Policy Launched: Introducing a Cup to an Infant

Policy Launched: Introducing a Cup to an Infant

12 March 2015

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has launched a new policy that provides guidance, advice and recommendations on introducing a cup to infants.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,000 members.  The BDA is also an active trade union.

Inappropriate introduction and use of cups in infants, through delayed timing, prolonged use of a bottle, the incorrect style of cup and the inclusion of unsuitable contents within the cup, contribute to health issues in children and subsequent risk of non-communicable diseases in adult life.

Recommendations being made by the BDA in their Introducing a Cup to an Infant’s Diet policy, are:

  • A cup can be introduced to an infant are around 5-6 months of age, once the infant is sitting up and able to hold their head steady.
  • An open cup should fully replace a bottle at around 1 year of age.
  • The cup should be made of appropriate food safe plastic material, have two handles and preferably no lid.
  • A free-flow, lidded beaker is also suitable, but the lid should be removed to make an open cup as soon as the infant has learnt how to drink.  Cups and beakers with non-drip valves are not suitable.
  • A small amount of water or milk (breast or formula) should be offered in a cup initially.  From 1 year of age, full fat cows’ milk can be offered. Milk and water are the best drinks for children.
  • Juice or squash are not required by infants, but if they are given they should be diluted 1 part pure juice to at least 10 parts water, given only at mealtimes and in an open cup.
  • For children over 1 year of age, flavoured milk and smoothies should also only be given with meals (not between meals) and from an open cup.
  • Other drinks (including squash, flavoured milks, smoothies and fizzy drinks) are not recommended for infants or toddlers. If these are given, they should be restricted to mealtimes, given in an open cup and squash should be very well diluted with at least 10 parts water.
  • The consumption of fizzy and/or sugary drinks should be minimised.
  • Tea, coffee and hot chocolate contain caffeine. Do not give these to infants or young children.
  • A lidded cup or bottle should not be given to infants to help them get to sleep.
  • An infant should never be left alone when drinking and they should always be sitting upright. Solid food (e.g. rusk or baby rice) should never be put into a cup or bottle.

Speaking about the policy, its author and member of the BDA’s Public Health Nutrition Network specialist group, Elaine Gardner, commented:

“This policy and evidence points towards the fact that early years and childhood nutrition, eating and habits, are so important, not just for the here and now, but also for later life.

“There is a compelling case to introduce cups to infants at the appropriate age to combat tooth decay that occurs due to prolonged bottle use, especially if the child sleeps with a bottle.  The inclusion of sugared drinks in bottles with frequent sipping from bottles during the day is also a risk factor for severe dental caries.

“A prolonged use of bottles and excessive intake, including milk, is also emerging as a risk factor for obesity in young children.

“Hopefully this new BDA policy will go a long way to support the evidence and advice around this important subject which, ultimately, goes towards improving the health of children in the UK.”

The full Introducing a Cup to an Infant’s Diet policy can be accessed at




For more information / interview requests,
please contact Steven Jenkins the BDA Press Office on:

0800 048 1714


Notes to the Editor:

  • Visit the BDA website at www.bda.uk.com.
  • Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.


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