Baby Led Weaning Cups: 2023 Ultimate Guide

Hey there, fellow parents! Are you looking for the perfect blw cup? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably tried more baby cups than you care to admit. Seriously, my kitchen cabinet looks like a cup breeding ground šŸ™„! 

But hey, that’s the life of a mom with two young kids who took on the adventure of baby-led weaning (BLW). Let’s face it, finding the perfect cup is like finding a unicorn that doesn’t spill water everywhere. So, grab a cup of your own (preferably one that won’t leak all over your carpet), and let’s dive into the world of baby cups that will make your little one’s transition to solid foods a little smoother.

boy drinking out of open glass cup
My son proudly drinking from an open cup

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Understanding Baby-Led Weaning 

A quick re-cap: baby-led weaning is the process of giving babies finger foods and allowing them to self-feed. That means bypassing purees and cereals altogether and introducing them to meal times just like mini-adults.

BLW is great for parents because it’s a lot less work than traditional spoon-feeding. You don’t have to prepare or buy separate food for your baby, you can just give them the foods that you are making for yourself and safely present them. You can also save yourself the time and aggravation of spoon-feeding one bite at a time and eat your dinner at the same time as your baby.

Baby drinking out of open glass cup. Baby-led weaning best cups. Mommymakerteacher.com
Baby-Led Weaning Best Cups

BLW is also great for babies because it teaches them fine motor skills, allows them to explore more foods and textures than puree feeding, and allows them to self-pace and determine how much food they want to eat. If you want to know more about baby-led weaning and traditional spoon-feeding, check out this article.

If you’ve landed on this page, I’m sure you are researching baby-led weaning and the gear you need. Thankfully BLW doesn’t require much gear. A high chair or booster seat, a great bib, and a cup are all you need.

In this article, we’ll talk about cups specifically, but make sure to check out my recommendations for bibs as well. 

Pro Tip: I cannot recommend Solid Starts enough when it comes to how and when to introduce different foods to your child. Think of them as a BLW dictionary (there’s even an app) with every food you can imagine with pictures and videos on when to offer the food, how to prepare it, and how to serve it. 

When To Introduce BLW Cups

baby drinking from open cup
Baby Drinking From Open Cup

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing solid foods and small amounts of water around 6 months of age. This isn’t a set date, and there are a lot of variables that go into determining when your little one is ready.

For example, my first started solids around 4 months of age, but my second didn’t have any interest until 8 or 9 months. Make sure to talk about solid foods and water introduction at all of your (many, many, many šŸ™„) well visits with your pediatrician. 

Around 6 months, you can start introducing a small amount of water (4-8oz or less).

Breast milk and/or formula should be the main source of nutrition until 6 months and should continue until at least 12 months in addition to solid foods and water. 

Once your baby turns one, you should start to limit bottle use and transition to a small open cup or straw cup. 

Pro Tip: Are you on the fence between the blw method and traditional spoon feeding? The good news is, you don’t have to do all or nothing. You can do a combination of both like I did. In my baby puree article, I talk all about introducing purees and first foods to your little ones.

Why the Right Baby Cup Matters

A lot of parents never think about sippy cups until the day they go to the store, see 100 different options, and get overwhelmed. I should know because the same thing happened to me!

If you’re interested in offering your baby early access to “adult” style cups and bypassing the sippy cup phase altogether, there are a few important questions and considerations to be mindful of. I’ll dive into these here, as well as give you the reasons why traditional sippy cups should be avoided.

Toddler drinking out of open small mug. Cups for baby-led weaning. Mommymakerteacher.com
Cups For Baby-Led Weaning

Choosing the right baby cup can go a long way in helping your little one develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It can also set them on the right path for proper tongue movement and speech development. 

The right cup can also give your baby more independence when it comes to self-feeding and drinking. They will learn to give themselves water when they are thirsty and control how much water they need to drink. 

Finally, the right baby cup will make the transition from breastfeeding or bottle feeding easy and give your little one the confidence to tackle the important skill of drinking from a cup or a straw. 

Top BLW Cups

If you’re in a rush and can’t read through the whole article, here are my favorite cups for BLW at a glance. 

Munchkin Open Training Cups

The First Years Take & Toss Straw Cups

Munchkin Any Angle Weighted Straw Trainer Cup

Types of Baby Cups for BLW

There are so many cups on the market for babies. And whether they are “blw cups” or not, you can believe I have tried A LOT of them. That’s because some kids take to cups better than others.

