So Long Sippy Cups, Hello Straws
Sippy Cups, Thumb Sucking Can Cause Speech Problems in Tots, Doctors Say
Feb. 11, 2008 (New York) -- Toddlers could develop lisps and other speech
problems from use of sippy cups, says a speech pathologist.
Sippy cups -- the often character-themed training cups that come with a
snap-on lid and hard spout -- and/or thumb sucking can cause difficulty with
articulation and clarity of speech in some children, says Sandra Holtzman, MS,
a speech pathologist and certified orofacial myologist in Coconut Creek,
"When a child sucks their thumb, it's placed on the roof of their mouth,
so the tongue is misplaced," Holtzman tells WebMD. "They keep their
lips apart, which encourages open-mouth breathing, and their teeth are pushed
forward or outward." When the tongue is misplaced, she says, a child also
can't properly suction saliva or swallow food or liquid.
"The most common issues are types of lisps," she says, "but it
can also cause imprecise articulation," such as slurred or
But parents can make simple changes that will prevent these speech issues,
says Holtzman, who spoke at a conference on orofacial myology, a field of study
that looks at how certain structural or functional factors in the mouth can
cause speech and swallowing issues.
(Does your toddler
use a sippy cup? Will you change to a straw? Talk with others on WebMD's
Parenting: 1-Year-Olds message board.)
Straws an Alternative to Sippy Cups
Thumb sucking and sippy cups can cause similar problems, Holtzman says.
"If a child goes from the breast or the bottle to a sippy cup, they tend
to drink it as if it were a bottle. They lie back or tip their neck in the
usual manner, so it's almost like drinking a bottle," she says. "They
have a hard object or spout with various shapes depending on the type of cup,
and their bodies are tipped back. This hard object or spout misplaces the
tongue and pushes the teeth out as the thumb can."
Steer clear of sippy cups and use straws instead, she urges.
"Today, we are kind of spoiled and not as used to a mess when a cup
spills, but that's a mistake," Holtzman says. Instead of cups with spouts,
use cups with straws or simply place a straw in a paper or plastic cup, she
New York City speech pathologist Joslin Zeplin agrees. "A sippy cup can
serve a function, which is to transition off of the bottle, but it should only
be used for a brief time," she says. "It can be used for approximately
a month and should never be used as a substitute for a bottle and it should not
be treated like a bottle."
Transition to a straw cup after a month, says Zeplin, who helped organize
Thumb sucking is another habit that parents should nip in the bud, she
"Sucking the thumb places unnecessary pressure on the palate and can
deform it," she says. "If a child's palate is misshapen, the tongue may
not have place to rest, and this can lead to articulation issues," she
"Using a pacifier is better because at least you can take it away,
unlike the thumb," she says.
Holtzman suggests dressing infants in outfits with mittens as a way to
prevent thumb sucking.