UPDATED: April 2015
Felix never drank out of a bottle due to what I called his “reverse nipple confusion,” but once he started on water (and yes, diluted juice), he happily accepted a sippy cup. With Wolfie, we never even tried to give him a bottle, as I didn’t use a pump the second time around. I started him on a sippy cup even sooner.
When I was researching sippy cups for Felix, I was 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: even back then (in 2010 or so), major news outlets like The New York Times were reporting the dangers of BPA substitutes.
Since then, more research has emerged, and it has become clear that all plastic food and drink containers should be avoided whenever possible.
The good news is that there are lots of safe glass and stainless steel sippy cups available (see below, under “The Good Stuff.”)
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, but this is related to the frequency of sugars being in contact with the teeth rather than the cup itself (when children have access to a sippy full of apple juice all day, for instance).
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!” Sadly, this is meaningless, as we now know that estrogen-mimickers are found in BPA-free plastics, too.
- Silicone. This plastic substitute seems to be non-leaching and non-toxic, although I would like to see more studies conducted on silicone. Increasingly, sippy cup manufacturers are using silicone spouts or straws in place of the old plastic ones, and this is definitely an improvement.
- Latex. Like silicone, latex is a good alternative to plastic, although because it is a somewhat common allergen, not many companies go this route.
- 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 or its analogs (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. This is probably the best material in terms of safety, but it’s heavy and breakable, so most people prefer stainless steel sippies.
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
This entirely plastic-free sippy cup is a customer (and personal) favorite. NEW as of June 2015: Pura also offers a straw version of this cup!
A stainless steel body and silicone spout means zero contact with plastic for your toddler. Also great is the way this cup transitions as your child grows–just replace the spout with the silicone straw top (sold separately). And now you can buy a straw version of this cup to begin with, if you want to skip the spout style entirely.
The Pura Kiki cup is not completely spill proof–if your child is intent on tipping it and shaking it, water will leak. This is easily avoided, however, by using the travel cap that comes with every cup.
How to Get One
The Good Stuff online store, where we sell the Pura Kiki Sippy for $16 a pop.
This lesser-known sippy cup is a good option for people who want glass over stainless steel.
Liquids only come in contact with glass or silicone (in the straw/spout) when you use this cup. The cup comes with a no-drip sippy spout and a straw option.
This cup has a lot of parts to clean. If this cup is dashed to the ground by a toddler, the glass insert will probably break. Note that the plastic cups by Green Sprouts are Sneaky Stuff. I only recommend this one variety from this brand.
How to Get One
You can buy the Green Sprouts sippy on Amazon.
Eco Vessel Insulated Sippy is made of food-grade stainless steel and has no lining of any kind. The double handles are nice.
The insulation means that liquids stay cold for hours. This is our preferred cup for taking smoothies on the go (we just unscrew the sippy lid to drink). This cup won’t break when dropped and is easy to clean.
Some kids have been known to bite through the silicone spout on this sippy.
How to Get One
You can buy the Eco Vessel Insulated Sippy Cup in our online store for $21.
Klean Kanteen makes a great leak-resistant stainless steel sippy cup, and they recently swapped out the plastic spout for a silicone one.
This cup is good in the leak department because of the valve-style of the spout, plus the added dust cover.
You aren’t supposed to put the Klean Kanteen bottle in the dishwasher because the paint chips–and it also seems to chip more easily than the Eco Vessel sippy when dropped.
How to Get One
Widely available at a range of retail locations as well as on Amazon, a Klean Kanteen sippy cup costs around $15 for the small 12-ounce bottle.
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 prefer the latter model (pictured on the right).
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 mold-like growth on occasion. If you want to avoid potential speech or dental problems caused by sippy cups, the straw is a great option. It’s also leak-proof, so you can toss it in a bag.
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. I recommend going with the straw option.
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 Safe Sippy has a lot of fans, and it is indeed made of safe stainless steel (insulated, no less). The straw of the Safe Sippy is made of LDPE #4 plastic, which is one of the safer types of plastic, and not known to be hormone disrupting. Still, now that there are many sippy cups that are completely plastic free, I am reluctant to call this one The Good Stuff.
If you are looking for a glass sippy cup that’s a bit simpler and also sturdier than the Green Sprouts one recommended above, a Lifefactory glass bottle with a sippy lid is worth considering. The bottle comes with a silicone sleeve to reduce the chance of breakage, and the spout is a traditional plastic mouthpiece.
This cup is easy to clean and doesn’t get moldy and gross. All materials used by Lifefactory are manufactured in the U.S. or Europe.
The only reason I am not listing Lifefactory as Good Stuff is that the spout is made of plastic, although it’s polypropylene, a low-risk plastic that does not appear to be a hormone disruptor.
The Bad Stuff
The same goes for Born Free plastic sippies, 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.
The Zoli straw sippy cup is made of low-risk polypropylene, but with so many good non-plastic options now available, there is no need to use a plastic cup at all.
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). In addition to the BPA concerns, aluminum itself should be avoided, as explained above.
Camelbak makes great stainless steel water bottles for adults, and they used to make a kids’ version with a straw that was a perfect sippy cup. Now, they only make a BPA-free hard plastic version, which was called out as unsafe in a 2011 study.
ThinkBaby plastic sippy cups should be avoided for all the reasons I have been repeating, but their stainless steel option (with a silicone spout) is safe–although it seems permanently out of stock so may have been discontinued.
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