I never thought about it with my first. He picked up a sippy cup and never looked back. My second struggled, which led me to do a lot of research on blw cups and cups. 

In general, the best cups for BLW are open cups and straw cups. You want to avoid all other sippy cups because of their potential to hinder proper tongue function (more on that later). 

That being said, open cups and straw cups are not always practical, as I will explain. There is still a place for sippy cups in your–jam-packed–kitchen cupboard, but we’ll talk a lot about why the best types of cups don’t have any spouts or valves. 

Small Open Cups (6 Months and Older)

A tiny cup is the first type of cup you should own for baby-led weaning. You want to buy a hard plastic small cup that is small enough for little hands and the perfect size for your baby’s mouth. Make sure your baby’s cup doesn’t have any ridges or lips that might make it tricky for them to close their lips around. 

Bathroom cups are great options because they are a great size. You can also find small size cups on Amazon or even in stores like Walmart and Target. 

You might have a personal preference on whether you want plastic or glass cups here. Plastic is certainly convenient, but at some point, they will have to learn how to drink from a glass. Montessori teachers will tell you that children as young as 6 months old can drink from glass cups. It’s fine to choose a glass cup if that is what you prefer.

Pro-Tip: You want to model drinking out of your cup to your baby. Let them watch you bring the cup (with two hands) to your mouth, close your lips around the cup, and bring it back down to the table or tray. 

You might be worried that an open cup is going to make a huge mess. You’re right. Water is going to go everywhere! 

I got a great tip once, to only fill the cup as much as I was willing to clean up off the floor. Sometimes I only fill the cup with a mouthful or two of water, and that’s perfectly fine. If they drink (or spill) all of the water, you can continue refilling the cup with small amounts. 

Regular Cup Top Recommendations:

Munchkin Open Training Cups

Munchkin C’est Silicone Open Training Cup

Glass Juice Cups/ Large Shot Glasses

Straw Sippy Cups 

The benefit of straw cups for BLW is the convenience factor for being on the go. Even after your little one has mastered open-cup drinking, they are going to need to learn how to drink out of straw cups. You don’t take an open cup in the car or on a walk, do you? If you want more traveling tips for BLW on the go read my BLW On The Go article.

There are several types of straw sippy cups, so we’ll look at all of them. 

Take and Toss Style Straw Cups 

These cups have a lid and a straw. They are very inexpensive, easy to clean, and mimic an adult cup with a straw. These are also the same kind of cups your little one will get at a restaurant and help them learn about straw control and squeezing the cup to get ready for juice boxes down the road. 

The big con to a take-and-toss straw cup is that they are not spill-proof, and (it is a 100% universal thing) babies love to pull the straw out of these cups and will play with them more than drink out of them. 

Take and Toss Cup Top Picks 

The First Years Take & Toss Cups

CoComelon Take & Toss Cups

Zak Tumbler Set

Honey Bear Cup 

You can introduce straw cups at the same time as open cups when you are doing baby-led weaning. They are both important skills to learn.

Judy Delaware from Feeding Littles is an occupational therapist, and she recommends this specific cup as a great way to teach your baby the idea of siping and swallowing from something other than a bottle. 

The Mr. Juice Bear has just the right length of straw to develop the ideal elevated tongue-sipping position.

You can try this out yourself: Take a sip from a straw at the tip of your tongue and then another one with the straw further in your mouth. Which is easier? 

The Honey Bear Cup can also be gently squeezed when your baby closes their lips around the straw to learn that water can come through the straw. Make sure not to squeeze too much or too fast, you don’t want your baby to choke. 

In Judy’s experience, many babies grasp straw drinking within the first few times of using this cup. 

I didn’t know about this cup, but I wish I had found it sooner for my second and saved myself some money wasted on other “fancy” straw cups. 

Honey Bear Straw Cup from Special Supplies

Silicone Straw Cups 

Silicone toddler dining set flat lay
Silicone Straw Sippy Cup

A silicone cup offers a lot of conveniences and looks similar to a take-and-toss cup, but the straw is attached to the lid, so it can’t be pulled out. They are also made of soft silicone that is gentle on your baby’s skin and easy on the ears if your baby decides to launch it across the room. The soft straws are easy on your baby’s gums (and eyeballs) if they accidentally poke themselves. 

