Healthy sipping? So long, suckers!

According to Public Health England1, 27% of five year olds have tooth decay and removal of teeth is one of the primary reasons for children to be hospitalised. In addition to this, NHS figures show around one in three British children have crooked teeth and need orthodontic treatment. 

But, the good news is, dental decay is preventable and leading experts believe the level of orthodontic work could be reduced too.

We are seeing more and more awareness about eating and drinking styles and the effect they have on us. Crucially, word is spreading that it’s not just ‘what’ but also ‘how’ that counts.

When it comes to ‘what’, dietary sugar is an important risk factor for dental caries and thankfully it’s now getting a lot of attention. When we look at ‘how’, we can see in many children we’re raising a nation of ‘suckers’. Children suck food from spouted pouches and drinks from spouted cups. This can be happening several times a day, for weeks, for months, for years, for meals and in between meals, in the buggy, in the car, in the shopping trolley. With a scary range of downsides, growing numbers of healthcare professionals say this ‘sucking’ style of eating and drinking is implicated in a long list of avoidable health problems including enamel erosion and crooked teeth.

If it’s so long suckers, what’s the answer? Thankfully there’s a really simple and effective step towards changing much of this by introducing an appropriately-sized mini open baby cup from as early an age as possible. It’s a small change and it can make a big difference.  Open cups, that are the right size for the child, promote sipping, support healthy teeth and encourage fine motor skills. Used at every highchair mealtime, little ones are often quick to master the art.

Brisbane-based Dental Surgeon, Dr John Flutter BDS, explains the size of cup makes all the difference. “It is clearly very important that the child has the correct size of cup.  Their mouths are very small and the cup needs to be correspondingly small. 

It is important that the drink is funnelled into the mouth and does not spill out over the cheeks.” Dr Flutter recommends a British brand called Babycup and praises the specialist firm, created by Sara Keel, a mum of three who wanted the healthiest option for her children. As well as being made of non-toxic materials, BPA-free and smooth-edged and safe, Babycup is the right size for little mouths and little hands and children love it.

Keel uses the analogy of a balance bike when reassuring parents how capable little ones are of becoming super sippers. “If you’ve seen a child learn to ride a bike using a balance bike, chances are they didn’t need stabilisers when they grew bigger and moved on to the fully fledged version. It’s the same with a cup. Use the right sized cup from the start and children don’t need stabilisers when they move on.”

Trained Norland nanny, Libby Gordon, agrees and sees this with her charges at Westwood Montessori Pre-School in Saffron Walden, Essex, where she has managed the baby room for the past five years. “We were lid-free from around age 2years+ but now thanks to Babycup we are totally lid free. We make sure the children are wearing plastic bibs but they are great and in our room where the age range is 3 months to 2 1/2  years we are now a completely “lid free” room!!”

Choosing a cup for a weaning baby or young child is a small piece of the health jigsaw, but choose smart and it has the power to do big things.


Words: Sara Keel