Learning to Drink

How to Introduce Straw drinking to baby

There are a number of methods of introducing the concept of straw drinking to your little one.

I’m going to give you a really easy one with step by step instructions for you to follow, but before I do that I want to bring your attention to some key points that you need to be mindful of when choosing the type of straw to use with your little one.

What to look out for when choosing which type of straw to use with your little one:

What to look out for when choosing which type of straw to use with your little one:

  • Choose a straw that is stable but soft. One that will not cause irritation against the gums or in the mouth of your little one.
  • Do not go for very wide straws – they require too much effort to get the liquid up into their mouth.
  • And do not use one that is too long – again this requires extra effort and for little ones whose oral motor skills may not be well developed this just adds to frustration and causes difficulty.
  • Ideally choose a straw that can be shortened as your little one begins to master the craft of straw drinking. This is to ensure correct placement of the straw in the mouth and making sure that it doesn’t go too far back in the mouth.
  • Choose a straw that does not have a weight or a valve in it. These require extra effort and are unsuitable for starting out on the straw drinking journey.
  • Choose a free flowing straw, preferably made from silicone.

Ok, now that you have the type of straw picked out you are ready to begin introducing it to your little one:

  • First and foremost, make sure your little one is seated correctly in a high chair. Good hip and trunk support is SO important. It helps to regulate the breathing and swallowing combination that is required by your little one. It is not well developed yet so we need to give them as much stability up through the hips and trunk as possible.
  • Then make sure that you are using an Open Cup that your little one is familiar with, preferably it’ll be the open cup you are going to use the straw with. This will help them to understand that they are about to get a drink and will make it easier for you to introduce the concept of the straw. ( here is a link to my blog on how to introduce an Open Cup to your little one ).
  • Using the Open Cup your little one is familiar with, fill it up with water or breast or formula milk. Whatever liquid you are choosing to use to introduce straw drinking with.
  • Place the straw in the Open Cup
  • Put your finger over the end of the straw that is sticking out of the cup – this creates a vacuum and holds the water in the straw.
  • Bring the straw to your mouth and close your lips around it and take a drink. Then say ‘yummy’ and lots of smiles etc. Babies learning by copying what they see. And you have to remember that they have never seen this before and won’t automatically
  • know what you are expecting from them. So show them.
  • Now repeat and put the straw in to your little ones mouth. Allow them to close their lips around it.
  • Release your finger from the top of the straw which will allow the water to flow out into their mouth.
  • Take the straw out and lots of praise, happy face and clapping etc to encourage them.
  • Try a second time, if you feel that they are happy to do it again. You can even ask them ‘Will we do that again?’ or ‘Again?’. See how receptive they are to it. And if they show no distress signs or disengagement cues then try a second time.
  • Repeat this for a couple of days to get them familiar with it.
  • Then once you feel they are ready to move on to the next stage do so. Repeat steps 1-5. But this time instead of removing your finger from the end of the straw, leave it there and encourage them to suck out the water.
  • When they do it, give lots of praise etc.
  • Repeat this a number of times so that they are building up their Oral Motor Skills and becoming ready for independent straw drinking.
  • Once you are happy that they are able to get the water out of the straw themselves, then insert the straw into the lid and give the cup to your little one.
  • You can sit opposite them and show them what to do with the spare cup and lid & straw. They will take in everything that you are doing and they will mimic you. Little ones learn through mimetic learning (they copy what they see).
  • It is important to demonstrate first and then place the cup down on to the spot on the table that is designated for the cup
  • Then say ‘Now you go’ or ‘Your turn baba’ …..or however you prefer to talk with your little one.
  • When they try give them lots of gentle praise and encouragement. Try not to reach forward and get involved in holding the cup for them. This may well start a bad habit and allow your little one to become lazy and expecting you to hold the cup all the time. That’s not what we want!

Be patient and have reasonable expectations about results and progress you would like to see. Your little one is doing a huge amount of brain wiring and this takes time. But once they figure it out, just wait for the look on their face! Pure delight at their achievement. And they will love being in control of their own drinking.

This is a huge step in their overall development, not to mention the incredible progress they will be making with their oral motor skills, and these will feed in to the progress of their speech too. Its all so interconnected. That’s why its so important to go at your little ones pace and give as many natural developmental opportunities as possible.

Enjoy the Learning To Drink journey!
Keep us posted of progress 😊

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