this thing's incredible

The (Ingeniously Designed) Open Cup My Son Was Able to Use at 10 Months

Silas drinking from the Reflo Smart Cup. Photo: Margaret Rogers

I knew parenthood would be unrelenting, but I never anticipated how much work would go into a seemingly minor purchase like a cup. When it comes to my children, if I can overthink it, I will. So when I find something that makes parenting even a hair easier, I want to tell everyone. Currently, that thing for me is the Reflo Smart Cup.

My second child was diagnosed with cleft lip and palate before he was born, at his 20-week anatomy scan. Once the shock wore off, I realized that it wasn’t a devastating problem (it’s one of the most common infant abnormalities, affecting about 1 in 700 babies) but rather a logistical one. He would need multiple surgeries, breastfeeding wasn’t possible (babies with cleft palates cannot create the suction needed), and feeding him would require special bottles and gear. It felt like almost everything I’d learned from my first child was out the window.

As with my first pregnancy, I had insomnia, but this time my middle-of-the-night Googling started to venture into scary medical rabbit holes. So I decided to focus all my energy on the equipment we would need. All roads led me to Facebook Groups, a function of the platform I’d never explored. I joined a Cleft Parent Support group and got to lurking. I scrolled through post after post of parents in similar boats asking questions I didn’t even know to ask and sharing stories of experiences that I would soon go through. What if my cleft baby has reflux? (Try the Dr. Brown’s specialty feeder with a Pigeon brand nipple.) How do I keep my baby from touching his face after surgery? (A genius swaddle-straightjacket contraption called the CozeeCoo.) I learned tips for feeding my baby, felt comforted by seeing so many before and after pictures of cleft repairs, and got some idea of what to expect.

When my son was born, I fell in love with his “first smile” just as everyone in the group said I would. We got through his first two surgeries with minimal drama and had an essentially normal babyhood while we waited for his “big surgery,” the palate repair, which was to happen at around 11 months old. This surgery is more challenging because it deals with the inside of the mouth, and recovery is complicated by the baby being mobile and having opinions, such as “don’t put that bottle anywhere near my stitches.” I read scary posts about babies refusing to eat following palate repairs and having to stay at the hospital for days. So I resolved to do the impossible: teach my 10-month-old how to drink out of an open cup.

After some quick failures with the toddler cups we already owned, I consulted my Facebook Groups and promptly ordered the Reflo Smart Cup. It doesn’t look like a baby cup but more like a slightly shrunken cafeteria cup. The scale is manageable for a 10-month-old but wouldn’t be ridiculous for an adult or jealous 4-year-old. My son was excited just by holding it — whenever he gets to do a task for himself, he’s thrilled. The magic of the Reflo Smart Cup is in its insert, a removable piece that slows the flow of liquid so your child doesn’t end up soaking wet. They can drink from any part of the cup and it will work the same way. Unlike many “spillproof” cups, it requires no sucking, which may eventually affect oral development and adds an extra step to cup training. I helped him with his first sip and then let him try it alone. He got a drink immediately and looked at me with pure pride.

Photo: Margaret Rogers

That said, the Reflo Smart Cup is best used with supervision. Sometimes he tries to remove the insert, and if he throws the cup as hard as he can across the room, it will break — get the four-pack. It’s been two months since he first tried the cup, and he still beams each time he takes a drink for himself, which is reason enough for me to endorse it. But it gets better: The Reflo Smart Cup allowed my son to comfortably drink following his palate surgery, and we were able to go home the next day. Though we found the Reflo Smart Cup because of my son’s condition, I’d recommend it to any parent looking to build their baby’s confidence with open cups. Thanks to the great design, my now-1-year-old is way ahead on this milestone, and we’ve skipped sippy cups altogether.

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The Open Cup My Son Was Able to Use at 10 Months