Best Sippy Cup Selection Guide – Part 1 of 2
Best Sippy Cup Selection Guide – Part 1 of 2
Some of the main qualities to compare when selecting the sippy cup that works best for your family are easy drinking, simple cleaning, less spilling, and better health. These qualities often conflict, and must be balanced. For instance, the only way to ensure that a sippy is 100% spill-proof is to make it 100% drink-proof too! Valve-free straw cups are better for drinking and development. Valved cups (including straw, spout, and spoutless 360) are better for minimizing leaks. Valve-free cups and the spoutless 360 cups are the easiest to clean, while other valved cups tend to trap more food and moisture.
For most parents, the ideal sippy cup is just one that won’t spill. In this era of laser eye surgery and robots in space, you might wonder why the mythical spill-proof sippy cup is still just fantasy? The simple reality is that there are many qualities that must all be balanced in a good sippy cup.
A good sippy cup balances these qualities
So the main challenge to sippy cup perfection is that many of these qualities conflict with one another. For instance, the more spill resistant you make the cup, generally the harder it is to drink from and to clean, and the worse it is for dental health and for training proper drinking technique. As another example, stainless steel may be the ultimate material for food contact and durability, but it loses it’s safety advantage if your kid likes to teethe on the acrylic paint that makes it more appealing, and it also poses a greater fall hazard than more flexible materials.
Parents don’t and probably won’t ever agree on what makes the “best” sippy cup… just check the passionate and contradictory love/hate reviews for your current favorite! This guide reviews the sippy cup options, emphasizing the safest choice wherever practical, but showing all the performance trade-offs so you can decide what’s best for your particular needs.
Cup Type Comparison
There are 3 classes of sippy cups: 1) straw cups, 2) spouted cups, and 3) spoutless 360 cups. Straw and spouted cups can be either valve-free or valved, and vented or non-vented. Valved straw and spouted cups are covered in the next section. Spoutless 360 cups are all valved and vented. So this section covers these common configurations: 1) valve-free & vented straw cups, 2) valve-free & non-vented spouted cups, 3) valved & vented spoutless 360.
Valve-free straw cups are better for drinking and development, spoutless 360 cups are better for minimizing leaks
Easy to Drink From & Good Dental Health – Valve-free & vented straw cups are very easy to drink from, and straws cause less damage to fewer teeth.3,4 Spouted cups are harder to drink from, since they require more flow restriction (small holes or valves) to control leaks. Similarly, spoutless 360 cups require fairly high effort to suck the valve open and start the flow. More restrictive cups cause kids to drink more slowly and for longer periods of time, increasing the risk of cavities.
Training & Speech Development – Straw cups teach a mature drinking technique and allow kids to drink without tipping up their cup and neck1. Straw cups promote a mature swallowing pattern and tongue position for speech development.1,2 Spouted cups work similar to baby bottles, so they don’t promote mature swallowing patterns or tongue positions for speech development.1,2 Spoutless 360 cups have a valve around the rim that requires a tipping and sucking technique to drink.
Spill Resistance – Valve-free straw cups can offer good overall spill resistance. Even so, straw cups with vent holes tend to stream out the hole when turned upside down, or alternatively, straw cups without vent holes tend to pressurize and leak when using cold drinks. Valve-free spouted cups can offer good overall spill resistance (or excellent spill resistance with a valve). Spoutless 360 cups generally offer excellent spill resistance, although they do tend to spill more when dropped.
Easy to Clean – Valve-free straw cups can have as few as 3 parts, and be easy to clean. However, they occasionally require a straw brush to fully clean inside the straw. Valve-free spouted cups can have as few as 2 parts, and be easy to clean. However, they occasionally require special attention in the small holes (or valve) used to restrict flow. Spoutless 360 cups can have as few as 3 parts, and be easy to clean. However, some pockets and small holes occasionally require special attention to keep clean and mold free.
Valve Type Comparison
Valve-Free cups are free-flowing, and have no dead-ends (i.e. you can see straight through the straw). Valved cups restrict the flow to reduce leaks. They have a valve with a dead-end that inhibits flow until it is opened, either by biting, by sucking, or by a combination of the two.
Valve-free cups are better for drinking and development, valved cups are better for minimizing leaks
Easy to Drink From & Good Dental Health – If you test a cup and find it difficult or uncomfortable to drink from, it’s even harder for your kids (adults can generate about 3 times the suction that toddlers can). Valve-free cups are easy to drink from, and minimize the time liquid stays in the child’s mouth. According to the ADA, “The best training cup for your child is one with no valve.”5 Cups with bite valves can have fair flow rates. Cups with suction valves typically require high suction for low flow. Restrictive valves increase the time the liquid sits in the child’s mouth, increasing risk for tooth decay.
Training & Speech Development – Valve-free straw cups teach mature drinking techniques and swallowing patterns. Cups with bite valves train kids to bite while drinking, a habit that can be hard to break. Cups with suction valves behave more like baby bottles. “The only way a child can get liquid from a cup with a valve is by sucking (as from a baby bottle). This defeats the purpose, as it prevents your child from learning to sip.”5
Spill Resistance – Valve-free cups can offer good overall spill resistance, but generally spill more than valved cups. Cups with bite valves can achieve excellent spill resistance. However, bite valve performance can degrade with wear from repeated biting. Cups with suction valves can offer excellent spill resistance too. However, suction valves that are not located near the top of the straw or spout can trap a column of liquid that can be poured or flung out.
Easy to Clean – Valve-free straw cups are the easiest to clean. They have less tendency to trap food and moisture, and so have less tendency for mold growth. Both bite and suction valves trap liquid and food particles, and slow down drying, increasing the likelihood of breeding bacteria and mold.6
Durability – Valve-free cups are generally the most durable. Bite valves wear the fastest, since biting the valve is required to drink. Suction valves that are embedded within the cup are protected from biting, and can be durable.
Best Sippy Cup Selection Guide – Part 2 of 2. Part 2 of this series compares the safest sippy cup materials.
Resources and References
- Mann, Denise. So Long Sippy Cups, Hello Straws. WebMD, Feb 11, 2008. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Potock, Melanie. Step Away From the Sippy Cup! ASHA Sphere, Jan 9, 2014. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Drinking Straws Fight Tooth Decay. American Dental Education Association. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Hitti, Miranda. Sipping Soda Through a Straw May Cut Cavities. WebMD, June 17, 2005. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- From Baby Bottle to Cup. Journal of the American Dental Association, Vol. 135, March 2004. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Sippy Cup Do’s and Don’ts. Babycenter. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Keim, Sarah A. et al. Injuries Associated With Bottles, Pacifiers, and Sippy Cups in the United States, 1991-2010. American Academy of Pediatrics, January 24, 2012. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- The Safe use of Cookware. Health Canada, March 18 2015. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Potential for Sensitization and Possible Allergic Reaction to Natural Rubber Latex Gloves and other Natural Rubber Products. OSHA, January 28 2008. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Choosing Safer Products: Baby Bottles, Sippy Cups, and Pacifiers. Washington Toxics Coalition. Retreived May 18, 2016.
- Klages, Karen. Getting the Lead Out. Chicago Tribune, October 21, 2007. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
- Decoding the Mystery of Safer vs Toxic Plastic. The Soft Landing, January 27, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
- Recommendations for the Use of Pacifiers. Paediatr Child Health, Vol 8 No 8, pg. 515-519, October 2003.
- Pacifier Buying Guide. Consumer Reports, November 2012. Retreived May 18, 2016.