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Learning To Drink From A Cup Helps Toddlers In The Battle For Healthy Eating

7 March 2002

Toddlers who drink from a cup – rather than a bottle -- were found to have a more balanced diet, according to a report out today.

Toddlers who drink from a cup – rather than a bottle -- were found to have a more balanced diet, according to a report out today.

Current guidelines for toddlers, which suggest that it was better to use a ‘drinking cup rather than a bottle, were found to give a good basis for future health, say researchers at Bristol University.

The team were investigating the types of drinks consumed by children aged 18 months and discovered that those who followed the guidelines to use a cup rather than a bottle had a more balanced diet.

The findings were announced by Pauline Emmett, from the Children of the 90s project. This study based in Bristol, has monitored the health and development of over 14,000 children from pregnancy. A 10% sub-sample have been studied in much more depth, including their diet. Over 1000 parents completed detailed diaries, listing everything their toddler ate and drank over three days.

Pauline Emmett explained, “the current guidelines recommend that drinking from a feeding bottle should be discouraged from 12 months with a cup being used instead. The study found that continued use of a bottle lead to high consumption of milk, which although a good food in normal quantities, can tend to dull the child’s appetite for a more varied diet.”

She went on to say, “although most of the children were well fed a large number were consuming a wide variety of fizzy and fruit drinks many of which are of no real nutritional value and may be detrimental to the child’s teeth. Another worry was the finding that 3.5% were having no milk at all and were consequently having low calcium intakes. Calcium, is thought to be important for the physical development of children of this age and if the child does not drink milk it is important to balance the diet with other sources.”

The researchers’ results suggest that health educators such as Dietitians and Health Visitors have an important role to play in helping mothers to understand and implement current guidelines.

Nutrition education needs to be appropriately targeted to encourage and support mothers to feed their child in the best way, protecting them from nutritional deficiencies and poor dental health.


"Drinks consumed by 18 month old children: Are current recommendations being followed?" K. Northstone, I. Rogers, P. Emmett and the ALSPAC Study Team. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:

ALSPAC The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (also known as Children of the 90s) is a unique ongoing research project based in the University of Bristol. It enrolled 14,000 mothers during pregnancy in 1991-2 and has followed most of the children and parents in minute detail ever since.


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