The Safest Sippy Cups, Ever…

To sip, to sup, to drink from a cup…

One of our issues with transitioning from a bottle has been our extended search for a sippy cup that doesn’t raise environmental health concerns. As you can see, we’ve collected a shocking number of options, a few of which were inherited.

Yet none, really, are perfect. The ideal sippy cup would be: 1) totally safe to drink liquids from after being washed repeatedly in the dishwasher; 2) durable; 3) comfortable for a young toddler to use; 4) an aid in teaching a child how to drink from a cup. This is harder to find than you might think, given that we, as a society, evidently saw the need to make this other ridiculous thing first.

So ok, generally, it may be that we are not supposed to use sippy cups for our kids. Whatev. I don’t know a family that skips ’em entirely, given the propensity of small children to spill anything even remotely liquid-like (all over their brand-new jumper from Grandma, just before leaving the house). But if you’re one of those rare, and admittedly far superior, families, then you can just hang out calmly in your unnatural Zen-like environment while you await my upcoming post on greener ways to store food at home.

In the meantime, while I’ve hardly found the best sippy cups, “ever,” I think I’ve spotted some of the good, the bad and the dubious. I scored the sippy cups I’m reviewing below on three major areas, worth a total of 5 points each: 1) environmental health; 2) transparency; and 3) durability and use. (I’ll put the scoring system at the bottom of the post, for those who regularly indulge their inner nerd and are just dying to see how I made the call on points.)

The winning types (based on my not-at-all-scientific and freshly invented scoring system) are basically the ones mostly made of stainless steel. From the top —

First Tier

  • Pura Infant and Toddler Kiki stainless steel bottles: Pura bottles come with a silicone nipple and all stainless steel components, and come in two sizes (5 and 11 ounces) and in colors as well as plain stainless steel. (There are also adult bottles with a stainless steel cap in the interior of the bottle.) While stainless steel can leach as explained below, the company claims this product has no leaching of heavy metals in tests. There are also new silicone covers that slip onto the outside, to address parents’ complaints that the bottles got too cold in the fridge, presumably. The nipple that comes with it is very much like a bottle nipple with a slightly adjusted shape, but has basically no flow control and is fast and open to spills (see the picture at the top for the shape). The ring and size do also accommodate a wide range of other nipples on the market for baby bottles. There were consumer complaints on Amazon due to sharp edges on the ring, but ours has no such issue, so I wonder if this has been addressed by a company re-design. In addition, there were stories of paint chipping off the colored ones (which seems to be consistent problem with enameled stainless products), so we got the plain silver. I also liked the completeness of the company’s information on its Website on the environmental health issues. We hand-wash the nipple, but put the ring and bottle in the dishwasher. Overall, while it has some use and convenience issues, this product is as close as it gets to good in this marketplace. Score: Environmental health: 5; Transparency: 5; Durability/use: 1 = 11 out of 15.
  • Klean Kanteen toddler bottles: This product does have some plastic on the sippy part. But the company is highly transparent, putting the type of plastic on its Web site, and identifying it as polypropylene (number 5), which is generally considered a safer and non-leaching plastic. And KK is waging a “I love boobies” campaign, which you just gotta like. (For adult bottles, I’ll note that they also have an entirely stainless steel option for caps.) The flow rate here is fast, and some of the bottles are a bit too big around for younger toddlers to hold properly. Consumers on Amazon raised two main issues: that the plastic ring can crack if dropped, and that the bottle leaks and is too cold from the fridge. There are replacement rings for sale, but that is understandably a pain, and the other issues could be a problem if you are inclined to let the child nurse a sippy cup over the day or store it in the fridge. Since we give Maya a drink and monitor the situation to remove it from her mischievous grasp the minute she seems ready to paint the floor with liquid, the leaking is not as much an issue for us, though I do wish there was a cover of some kind for putting it in the diaper bag. We handwash the plastic parts, but put the bottle in the dishwasher. The company notes that it recommends plain silver for families with toddlers who chew on things, although the acrylic paint is, they claim, safe (consumers also note a chipping problem here). Score: Environmental Health: 3; Transparency: 5; Durability/use: 3 = 11 out of 15.

