At first I was psyched that every single sippy I found was BPA-free. For once, a decision would be easy! Or not.
Since I’m neurotic, I decided to do a little more research, and sure enough I found some good reasons to avoid the plastic sippy cups they sold at Duane Reade. Actually, I didn’t even need to go digging: major news outlets like The New York Times have recently published a flurry of articles about the dangers of BPA substitutes. The good news is that there are lots of safe glass and stainless steel sippy cups available.
Do Sippy Cups Cause Lisps and Cavities?
Some experts suggest that drinking from a sippy cup can cause lisps and other speech issues. Drinking from a straw will not cause speech problems, however.
Sippy cups also can facilitate tooth decay if they contain juice or milk.
Cathy, a dental hygienist from Maryland, wrote in and explained that the real concern with sippy cups and early tooth decay is the frequency of juice being in contact with the teeth. The problem is that many children are allowed to have a sippy cup with juice at their disposal all day. If a child uses a sippy cup while they are in their high chair for a short time, this is apparently not a problem. However, if the cup is available to kids while they are at play or traveling, their teeth get frequent exposures to the sugar, and that is the source of dental decay.
What Sippy Cups Are Made Of
- BPA. I’m lying. Every sippy cup I researched (including all the ones sold by Babies “R” Us and Diapers.com) proclaims itself “BPA free!” I’m not convinced that this global avoidance of BPA means that any old plastic sippy cup you buy in a drugstore is safe. Emerging evidence reveals that estrogen-mimickers are found in BPA-free plastics, too.
- Silicone. This plastic substitute is popular with sippy cup manufacturers like Nuby because it’s considered nontoxic. Although there aren’t many studies on silicone, I feel comfortable with it.
- Latex. Like silicone, latex is a good alternative to plastic, although because it is a somewhat common allergen, not many companies go this route (NUK is an exception and has several products made of latex).
- Aluminum. The inside of aluminum water bottles or sippy cups are always coated, since aluminum is not considered “food safe.” This epoxy lining is usually plastic, and you should make sure that it is guaranteed to be free of BPA (see below, under The Sneaky Stuff, for more on this). In addition to concerns about the coating itself, I also worry that if it were to be scratched or compromised in some way, the liquid inside the cup could theoretically contain traces of aluminum, particularly if your child was drinking an acidic juice.
- Stainless steel. Long considered the safest material for cookware, even good old stainless steel has come under fire for potentially being dangerous: when heated, it may leach aluminum and other heavy metals into food. Since sippy cups generally contain only cold liquids, this doesn’t concern me, and if you wanted to be really careful you could avoid using stainless steel sippy cups for acidic drinks.
- Glass. I consider this is the best option, and thankfully glass sippy cups do exist, although I have yet to find one without a plastic mouthpiece.
What About Phthalates?
Although all sippy cups these days proudly guarantee themselves to be BPA-free, very few mention phthalates. I’ve had almost no luck getting any manufacturer to provide me with a list of all the materials they use (that includes the makers of The Good Stuff!), but the potential for phthalates to be lurking in plastic sippy cups is just another reason to stick to stainless steel or glass. That said, phthalates tend to be found in soft plastic (think bath toys), so most sippy cups are probably in the clear.
The Good Stuff
EIO was the first glass sippy cup I found (what a thrilling discovery!). While the top of this cup is made of plastic (so yes, your toddler will sip from BPA-free polypropylene), the water inside isn’t sitting in plastic, so I consider this negligible exposure. The cup is wrapped in a silicone sleeve to prevent breakage.
The EIO sippy is very easy to wash, and doesn’t get smelly and moldy like other cups I’ve tried. Because it lacks the traditional sippy cup spout, it isn’t a risk to language development or dental health.
This is by no means a spill-proof cup. This training cup wouldn’t work for young babies, but for toddlers who are almost ready to move on to regular cups, it’s a nice option to bridge the gap.
How to Get One
The Good Stuff online store, where we sell them for $14 a pop.
NOTE: EIO sent me a free cup to review, but my reviews are never influenced by products I receive.
Another fabulous option is the Lifefactory glass bottle with a sippy lid. Like EIO’s cup, this sippy had a silicone sleeve, but the spout is a traditional sippy mouthpiece.