Especially for very young children, I think silicone cups are better options than the take-and-toss. I use the take-and-toss cups with my 3-year-old all of the time, but it wasn’t until recently that he was developmentally ready to leave the straw alone. 

Silicone Straw Cup Recommendations 

Munchkin C’est Silicone Straw Training Cup

WeeSprout Silicone Baby Cups With Straws

Straw Sippy Cups 

Straw sippy cups combine a free-flowing straw with the convenience of handles. The straws are built-in to the cups, so they can’t be pulled out. Usually, these cups have a closing mechanism to make them leakproof. They also have handles for babies to hold with their small hands. 

Pro-Tip: You want to make sure your straw cup is “free-flowing.” A lot of “spill-proof” straw cups require you to bite the straw while sucking to get the water out. This is not a natural way of drinking and can encourage bad habits like biting the straw later on.  

Mushie Training Cup With Straw

Weighted Straw Cups 

Weighted straw cups are a great idea for easy drinking. The straw stays at the bottom of the cup so your baby can drink sitting up, tilted back, or even upside down (ok–don’t do this). Weighted straw cups are typically leakproof and usually have handles which are both important features. 

The downside of weighted straw cups is potentially teaching your baby to tilt the cup way back or even to drink lying down or in other unsafe positions. Weighted straw cups usually come with a special brush for cleaning the straw, but be prepared for the cup to have 5 or more pieces to clean. 

Munchkin Any Angle Weighted Straw Trainer Cup

Water Bottles 

As your baby gets older, they will be ready for a “real” water bottle. Generally, big kid water bottles offer a few features like stainless steel and insulated designs that will keep your drinks hot or cold, and they can hold more liquid for longer trips. 

There are a few considerations for water bottles.

1. Can your child lift it? Bigger water bottles are often heavier by design, and since they hold more liquid get even heavier when filled with liquids. 

Pro-Tip: Heavy water bottles are not only difficult for your baby to lift, but they can be quite dangerous. Babies love to throw and drop from their high chairs. The first time they drop a stainless water bottle on your toe, you are going to feel very sorry for yourself! So make sure your child is developmentally ready (past the throwing and dropping stage) before you offer these heavier cup options. 

2. Does the water bottle have any problematic designs like hard spout or soft spout sippy cups? You don’t want to have to push down on the tongue or bite the spout to get water out. Ideally, you’re looking for an open spout or a free-flowing straw (my recommendations are below). 

3. How easy is it to clean? Just like with sippy cups, the more parts to clean: the less hygienic the cup is going to be in the long run. Thoroughly inspect your water bottle for seals, gaskets, and valves that either need to be replaced or removed and cleaned (sometimes the directions don’t mention cleaning these parts). 

My favorite water bottle:

CamelBak Chute Kids Water Bottle

How to Introduce Open Cups and Straws 

Baby drinking from open glass cup
Baby Drinking From Open Glass Cup

Now that you know more about the different types of cups on the market, let’s talk about how to get your baby to use them.

This article has a free online course, but if you want the text version, I’ll give you the cliff notes! 

Open Cups 

  1. Model drinking in front of your baby. Let them watch you drink. Practice saying “ah!” after each sip so they know you swallow the water (and don’t spit it out). 
  2. Help your baby bring the cup to their mouth using both hands. 
  3. Hold the cup for just a few seconds and encourage them (you can show them how on your cup) to put their lips on the cup. 
  4. Tilt the cup. The water is going to go everywhere at first. That’s normal. Over time, your baby will start to take little sips in their mouth. They will sometimes spit it out or swallow it. 
  5. Make a big deal when they eventually learn to take sips! 

Straw Cups

  1. Start with something like Honey Bear straw cups. 
  2. Make sure they take a half inch or less of the straw in their mouth. 
  3. Show them how to put their lips around the straw to make a seal. 
  4. Gently squeeze some water in their mouth. 
  5. Over time, they will instinctively start sucking/swallowing when they put the straw in their mouth. 

Features to Consider When Choosing Baby Cups 

Age Recommendations 

Your baby should drink from the breast and/or bottle exclusively until they are 6 months old. Once your pediatrician gives you the green light to introduce small amounts of water and solid foods, you can start on other types of cups. 

Here is a chart to help you determine which cups are appropriate for which ages: 

Baby led weaning cup chart shows age recommendations for different cups
Baby Led Weaning Cup Chart

Material and Safety Concerns 

Make sure you are buying your plastics and silicones from household brands that you trust. You want your plastics to be BPA-free, and look for food-grade silicone. Buying high-quality sippy cups is an investment, but it is important to ensure that you aren’t exposing your little one to harmful chemicals. 

