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Good cup but beware of the hype
on 14 November 2009
A friend bought my baby one of these cups for his first birthday and gave me all the gumph that comes with it - the articles and so on recommending it. Whilst I think the design is OK and I use it occasionally there are several things that concern me about the hype surrounding its use. In terms of functionality, it certainly makes drinking from an open cup slightly easier than a standard beaker with handles, although I do think the handles are not ergonomic enough and the design could be improved here.
Supposedly, health visitors recommend the use of this cup from 3 months onwards, even if a baby is breastfed. The reasons cited for the use of this cup extend from preventing bottle/spouty cup caries (tooth decay), to preventing speech impediments. The makers of this cup and health visitors would have us believe that feeding your child from a bottle or spouty cup after 6 months of age will lead to anything from tooth decay, malnutrition and speech impairment! However, if you read the research carefully, there is actually very little evidence to support these claims. I am a dentist and have a vested interest in my patients' oral health and have studied the articles carefully.
The evidence that bottle feeding and spouty cups can cause tooth decay is certainly clear - feeding a baby or child any sugary drinks such as squash or fruit juice through a bottle or spouty cup of any kind can and will cause tooth decay, sometimes quite severe necessitating removal of the baby teeth under general anaesthetic in severe cases. Formula feeds given to a baby in a bottle, whilst allowing the baby to suck for prolonged periods, can also, to some extent, cause tooth decay, although to a lesser extent as milk/formula are less 'cariogenic' than sugary drinks. (Cariogenic = causes tooth decay.) However, feeding your child milk in a bottle at feedtimes will not in itself cause extensive tooth decay, It's also unlikely you'll be able to feed a baby with a doidy cup successfully. Sucking is a natural reflex and provides babies with a great deal of comfort. Sucking in babies has been proven to produce 'happy hormones' that help create a relaxed, happy baby. Denying a baby this is just cruel!
The evidence to support the speech impairments from prolonged bottle feeding or spouty cup use is only anecodotal, which in the medical and dental world is worthless. Orthodontic teats are available if you are concerned (although, surprisingly the makers of this cup don't cite orthodontic problems as a reason not to prolong bottle feeding). 2 out of 3 of my children have drunk their morning and evening milk from a bottle until the age of 3 and both were early talkers and extremely articulate. However, this too is only anecdotal! All I'm saying is be cautious of this warning. You need not be concerned that your child will be unable to talk properly if you allow them to drink from a spouty cup or bottle! Even serious evangelists of this idea admit that speech improves once the bottle is stopped (where they say speech has been affected.)
Finally, the makers of this cup insinuate that prolonged feeding with a bottle or spouty cup can lead to malnutrition. However, if you read on, the cause of this malnutrition is from feeding babies/young children milky, sweetened tea. The tannins in tea prevent the absorption of iron leading to malnutrition (not to mention decay from adding sugar). So provided you are only giving your child water or milk in a bottle/spouty cup, then they shouldn't suffer any malnutrition if they are eating a varied and healthy diet.
All that aside, the design of this cup is good. Expect some mess from younger babies who will still be tempted to slosh and jiggle the cup. Being able to see the contents definitely helps them to sip and the tilted design means they don't have to tip it so far to get to the contents. I wish they'd improve the handles slightly and it seems quite cheaply made but other than that a great first cup.