Sippy Cup 101
In a perfect world, babies would transition from a bottle to a cup overnight. In the real world, they don’t have nearly enough coordination to do this.
We all hate spills, especially if you have carpeting and upholstery. To all the dentists who suggest we switch to regular cups at the age of 18 months, I invite them to come over to my house to clean up after my kids have spilled milk all. over. the. place.
I just… can’t.
If your infant is ready to start drinking water, breast milk, or formula out of something other than a bottle, trainer cups are the perfect place to start. (Read about transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup here.)
Some parents skip directly to a “strawed” sippy cup or one of the newer 360 or “rimless” cups. From there, most end up using regular “spouted” sippy cups, which hold more liquid and allow your bigger kid to drink a little faster. These can also be packed into lunch boxes without spilling.
If you can transition to a regular cup sooner rather than later (translation: if you can cope with spillage better than I can), more power to ya. Truth is, most parents use some form of sippy cup through preschool.
Another tip — please do not expect your baby to pick up a cup and start drinking exclusively from it from Day One — it might take months.
Per Dr. Alan Greene, my go-to feeding guy:
“At mealtime, put some water in the cup and show your baby how to maneuver it to her mouth. A midday meal is [again] usually best. The cup will be little more than a toy for several weeks, but eventually most kids will drink down the water you put in. When they do this, it’s time to put something else in the cup or to begin giving it at other meals. It often takes about 6 months before all drinking is done with a cup – and the bedtime feeding is usually the last to switch. A good goal is that when whole milk is introduced at one year, it is in a cup, not a bottle.
It’s wonderful for babies to have security objects, but if a bottle becomes the security object, it can make weaning tough. Avoid this by not letting babies carry a bottle around with them. Only use them at mealtimes when they are sitting down or being held. If they are thirsty at other times, hand them a cup.”
When evaluating sippy cups, remember that no cup is completely bullet-proof under all conditions, so it’s a really good idea to keep sippy cups out of your laptop bag or purse-with-phone or near other precious electronics. Even the best sippy cup can be mis-threaded when you’re in a hurry, which always ends in leakage. I learned this the hard way after spilling one all over a brand spankin’ new iPad in my diaper bag and totally destroying it (apparently, it doesn’t take much…).
Also note that all the cups mentioned below are BPA-free plastic. We also have at least one stainless or glass cup in each category. See here for a more complete list of eco-food and beverage storage containers.
Best Trainer Cups
“Trainer” sippy cups are perfect for ages 4-9 months. The two handles make it very easy to grip, and the soft valve is reminiscent of a bottle nipple. These cups have to be tipped back, just like a bottle.
1. Nuby – No-Spill Super Spout ~ $7 for 2
Nuby is one of my favorite sippy cup companies. Many of their sippy cup parts are interchangeable — and they are all quite easy to clean.
This cup will hold up after being used as a flying missile, will not spill when dropped or shaken, and is affordable.
Another parent favorite, this cup comes with a nipple and a spout, so it’s a great “transformer” cup. It has a hygienic cover, which is great for keeping the spout clean while on-the-go (or at the sandbox!). The only complaint is that there are lots of pieces, which makes it a little harder to clean.
3. Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup ~ $11 for 2 – EDITOR’S CHOICE
The Munchkin 360 spoutless trainer cups are very highly rated, and for good reason. The handles are easy to hold and your little one can drink from anywhere along the rim. Because the cup automatically seals when not in use, it creates a leak-proof seal (however, it will splatter a little water when thrown on the ground).
4. Thermos – Foogo ~ $9+
Many people are leery of plastic. I get it, I do.
In the beginner’s department, check out the Thermos Foogo. Yes, it’s a little heavier (it is stainless steel and all), but otherwise very well-liked.
Bonus: it’s insulated! It will keep milk cold for up to six hours. Perfect for hot summer days or long trips to the park. And travel. Remove the handles on this cup and it can grow with you.
All Foogo cups have interchangeable parts with other FOOGO cups and thermoses. *For 6 months +
*For other eco-friendly options, check out our Glass and Stainless Steel article.
Straw Sippy Cups
Many parents start with strawed cups from the beginning and continue to use them (instead of spouted cups) due to concerns over speech problems and/or dental issues; read more about that here, though I will say that Alice used a strawed cup and still has a lisp, so there’s that 😉
One of the biggest complaints about straw sippy cups is that they can be hard to take apart and clean — and the straws can be particularly hard to clean.
Another note is that regular sippy cups (and bottles, for that matter) have to be tipped back to work. Strawed cups, on the other hand, are the opposite and require them to be level (not tipped up) in order to work. This can cause a lot of confusion and frustration for little ones who can’t figure out if they should tip or not tip. I suggest you stick to one kind instead of switching back and forth.
