an age-appropriate stage.
2 American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Policy on Early Childhood Caries (ECC): Classifications, Consequences, and Preventive Strategies (Revised). Chicago, IL: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; 2001. Tinanoff N, Kanellis MJ, Vargas CM. Current understanding of the epidemiology mechanisms, and prevention of dental caries in preschool children. Pediatr Dent. 2002;24(6):543–551.