Glass cups can be great options to avoid plastics and silicones altogether. Just be sure to supervise your little one with glass cups so you don’t wind up with a mess to clean. 
They are stain resistant and can be washed in the dishwasher. They are durable and never need to be replaced. 

Parent-to-Parent: Did you know you should replace daily sippy cups every few months? I certainly didn’t until recently. 

Easy Cleaning and Hygiene Considerations 

One of my biggest pet peeves with children’s cups is the many (many, many šŸ™„) crevices and hard-to-reach areas for cleaning. I didn’t learn, until much later than I want to admit, that even adult water bottles have gaskets and mouthpieces that not only need to be cleaned but replaced as often as every 2 months.

You’ve heard me mention over and over again the importance of ease of cleaning in this article, but just trust me when I say your complicated cups are going to sit in the back of your cupboard and never get used. I know you’re a busy parent, and taking the time to take apart, clean, and sanitize all of these little pieces is a chore that you’re just not going to want to do. 

Spill-Proof and Leak-Proof Designs 

Choose your battles wisely with spill-proof and leak-proof designs. These cups are convenient for obvious reasons but might be overly complicated to clean or have valves that make it difficult or unnatural (like bite-down straws) to drink from. The best spill-proof blw cups are going to have a free-flowing straw with easy-to-clean flip-top lids.

The American Dental Association says that a cup with a valve is just a baby bottle in disguise because they don’t allow the child to sip; rather, they have to suck as they would from a bottle.

Now that I’m a veteran sippy-cup mom, I weigh these considerations a lot more heavily against the alternative: my little one spilling some water. Honestly, it’s a lot easier to deal with a small amount of spilled water now and then than cleaning a 5 or 6-piece cup every day (or more). 

Soft Spout, Hard Spout, and 360 Cups 

Hard spout cups are probably what you and I drank from as children. They have a hard plastic spout, a valve that can be added to make them spill-proof, and handles.  Recently these cups have been “phased out” by major manufacturers and replaced with soft spout sippy cups. 

Soft spout sippy cups are marketed as an easier transition from a bottle nipple to a sippy cup. 

There are also 360 cups or magic cups that don’t have spouts at all. Instead, you drink from the side of the cup like an adult would. 

These training cups all have one problem in common: they all put pressure on your baby’s tongue. Your little one needs to learn to elevate their tongue to sip from cups and straws. This tongue elevation is also key later down the road to speech development. 

Even 360 cups, which appear like you’re regularly drinking from, require kids to bite the edge of the cup or push the cup down on their tongues to get enough suction to get water out from the valve. 

Parent-to-Parent: When I had my first, I never heard of the importance of drinking from open cups or straw cups. I naturally gravitated to what I had as a kid and offered him a soft spout sippy to transition from the bottle, then a hard spout sippy, then a 360 cup. It wasn’t until he was much older that I let him drink from a real cup. Even though he has drank from these cups his whole life, my son speaks very well. So don’t think that because you used any of these cups before, they are the sole cause of other problems down the road. It’s not too late to switch to an open cup or straw cup now that you understand why it’s important. 

In conclusion, finding the right blw cup can make a significant difference in your little one’s development and transition to solid foods. As a parent who has embarked on the adventure of BLW, I understand the struggle of finding the perfect cup amidst a sea of options.

When it comes to introducing BLW cups, it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to start around 6 months of age, but the readiness of your child may vary.

Open cups and straw cups are the preferred choices for BLW, promoting proper tongue movement and speech development. While open cups can be messy, filling them with small amounts of water at a time helps minimize spills.

Factors to consider when choosing baby cups include material and safety concerns, ease of cleaning, spill-proof and leak-proof designs, and the avoidance of soft spouts and 360 cups that exert pressure on the tongue.

Ultimately, the right baby cup will support your little one’s independence, confidence, and skill development in drinking from a cup or a straw. 

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Jacqui

Author

Hi, I'm Jacqui, founder of Mommy Maker Teacher and mom of two toddlers. With a degree in education, 12+ years of experience as a K-12 teacher and curriculum developer, and courses in childhood psychology and language acquisition, I share research-backed parenting tips and advice. I provide helpful content for moms on all stages of motherhood - from trying to conceive and pregnancy to postpartum, breastfeeding, and parenting.