Nowadays, you can find cups with a weighted straw that keeps the straw in the liquid — wherever it happens to be (even if inverted, see below). These are the most popular ones — and tend to be a little more expensive (Zoli and B. Box).
Best Strawed Cups
1. Nuby Flex Straw ~ $6 for 2
In the economy department, these strawed sippys from Nuby are a great bargain.
The long, flexible straw makes it easy to use. On the downside, liquid flow tends to be a little slower than on other straw cups, but generally speaking these are very well-liked. As with most sippys, this cup doesn’t leak except if thrown.
2. Zoli – BOT ~ $12 – PARENT’S CHOICE
The Zoli Bot is the original “weighted straw” cup. The straw is soft and appealing to babies and toddlers. The sliding cover is great for keeping the straw clean while on-the-go.
I’ve used this cup extensively. Here are the quirks:
This cup—and all strawed sippys—will leak out the top of the spout after temperature change.
Example: fill it with cold milk, which then sits around at room temp for a half hour. As the milk warms, the pressure will cause the milk to flow upward and out of the spout. This happens even with cups that have a pressure-relief valve. Sorry. I don’t know any way of preventing this—it just comes with the territory.
Also note that the straw is a little harder to clean after being used with milk or juice. My advice is to clean it promptly after use and don’t let it sit around too long. You can also suck some clean water through it (during washing) to completely flush it out (gross, but worthwhile). If you fall in love with the Zoli Bot, I highly recommend getting the bundle that comes with cleaning straws.
You can buy replacement straws, as the straw is usually the first component to fail.
All of that said, I still think it’s a great cup that parents and kids both love.
3. B. Box – Essential Sippy Cup ~ $8
Also in the “beloved weighted-straw” category, the B. Box weighted sippy is a little fatter and more stable. It’s also a very good cup, although I find it a little harder to thread properly (i.e., screw the top on) than the Zoli Bot.
This cup has a larger relief valve, so I like to think it has less of a problem with the aforementioned “up-spurting.”
Many older toddlers will then move on to spouted sippy cups.
The cups in this category are more the traditional spouted sippys we’re used to seeing. These can be packed in a lunchbox or backpack, provided they are spill-proof. Many of these have a stopper inside the lid that allows liquid to flow one way.
Again, dentists will tell you that long-term use of sippy cups can affect the growth of your child’s jaw (dentists with no kids, kidding!). In reality, most parents use sippy cups for years; if you have concerns, please talk to your child’s dentist.
Best Spouted Cups
1. The First Years – Take & Toss ~ $2 for 4
Take and Toss cups are great to keep at your house for visitors and for travel. They are cheap and durable enough to use over and over. And if you lose one? No biggie.
*Note: also comes in a strawed version, which is perfect for smoothies, as the straw is a little wider and easier to slurp up thicker liquids.
2. Gerber Graduates – Fun Grips ~ $10 for 2 – EDITOR’S CHOICE
Gerber Graduates is an all-time parent favorite—and mine! These hourglass-shaped cups are easy to hold and stable when set down, making them hard to tip. They are totally spill-proof, thanks to a removable valve (remove and wash well after use).
The only downside is that these sippys are a little too big (wide) for some cup holders (stroller and car seat), but they’re otherwise perfect.
3. Playtex Insulated Spouted Cup ~ varies
If you’re looking for some fun Disney prints (and the like), check out the Playtex Insulator Spouted Cups. Because they are insulated, they’re great for hot summer days or long outings.
Rimless/360 Sippy Cups
For the kid who wants to drink from a “grown up cup,” there’s the 360 cup. Tots can drink from anywhere around the rim, which helps support good dental health. And the best part about 360 cups… no spills because the cup seals as soon as they stop drinking. This style of cup is relatively new, so you may not have seen it if you were shopping for sippy cups a few years ago.
Munchkin – Miracle 360 ~ $11 for 2 – EDITOR’S CHOICE
Munchkin pretty much dominates this category, don’t waste your money with the others. This cup is the easiest and the most highly-rated of the 360s. This is the best choice if you’re going straight from the breast/bottle to a 360 rimmed cup.
A couple of things to watch for: when thrown on the ground, this cup does leak. If your kid is known to chew silicone, you’ll have to toss this cup once the seal has been damaged from chewing.
Trainer Cups for Older Kids
The last stop between 360 cups and drinking from real cups are trainer cups for older kids.
1. Reflo Smart Cup ~ $9
The Reflo Smart Cup allows your child to learn the fundamentals of drinking from an open cup without the big mess. It comes with a cup and an insert, which controls the liquid flow rate. The difference between this type of cup and the 360 is that there’s no sucking involved, making drinking feel more natural.
The only thing to watch for is your kiddo playing with the insert. Mine (Melissa) tries to take it out and put it in “all by myself,” which can cause a little mess if not careful.
*Not spill proof, but it is splash proof!
Thanks for reading and good luck in sippy land!