The label says this cup is “spill resistant,” and that’s accurate. While I wouldn’t toss it upside down in my purse, it certainly offers more spill protection than does EIO. This cup also is easy to clean and doesn’t get moldy and gross. As of first quarter of 2011, all materials used by Lifefactory are manufactured in the U.S. or Europe.
I haven’t heard back from Lifefactory on what type of plastic the spout is made of, but they guarantee that all of their products are free of BPA, phthalates, and PVC, so that’s a good start. Felix likes his Lifefactory sippy a little too much, and walks around sucking and chewing on the spout even when he’s not drinking. In addition to the plastic exposure, this is probably not great for his teeth.
How to Get One
These bottles are available everywhere from Whole Foods to The Container Store (although not every retailer will have the sippy lids), and run about $16.50 a pop. Of course they are also available on Amazon.
The insulation means that liquids stay cold for hours. This is our preferred cup for taking smoothies on the go. This cup won’t break when dropped and is easy to clean.
The cup’s spout is polypropylene, with which I am comfortable, but which is, of course, plastic.
How to Get One
You can now buy the Eco Vessel Insulated Sippy Cup in our online store for $18.
Klean Kanteen makes a great spill-proof stainless steel sippy cup.
This cup won’t leak, so you really can toss it in your diaper bag, and stainless steel obviously won’t break (even with the sleeve on a glass sippy, I worry it’ll chip when Felix hurls it from his highchair).
You’re again exposing your little one to minimal amounts of plastic by way of the (BPA-free) spout, which is made of polypropylene and is produced by Avent.
How to Get One
Widely available at a range of retail locations as well as on Amazon, a Klean Kanteen sippy cup costs around $20.
Camelbak makes a stainless steel water bottle with a silicone straw that works as a great sippy cup. (They also make lots of plastic sippy cups, but stainless steel would be my strong preference since I’m skittish about all plastics).
Because this cup uses a straw instead of a spout, it shouldn’t contribute to cavities. It’s very spill resistant.
Your kid has to bite it to get liquid to start flowing, so I suppose in theory this could affect speech development. This isn’t something I would worry about, personally.
How to Get One
Camelbak is available at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers, and the stainless steel bottles are around $20 each.
We’ve tried a lot of Thermos’s stainless steel Foogo line, and we’ve been mostly happy with it. They make a traditional sippy cup as well as a miniature thermos with a silicone straw.
I love the mini thermos for smoothies (it keeps liquids colder for far longer than any of the other cups listed here), although even cleaning it out immediately doesn’t prevent some moldy-like growth on occasion. If you want to avoid potential speech or dental problems caused by sippy cups, the straw is a great option.
Compared to the other options here, the Foogo sippy cup and thermos have more parts to clean and get funky pretty quickly. The sippy cup’s spout is made of thermoplastic rubber, which does not contain BPA or phthalates but about which I can find very little safety information.
How to Get One
Foogo is widely available, including on Amazon, and you’ll pay between $6 and $12 for a cup, depending on which model you buy.
The Bad Stuff
Anything that doesn’t SAY it’s free of BPA should obviously be avoided, but I don’t think such a cup exists anymore. I wouldn’t accept hand-me-down sippy cups since they might contain BPA. I’m staying away from all plastic sippies since I don’t believe that BPA and phthalates are the only harmful chemicals in plastic (I consider the risk from a BPA-free plastic spout or straw to be acceptable, so long as the liquid is stored in glass or stainless steel).
By this criteria, Gerber and Playtex sippy cups are Bad Stuff, despite being BPA-free. The same goes for Born Free, with an added demerit for being super stinky. Even when we only filled our Born Free sippy with water and took it apart and washed it after every use, it smelled like week-old garbage within a few hours. Gross.
How about this for an offensive premise: The First Years Take and Toss sippies are disposable plastic cups (BPA free!) with “recycle!” printed on the front of the package.
The Sneaky Stuff
Nalgene water bottles were the original Sneaky Stuff, embraced by environmentalists while all the while containing BPA. These days, Nalgene uses BPA-free plastic for their sippy cups, but plastic is plastic (I know I’m becoming a broken record here).
Another controversial sippy cup is the one made by Sigg. After promising their aluminum water bottles would not leach BPA, it was discovered that they contained the very chemical in their coating. Sigg has since corrected the situation (although if you have a bottle manufactured prior to 2008, it probably does have BPA in it). Felix adores his Sigg with tractors on it, and we still use it with water on occasion.