What does constipation have to do with how your child drinks? Lets start with ASHA the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. ASHA finally came out with a blog post condemning the widespread use of sippy cups for toddlers due to it preventing formation of a mature swallowing pattern. I’ve been hearing children’s occupational and speech therapists say this in person for years, because occasionally I work with a child with speech issues or excessive drooling and one of the first steps to improving the muscles of the mouth is to begin to use straws and then to practice using an real cup.
And yet I have another reason to ditch the sippy cup, from my own line of work: Potty. Constipation can be one of the most difficult challenges of the potty larding time. Little ones often associate constipation pain with the process of potty learning and the potty itself. In my experience, about 3/4 of potty learning refusal challenges are brought on by a run-in with The Constipation Monster.
Traditional sippy cups were not created to help children, or with developmental progress in mind. They were created to eliminate a bunch of messes that we parents have to clean up. Not a bad idea. We already have so many messes. But chronic constipation is a different kind of mess you really don’t want to deal with during potty learning.
Most tots are not getting much out of the sippy cups and might be dehydrated. This is not a universal truth, a few parents have told me that the child sucks out four cups worth a day but that is very rare. Most parents tell me they are lucky if the first fill is empty at the end of the day. Many cups are very hard to suck and this causes a child to make the effort less often than he might with a different option. Often times, once children are done with breastmilk or bottles, the only form of hydration they are offered is water, juice or milk in a sippy cup. We are busy parents and most of us have never measured how much liquid our toddlers are consuming daily.
Dr. Sears suggests here in Parenting, that tots should hydrate based on weight. “1 oz of fluid per pound, per day.” If that’s true, a 40lb preschoolers needs 10 small 4oz cups or 5- 8oz bottles. most of us can’t fathom getting that much into them, but if it happened, they would not get constipated!
Be careful not to force and just to encourage and don’t be scared by the numbers above, just try to move in a more hydrated direction. And be careful not to always count dairy milk as a fluid in these terms. Dairy can be constipating and in general isn’t nearly as hydrating as water.
I recommend switching to a sippy cup that has a straw or putting a straw in a cup if your child isn’t used to the cup alone, and then gradually over time teach and encourage cup/glass drinking as a skill.
My Potty Programs and Coaching for potty challenges HERE.
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