Sippy cups may as well be an entire course in Mommy School, particularly for those going for the “Health and Nutrition” certification on their SuperMom degree.
A new mom has to to figure out:
- What sippy a child can actually drink from
- Which ones won’t leak all over, especially in the diaper bag in transit (and when baby shakes it upside down in the carseat)
- How to clean all those blasted little parts to avoid “sippy cup funk” (a key vocabulary word from the sippy cup course at Mommy School)
- Whether the materials used are safe and non-leaching
- How long they’ll last – durability
- How versatile the sippy cup will be – can it grow with the child?
- When to start using a sippy
- How to find good deals
- What to put in the sippy cup
I’ve personally evolved over three kids from prioritizing cost and shopping garage sales to focusing on safety (and convenience). We have gotten rid of a ton of old sippy cups made of plastic, which were our mainstays before I knew what BPA was and how dangerous it could be. Many made of number 5 plastic, which does not contain BPA, still hit the “give away” pile because I would rather not risk finding out that no. 5 plastic contains some currently unknown chemical that leaches, since I have discovered many safer options. (Here’s a good article on what all the plastic numbers mean.)
Beyond safety, it takes a lot for a sippy to pass muster at the Kimball house.
Must-Have Qualities in a Good Infant Sippy Cup
After watching three kids learn to drink from a cup (well, two-and-a-half; we’re still working on no. 3), I feel like I have a decent handle on what a good sippy cup looks like:
- Soft spout: Babies love to chew on hard things, but to get the sucking reflex initiated, I really believe that infants 6 mos.-1 year should have a soft sippy cup spout.
- Two handles: Baby can easily hold onto cups with two loopy handles on the side, building independence
- Non-spill: As soon as they can, your baby will either (a) turn the sippy cup over and begin to shake it (how do they know?) or (b) throw it mercilessly over the edge of the highchair. Reduce your stress and get one that won’t make as much of a mess.
- Safe materials: Especially in the early days, the goal of a sippy cup is mostly exploration, not hydration. I want a non-leaching material so I don’t have to think twice about grabbing a sippy with water in it from a previous meal.
- Straw: I think a straw cup is the very best for early learning for two reasons:
- Baby doesn’t have to tip the cup to drink. You will be released from “feeding” responsibilities much sooner if baby can drink independently, and learning to tip the cup is a skill that takes months to master. A 6-month-old can drink from a straw without help and without much practice.
- Straws are actually life skills that your baby will still need as an adult, unlike sippy cup sucking. Harness the sucking reflex and teach your baby to drink from a straw before that disappears.
Examples of Safe Sippy Cups
When my oldest was an infant, my favorite sippy looked like this:
He’s under 8 mos. old here and drinking completely by himself. However, even my untrained non-green Mommy brain could sometimes smell plastic when the water had been sitting in the cup for a day. (‘Cause we all know that the kid will pick up the cup and drink it if it’s sitting on the coffee table, whether you’d rather him have fresh water or not!)
When my second was born, I was getting smarter, and my mom got her this BPA-free Thermos Foogo Straw Bottle for Christmas. Poor second child, I don’t have nearly as many photos of her eating and drinking. Eh. What can you do?
I love the straw part, and it’s very easy to take apart to clean. (“Easy” being relative, of course, comparing to other sippys – NONE of which are easy to clean. This one just isn’t that bad.)
It fits in most (but not all) cup holders and stands up well without falling over (although it can fall). The button there pops the top open, which is a wonderfully fascinating distraction for the slightly older child whose fingers are strong enough to push it. It does NOT leak in the diaper bag, a huge plus. Overall, the Foogo is a great stainless steel straw option.
Another good stainless steel SOFT spout option, which I do think is important for babies under the age of one, is the Pura Stainless Steel Sippy Cup/Bottle. I haven’t reviewed this one myself.