Second tier

  • Lifefactory 4-ounce and 9-ounce glass bottles: These glass bottles of borosilicate glass (which is less breakable) with silicone sleeves are now made in Poland, France and the U.S., depending on the components. We use ours with a bottle nipple, but parents evidently love these smaller ones for babies. For some reason, Amazon’s listing for the sippy caps as a stand-alone product drew complaints that they break, that the valves are difficult to use, and that they leak. In terms of what plastic is used for the sippy caps, strangely, the Lifefactory Web site doesn’t say, although it provides a lot of other good information, and does indicate that the baby products are “bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalate, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) free.” In response to my email, the company let me know the sippy caps are polypropylene, a safer form of plastic. Obviously, glass is a safe container for liquids, so long as it does not break, and in our experience, the silicone sleeve would be protective against all but the most ticked-off child who deliberately throws the bottle into a brick wall. We put our bottle in the dishwasher, but have removed the sleeve even though the company indicates that you don’t need to do so. If we had a lot of these, we’d have to rethink this step, because getting the sleeve back on is a chore. Score: Environmental Health: 3; Transparency: 3; Durability/use: 3 = 9 out of 15.
  • Crocodile Creek Drinking Bottles: These are really for older kids (rated 3 plus years), so a friend, not us, owns this type. They are a 10-ounce stainless steel bottle with cute exterior painted designs, a plastic lid and a pull-up spout. The company’s Web site indicates that: “our drinking bottles are made of high-quality stainless steel #304. The lid is HDPE#2 and the cap is PP#5. All materials are completely recyclable and are lead-free, phthalate-free, BPA-free and PVC-free.” According to consumer reviews, they cannot go into the dishwasher, have been know to dent and leak, and to have badly chipping paint after limited use. In addition, one reviewer talked about a metallic taste with acidic juices after some hours in the bottle. Still, at least the interior (unlike the Sigg bottles I’ll discuss below) is stainless steel and not aluminum with a interior plastic overlay. So while they look similar to Sigg bottles, they are the better type of this product. Score: Environmental Health: 3; Transparency: 4; Durability/use: 2 = 9 out of 15.

  • Thermos Foogo Phases Leak Proof Stainless Steel Sippy Cup: This 7-ounce cup (the blue and yellow one in the picture) has an acceptable flow, fits nicely in a toddler’s hands, and has a stainless steel body with a plastic top. It is insulated, and allegedly is safe for hot and cold beverages and will maintain temperature for house. About the plastics, the company’s materials say: “these containers are made from FDA-approved materials, and all of their plastic components are BPA-free.” Upon my email request, they told me that the plastics are “polypropylene which is BPA and PVC free,” and this listing of the product by MightyNest says that they are  pthalate-free (though made in China). Maya likes this cup, though she also likes to push the spout through all the way, spilling its contents everywhere. On Amazon, a few consumers reported leaks, many said the insulation didn’t really work, and one reported that the spout had become black, moldy, “sticky and brittle.” We handwash this cup generally, but occasionally have put the bottle base only through the dishwasher. Score: Environmental Health: 3; Transparency: 3; Durability/use: 3 = 9 out of 15.
  • Kid Basix Safe Sippy 2: (This is the green and orange one above.) This sippy comes with a conversion to a straw set-up and is a nice shape and size, with an acceptable flow rate for toddlers and a cap for travel. There are a set of complicated valves that come with it that I’ve never bothered to use. While the Website has some information on the plastics used, which are pthalate- and BPA-free, I had to write them a note to get more information on the plastics, and here’s what they said: “There is no PVC in the cup or any of its parts. The Cap, Lid, Spout and Handles are made of #5 Polypropylene. The Straw is made of LDPE #4.” (These are generally considered safer plastics; more info about these plastics by number and their safety is below.) We handwash this cup and have had no issues, really, outside of that small inconvenience. However, consumer complaints on Amazon indicate frustration about missing all the small pieces and parts, and a number of them raise an issue about a persistent, gross milk smell that seems related to bacteria trapped between the plastic cover and bottle, and that is not resolved by repeated trips through the dishwasher. Score: Environmental Health: 3; Transparency: 3; Durability/Use: 2 = 8 out of 15.
  • Green Sprouts Stainless Steel Bottle: This is a basic stainless steel water bottle (the exclusively green one, above) with a plastic rubbery-spout. The spout is hard for Maya to use, as it requires considerable suction. The Green Sprouts company claims the product has “no BPA, PVC, Lead, or Phthalates,” which is nice, but does not identify the plastic (after an email, the customer service identified the plastic as PVC-free polypropylene and the spout as silicone). There is no information about the grade of stainless steel used in the cup, which feels thinner than the other cups. It can go in the dishwasher once the plastic top is removed, though a plastic ring remains. Most critically, when we first got this cup, Maya immediately plucked the inner part of the spout out of the middle with two fingers, and put it in her mouth. It’s a terrible shape and choking hazard, and easy to remove for a child, so it raises a serious safety concern, as reflected by other parent reviews on Amazon as well. Score: Environmental Health: 3 (unknown); Transparency: 3; Durability/use: 0 = 6 out of 15 but with a serious safety issue for young children.

