Overwhelmed by the wall of sippy cups at your local store—or online? You’re not alone. Most parents are unsure about what’s right for their child. We’ve deciphered what’s out there, by age and stage, to make finding the right sippy cup simple and stress free.
What to look for—no matter what age
√ BPA-FREE Like bottles, most sippy cups are free of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). To be safe, look for sippy cups labeled “BPA-free”.
√ LEAK-, SPILL- AND BREAK-PROOF Babies love to drop things—and as they get a little older, they love to throw things, too—making these features important.
√ AGE-APPROPRIATE PATTERNS/SHAPES Sippy cup designs are available in everything from solid colors and bright shapes to popular cartoon characters and trendy patterns. Some even change colors. (The cup becomes a different color when cold liquid is poured into it—and, as the liquid returns to room temperature, it changes back to its normal color.) What’s right for your baby depends really on what he—and you—like best!
√ DISHWASHER SAFE Most cups are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher (which doesn’t get as hot as the bottom rack), making them easier to clean.
LEARNER/TRAINER CUPS: AGES 4 TO 12 MONTHS
This is the time to start introducing your baby to a sippy cup—also called a learner or trainer cup.
Important developmental milestones*
√ Babies have lost the tongue-thrust reflex, in which she pushes her tongue against anything inserted in her mouth (including a cup spout!).
√ Babies are starting to use their finger and thumb to pick up objects, and transferring them from hand to hand—important to be able to grasp a cup.
√ By 6 or 7 months old, babies may be sitting up well enough to use a highchair during mealtime—and will begin to eat some solid foods.
√ By 12 months old, most babies are able to start drinking from a cup on their own.
SOFT, SILICONE SPOUTS These soft spouts are most like the nipples on a bottle for easy transition from bottle. They’re made of pliable silicone (a rubber-like material), which is gentle on baby’s tender gums.• EASY-TO-GRAB HANDLES Babies at this age are not advanced enough developmentally to pick up a cup without handles. The two handles—on the top or bottom side of the cup—make it easier to grasp. Some have removable handles, so your baby can use the cup at a later stage, too.
• 5- TO 8-OUNCE SIZES These smaller cups are portion-sized to match baby’s feeding needs. They hold less liquid and are lighter, and easier, for small hands to pick up.
PARENT TIP As you start with a sippy cup, fill it with just water, and offer it to your baby at just one meal a day. Show him how to maneuver it to his mouth and tip it so he can drink. Then, once he gets the hang of it, you can fill it with juice or milk and give it to him at other meals.
HARD SPOUT: AGES 12+ MONTHS
Most pediatricians recommend that babies give up bottles by 18 months, so finding a cup your baby’s comfortable drinking from—and is convenient for you—is key.
Important developmental milestones
√ Baby is weaning from the breast or bottle. This makes it even more important to find a sippy cup that works for him as it will be his source of liquids.
√ Baby is on the go—crawling and then walking. He’s becoming more independent in everything he does, including eating and drinking.
√ Baby’s able to hold a cup and drink from it on his own. He’s getting more food into his mouth as he becomes more coordinated. (He’s also more able to throw things, like a sippy cup!)
What to look for in a hard-spout sippy cup
• THE RIGHT SPOUT FOR YOUR BABY Different hard plastic spout cups are available for your toddler as he continues his journey to independent drinking:
• Raised hard spouts Typically geared for 12- to 24-month-old babies, these spouts are shaped like a bottle nipple but are made from bite-resistant plastic.
• Cup-like rim Designed for 24-month+ babies, these bite-resistant spouts are flat like an adult cup, but are slightly raised across the front of the cup to make it easier to sip from. They help baby learn to drink from a regular cup.
• 360° Rim Created for 24-month+ babies, these spout-less cups help mimic the movement of drinking from a regular cup because baby can drink from anywhere on the cup rim, similar to an adult cup.
• LARGER 8- to 12-OUNCE SIZES These cups hold more liquid as your child is drinking more—maybe even exclusively—from a cup.
• INSULATED Some hard-spout cups are insulated, oftentimes through double walls or stainless steel, to help keep liquids cooler longer for busy kids on the go, to/from child care and other activities.
PARENT TIP It may take 6 months or more of sippy cup use before your baby is willing to take all his liquid from a cup. Patience is key!
STRAW SIPPY CUPS: ANY AGE
You can introduce a sippy cup with a straw at any age, when you think your baby is ready.
What to look for in a straw sippy cup
• SOFT, SILICONE STRAW Straws are made from silicone so they are gentle on tender gums and teeth.
• STRAW SHAPE Most straws are round but some have a wider, oval-shaped top that’s easier for a toddler to close her lips around and sip from.
• OPEN/CLOSE FEATURE Most straw sippy cups come with an open/close feature, protecting the straw and keeping it clean when not in use.
• REMOVABLE Straws are removable for easier cleaning. But, before you buy, check how many parts the straw sippy cup contains—and the number of steps it takes to put back together. Some cups are easier (and less frustrating for parents!) to reassemble than others.
• INSULATED Some straw cups are insulated, oftentimes through a double wall design or stainless steel, to help keep liquids cooler longer.
PARENT TIP No sippy cup is designed to hold hot liquids; put only cold liquids into it, and never put a sippy cup in the microwave.* Every baby develops at different stages. These are general developmental milestones from the American Academy of Pediatrics—and are not followed by every child.