We tested the EcoVessel Insulated Sippy, but my kids had a hard time figuring out how to suck on the hard spout. The lids are compatible with the soft spout Avent sippy lid (one of the things I love about this product) so that is a work around.
Here are the Positives:
- Compatible with any Avent spout – handy for interchanging, and Avent is easy to find
- Non-spill is pretty leakproof (although banging heartily will still get some satisfying droplets of water to come out)
- Non-spill can be removed – this is what we do for older kids, so they have a sippy that’s easier to suck on.
- Two handles! Great for babies
- Fairly easy to take apart and clean
- Insulated is super cool
- Stainless can’t be understated – I love the safety and unbreakableness of stainless, and it’s not as heavy as glass in a diaper bag.
- Lid to cover the sippy spout – most of my old plastic sippys didn’t have this feature. Yuck.
And the Negatives:
- Child still must tip to drink – that’s a tough skill.
- You have to turn the sippy spout just right to line up with the handles, which can be a hassle. The other cup we got for Christmas when Leah was an infant is the BPA free Kid Basix Safe Sippy 2. She used it without the non-spill valve as her “in the living room” cup as she got older.
What I love:
- Two handles for little ones! The handles come right off for older kids, too, so that’s nicely versatile.
- Stainless is lightweight and convenient.
- Easy to fill, easy to take apart and wash.
- Fits nearly all cup holders in strollers and such.
- There are two new features on the version pictured above that I didn’t get to experience but think are fantastic:
- cover to keep the spout clean
- a straw adapter! This would be my favorite infant sippy for sure if I had that feature. It fits EVERY criteria.
What I don’t love:
- The silicone around the bottom is cute and makes gripping easier, but it gets kind of grody under there after a while. We’ve taken ours off and left it off, since it’s not super easy to get back on.
- Hard spout – although the straw adapter nixes this problem. Yay!
- The non-spill valve, although nicely easy to clean, definitely lets quite a bit of water out if the child learns to shake it upside down in a car seat, for example. (I wonder how the straw adapter keeps the liquid in!)
I’ve not yet tried the Innobaby Nursin’ Smart Silicone Straw Cup, but much like the Safe Sippy above, it fits pretty much all my criteria for the perfect starter sippy. There are questions about the safety of silicone, but not nearly as many as there are about plastics.
I love the way this one closes up with that half moon that swings around and clicks – it’s probably leakproof in the diaper bag, as it’s just like the design of my old favorite plastic sippy top, pictured above. You will likely find that sometimes, pressure builds up inside, and when you pop the straw up, it will spew out the contents for a few seconds. Be ready to sip!
Note: Sippy straws are notoriously hard to clean. I only allow water in them, never water kefir or milk, yikes. They just get too stinky in my opinion. I’ve never owned a Sippy Straw Cleaner, though, so that might have changed everything.
We’ve had this Klean Kanteen Kid Kanteen Sippy since Paul was a toddler, and he felt SO cool having a bottle just like Mom and Dad. This product, like the EcoVessel above, also uses the Avent spouts, which is just handy.
I see they’ve added a cover since my version, and I love that. The Klean Kanteen is super easy to wash, and the sippy adapter can actually go on any size bottle (which looks pretty funny when we’re swapping lids around and this one happens to end up on a big old 28-oz. size!). It’s lightweight compared to the EcoVessel and slightly shorter, so it’s very handy for on the go, especially with a slightly older toddler who might not want a “sippy cup” anymore.
When to Start Using a Sippy Cup
I’ve started my kids with cups anytime between 5 months (as a fun, distracting toy while sitting in the high chair while the family eats dinner) to closer to 10 months with poor Jonathan, simply because I couldn’t find our good ones!
I would give a child a sippy cup at 5-6 months, just for practice, and get serious about teaching them how to suck and drink from it between 10-12 months. They should be getting any liquids their body actually needs from breastfeeding (or a bottle) before age one anyway.
