As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One of the risk factors for early childhood tooth decay is frequent and prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to liquids containing sugar—including milk, formula, and fruit juice.
Tooth decay can occur when a baby is put to bed with a bottle. Infants should finish their naptime or bedtime bottle before going to bed. If you are using a pacifier, make sure it is clean. Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey before giving it to a baby.
Children should be encouraged to drink from a cup by their first birthday. There is a large and confusing selection of training cups (sippy cups) on the market. Many of these cups are no more than a “no spill” baby bottle in disguise. Sippy cups include a valve beneath the spout to stop the spills. However, cups with valves do not allow your child to sip. In order to draw liquid through the valve, your child must suck as with a baby bottle. This interferes with your child’s learning to sip.
When shopping for a training cup, avoid those with no-spill valves. A weighted cup with two handles may be easiest to grip and will reduce spills. A small plastic cup will at least keep spills small as your child learns to handle it.
Offer milk and juice only at meal and snack times. Saliva production increases during meals and helps to neutralize the acids produced by the sugar content of milk and juice. If your child is thirsty between meals, it is best to offer water in the cup.
Do not let your child carry the training cup around or keep it in reach while riding in the car or stroller. At-will, frequent sips of sugary liquids encourages tooth decay. Falling while drinking from a cup can injure your child’s mouth.
Training cups should be used TEMPORARILY. Once your child has learned how to sip, the training cup has served its purpose and is no longer needed.