Sippy Cups and Articulation

A bill that required a dental decay warning label on sippy cups and baby bottles was vetoed by Governor David Paterson yesterday.  The label would have alerted parents that there is a risk of tooth decay from prolonged use of a “vessel with a duckbilled lid, bill-shaped extension or bill-shaped spout”.

In his veto message, Governor Patterson wrote: “Brief warning labels are simply not the best vehicle to convey detailed information about general parental practice and proper use of a product that is not inherently dangerous.”

Sippy cups and prolonged bottle use may cause more than dental issues, they may cause speech delay / articulation delay.  Each time I speak with parents of a new client, I always ask what type of drinking cup their child uses.  Children age 4 or younger often use a sippy cup because it is convenient for the parents (the cup won’t spill liquid) and toddlers and young children love it because the suckling motion used to remove the liquid is soothing and organizing.  

When a child suckles from a sippy cup, bottle, breast or on a pacifier, thumb, etc., the jaw, lips and tongue all move simultaneously.  This movement is repeated over and over when a child drinks from a bill-shaped spout or sucks on a pacifier throughout each day.  This does not allow  the jaw, lips and tongue to work separately, which is what is necessary for clear speech.  

Children with tongue thrusts have often used a sippy cup or the like way past age one, when their usage should have been eliminated.  This of course should not be the case if nutrition is compromised.  When the tongue thrusts forward, it may push against and displace the front teeth resulting in orthodontic issues.

What type of cup should your child use instead?

Teach your child to drink from an open cup, which they should use while seated at the table.  Encourage your child to take sips with only his or her lips on the cup, not the teeth / jaw.

When you are outside, you can try having your child drink from a straw cup (preferably one without a one-way, spill preventing valve).  Although it is very likely he will suckle on the straw (he may place an inch or so of straw between his teeth and pump the liquid into his mouth with help from the jaw) you can encourage him to only place the tip of the straw between his puckered lips and not to use his teeth. 

If you feel that your child already has articulation issues, and you have eliminated the use of sippy cups, etc., it may be best to meet with a speech therapist who can guide you on good speech habits, including therapeutic straw drinking.

I provide private speech therapy in children’s homes in Manhattan /  NYC’s Upper East Side.  You can contact me, Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, at or 646-295-4473.

Read the article from Crain’s.