What to Put IN the Sippy Cup
Before a year, it’s water, water, and only water. After noticing not only that plastic smell, but also the chlorinated water smell hanging around in the sippys of old, I’m just thrilled to have Berkey water now. My younger boys have life so much better (less toxic, at least) than the older siblings!
After age one, water is still the mainstay, but milk should usually make an appearance in sippys unless there’s a dairy allergy or sensitivity. I sort of dread that time, just because sippy cups are notoriously so hard to wash. I do tend to take out the non-spill valve as soon as I can with milk because it’s one less thing to wash. (You know me and my love of dishes, right?)
Some have mentioned that their sippy cups get a “funk” pretty quickly, and I do remember doing a lot of spraying the valves with vinegar water and hydrogen peroxide water (two of my under-the-sink-cleaners), both of which can help a lot. We also put the sippy parts in a basket in our dishwasher, and again, we try to stay away from putting stinky things in them.
I have a feeling the insulated EcoVessel sippy will be my favorite for milk in a few months, because I’ll feel better about leaving our raw milk in there for a few hours if necessary, or even the half hour or more it takes our family to eat a meal.
How to Transition Away from A Sippy Cup
The ultimate goal of a sippy cup is to transition the child to drinking from a normal cup like an adult. For some, this doesn’t happen until kindergarten or older, just because sippys are so convenient, especially when you’re on the run. However, I personally feel it’s very important to teach life skills, like drinking from a real cup, as early as possible. Some of the ways we transition our kids include:
- Taking the non-spill valve out of the Klean Kanteen and Safe Sippy, as well as any other Avent lids
- Using the small sized Klean Kanteen with a sport top – you can still close it up for travel, but it’s something that an adult would actually use.
- Ecousable stainless steel bottle, at right
This cute bottle is a product sample from a few years ago, and I’m having trouble finding the small size now. (Here is a medium sized one on Amazon.) If you see this brand, it’s a really good one (with the sport top). High quality, attractive, and a slightly smaller sport bottle top for smaller mouths. Leah loves hers (it’s pink with butterflies).
The EIO Glass Kids Cup is a new product for us. It’s a standard glass jelly jar with a silicone wrapper for (much) easier gripping and to prevent breakage, plus a twist-on lid that has a small opening for drinking on top, much like an adult’s travel coffee mug might be. It is NOT non-spill or really travel-worthy, but it’s intended to bridge the gap from sippy to glass cup, in style.
We love it so far – easy to clean, although the silicone wrap will probably have the same problem as the Safe Sippy, above. I’ve taken it on and off, so it’s very possible to clean underneath, but not all that fun.
The ultimate test of any sippy cup, for me, is the smoothie: can smoothie come through the opening such that my child can take a smoothie out of the kitchen and still be able to drink it? For any non-spill cup, the answer is no. For the EIO? No problem:
I like my stainless steel tumbler for getting young kids ready for our glass cups, the only kind of open-top kids’ cups we have around here.
The edges are smooth, not sharp, and it’s just the right size for little hands. I’ve been glad to have this cup in the cupboard a few times when we had 18 mo-2yo visitors, however, so I had something to offer them that didn’t give their parents a heart attack like a glass cup might.
Should Little Kids Drink From Glass?
My goal with any dishes is to get them into glass as soon as possible, as I have an affinity for the Montessori style of learning, which has kids using real things as much and as soon as possible. I believe in teaching children to take care of their possessions and treat things appropriately, and although we clean up more broken dishes than most families…it’s usually the dad or the mom who does the dropping. *sheepish grin, hangs head in shame*
It’s an added bonus that glass is a super safe material and comes out of the dishwasher both dry and clean, unlike little plastic cups.
It won’t be long at all before I’ll be needing to hit up some more garage sales to collect more inexpensive glassware like these good finds from a few years ago:
Heh…I should check the cupboards to see how many of these we adults have broken since this photo. The little kids’ cups are so thick-walled, they never break!