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How to Teach a Baby to Drink from a Straw Safely

toddler drinking from a straw




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

Expert reviewed by Dahlia Rimmon, MS, RDN.

Introducing real food to your baby is an exciting journey filled with laughable messes, cute puree pictures, and precious firsts. One of these major firsts when starting solids is teaching your baby how to drink from a straw.

To provide you with valuable and expert insights, we consulted Dahlia Rimmon, MS, RDN, an experienced Pediatric Registered Dietitian, who also happens to be on the New Modern Mom team helping provide you with valuable resources. With her extensive knowledge as a baby and toddler dietitian, we'll explore how to safely embark on this exciting adventure and teach your baby to drink from a straw. With Dahlia's guidance, you can navigate this milestone with ease and confidence. 

teaching a baby to drink from a straw

Why Straw Drinking is Important

Dahlia explains, “Teaching your baby to drink from a straw cup is similar to teaching them any other life skill – it takes time and practice.” You can introduce a straw cup when your baby begins eating solid food, typically around 6 months old.

She also recommends transitioning away from the bottle around 12-14 months and offering breast milk, whole cow’s milk, or a fortified plant-based alternative in a straw or open cup. According to Dahlia, prolonged bottle use can interfere with dental health, while straw cups are beneficial for your baby’s oral motor development, in both speech and feeding. Dahlia explains, “Drinking from a cup teaches them to seal their lips around a straw, enhances coordination, and strengthens their sucking and swallow reflexes.”

What are the Benefits?

  • Oral Motor Development: Just as crawling helps babies develop the muscles needed for walking, drinking from a straw utilizes and strengthens the muscles involved in eating and speaking, which are crucial for fostering speech production and language development.
  • Independence: It will give your baby a sense of independence that can be a game changer during meal times. You'll thank yourself later for this.
benefits of straw drinking

When Should Your Baby Start Drinking from a Straw?

A good indicator is when your baby exhibits signs of interest like watching you drink or starts to reach for your cups. Dahlia explains that while this is a critical skill, it's important to, “watch for signs of readiness rather than sticking to a strict timeline.”

Is it Safe?

The question of safety is often a top concern for parents. Dahlia advises that “it's important to watch your children during all meals and snacks.” This may seem obvious, but that means not running to the other room while your baby is eating. Practicing safety during meals is important because it reduces the risk of choking.

What Products Do I Need?

Look for baby-friendly cups that are easy for little hands to hold, like the ezpz tiny cup. It also may be helpful to purchase cups with handles so that babies can easily hold onto them while drinking.

Types of Straws

There are several types of straws available on the market. It's important to choose a straw that is safe, easy for your baby to use, and age-appropriate.

  • Plastic: Always opt for BPA-free plastic.
  • Silicone: These are flexible and soft, making them a great option for babies. They are also resistant to high temperatures and easy to clean.
  • Stainless steel: These are durable and eco-friendly but may not be suitable for younger babies as they can be hard on their gums. 
  • Soft disposable: These are convenient and hygienic but not very environmentally friendly. They can also get squished easily and affect the suction, making it harder for your baby to drink.

Before introducing any product, always check with your pediatrician for their recommendations and keep safety as a top priority.

types of straws for babies

Straw Cups

Here are three straw cups that come highly recommended by both pediatricians and parents:


When it comes to cleaning, it's important to thoroughly wash the cups after each use. This is especially crucial for infants and toddlers who are more susceptible to bacteria and other germs. Use a straw brush with warm soapy water or run them through the dishwasher on the top rack. Always be sure to read manufacturer instructions thoroughly.

How to Teach Your Baby to Drink from a Straw

Preparing for the Transition

“While some babies catch on quickly, many babies need a little extra guidance,” advises Dahlia. To ensure a successful transition, Dahlia suggests using cups with a softer body that allow water to shoot up when gently squeezed. “When babies bring the straw to their mouth, a slight squeeze provides that water ‘aha' moment,” she explains.

During the learning phase, Dahlia recommends soft plastic cups like Mr. Honey Bear & Take n Toss, in addition to stainless steel or silicone cups. It's okay if your baby doesn't get it right the first time. If you feel your child needs additional guidance, Dahlia advises reaching out to a SLP/feeding therapist for extra support.

Making Introductions

To begin this journey, let your baby explore the straw and become familiar with it. Once they're comfortable, place the straw in a cup with a small amount of liquid at the bottom. You may need to demonstrate the right way to use a straw. This might feel a little silly, but children often learn by mimicking.

Go through the steps slowly, and a bit over the top. Start by adjusting the straw angle, putting your lips to the tip of the straw and taking a tiny sip of the liquid, using exaggerated sucking sounds to emphasize your point.

Gradual Progression and Encouragement

It may take some time for your baby to master this important developmental milestone. It's perfectly normal for them to progress at their own pace. Be sure to celebrate and acknowledge even the smallest progress your baby makes. Praise and encouragement play a vital role in motivating them to keep trying. With patience and unwavering support from you, your baby will be able to safely drink from a straw in no time.

Is My Baby Taking Too Long to Learn?

Don't worry if you find this to be a lengthy transition and your little one is taking longer than expected. This is a new and complex skill, each child is unique and learns at their own pace. It's important not to rush the learning process or put unnecessary pressure on your baby. Dahlia encourages, “It definitely takes time and practice! There will be tons of spilling and some spitting too.” If your baby shows resistance, take a break and try again on a different day or with a different cup. They'll get the hang of it when they're ready.

Introducing a Straw Cup

Once your baby has mastered drinking from a straw, it's time to introduce a straw cup. Start by choosing a spill-proof or leak-proof straw cup with handles that are easy for your child to hold onto. The handles will make it easier for them to grip the cup while they're still learning.

Prolonged bottle use can interfere with dental health, while straw cups are beneficial for your baby’s oral motor development, in both speech and feeding. Dahlia recommends teaching babies to use a straw cup early and weaning from the bottle around the first birthday will set them up for healthy dental hygiene and drinking habits. It also reduces the risks of tooth decay.

To transition away from the bottle, offer breastmilk, whole cow’s milk, or a fortified plant-based alternative in a straw or open cup when your baby reaches 12-14 months of age. This will support their oral development and encourage healthy drinking habits.

Sippy Cup vs Straw Cup

This can be a confusing decision for parents. We all remember the sippy cup we had as a child. But nowadays the guidance is different with research showing straw cups better promote oral motor skill development.

According to Dahlia, “A sippy cup has a hard spout which can interfere with oral motor and speech development. I recommend avoiding them altogether. There are tons of straw cups on the market that are great for travel and that are leaf-proof. I recommend introducing both an open and straw cup at 6 months, both of which reinforce positive oral motor, speech, and feeding progress.” Most babies are adaptable and will quickly move on to new skills.

For more tips on this exciting stage in your baby’s development and this important milestone, I interviewed a pediatrician to answer all your questions on introducing solids. And if you haven’t chosen a high chair yet (I delayed making this purchase as long as possible with Caden because I didn’t want more baby things in our house), I highly recommend the Lalo.

how to teach baby to drink from a straw

Feature image by redstallion from Getty Images


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