Off my list entirely:

  • Sigg Aluminum bottles: Despite the really cute designs, these are aluminum bottles covered with a interior coating that Sigg refuses to identify, except to say as follows: “The new EcoCare liner by SIGG is comprised of many ingredients. The primary compounds utilized are a special combination of ultra-thin layer forming co-polyesters, many of which are commonly found in different variations across a variety of well-known food and beverage brand products. The materials used in producing the liner are BPA-Free and Phthalate-Free, as well as being free of any VOCs (volatile organic compounds).” Note PVC is not on this list of excluded plastics. Aluminum itself is not the safest ingredient, so you might also worry about scratches or erosion that uncover the metal. Moreover, Sigg basically deceived consumers a few years back about whether its bottles contained BPA in the lining, which they did prior to August 2008. Boo. (And Gaiam’s aluminum bottles were far worse on the BPA front, so they’re out too, in my mind.)
  • Think Baby and Green to Grow “better” plastic bottles: We’ve also now decided, down the road a bit, that the troubling 2011 study showing that endocrine disruptors (like BPA) leach from most plastic products (even ones labeled BPA-free) mean that we’re leaving plastic behind whenever we can. We handwashed and babied these, but now I wish I’d never gotten them in the first place. Still, if you want to go the plastic route, Think Baby in particular does seem like a better option than other plastic cups.

Does stainless steel leach?

Yes. A teensy amount of nickel and chromium (or at least cookware does when heated or scratched or both). While this is not likely a health issue so long as you do not have a nickel allergy, it’s not a great idea to store hot or warm items, or highly acidic items, in stainless steel. (This applies to cookware as well, obviously.)

What’s the problem with plastic?

After going to the grocery store tonight, I started thinking about how almost all our food is stored in plastic, so really, what’s the big deal? While it’s certainly not ideal that virtually all food is stored that way, the main issue with something like a sippy cup is that we repeatedly use it and will wash or put it in the dishwasher, exposing it to heat and wear that will cause it to leach chemicals if made of plastic.

Most of the plastic containers for food — i.e., yogurt, milk (yes, there’s polyethylene on the inside of cardboard milk containers, as a Horizon representative told me on the phone last week), etc, are marked 1, 2, or 5, as I’ve noticed through my odd habit of squinting at the bottom of random containers. These are generally considered safer plastics, but none are robust enough for repeated use.

Instead, the plastic that is sold for re-usable applications has generally been number 7, or polycarbonate, plastic, which can contain BPA. And even bottles and cups labeled “BPA-free” can leach endocrine disrupting chemicals. In addition, some manufacturers appear to have replaced BPA with something just as bad. Anyway, sippy cups are a durable item we can actually easily do something about, unlike almost everything else at the store. (Want to rid yourself of all that store-bought plastic too? Here’s a blogger who’s admirably trying.)

Resin identification code 2 ♴ for high density...

Resin identification code 2 ♴ for high density polyethylene (HDPE) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a quick summary of the safety and recycling of plastics-by-number (found in a small triangle on the bottom of bottles and other containers):

1) PETE, aka PET (polyethylene terephthalate): Used for most transparent bottles, such as water, soda, cooking oil, and medicine bottles. Generally safe to use (not reuse); generally recycled.

2) HDPE (high density polyethylene): Sturdy, rigid plastic found in reusable food storage containers, milk and detergent bottles. Generally safe; generally recycled.

3) PVC (polyvinyl chloride): Used for plastic wrap, and detergent and cooking oil bottles. Also used for water systems in households. Additives in PVC can increase the risk of birth defects and hormone- related cancers. Its production is hazardous to workers and the environment. Generally not safe; not recycled.

4) LDPE (low density polyethylene): Flexible plastic used for bags or wraps, such as produce bags and baby bottle liners. Most number 4 plastics are not designed for reuse. Generally safe; generally not recycled.

5) PPE, aka PP (polypropolene): Pliable plastic found in squeeze bottles, reusable food containers, and yogurt and margarine tubs. Generally safe; generally recycled.

6) PS (polystyrene): Used in rigid take out containers and foam meat trays. Can leach styrene when heated, a possible endocrine disrupter and human carcinogen. Not safe when heated; generally not recycled.

7) Other most often refers to PC (polycarbonate): This plastic is most commonly used for baby bottles, five gallon water jugs, and reusable sports water bottles. It can leach out the hormone disrupter bisphenol A, especially when heated. Because this group can include various other plastics, it has limited recycling potential.

Other Issues with Sippy Cups

Some dentists and speech pathologists do raise issues with sippy cups and speech development. Teaching children to drink from a straw is supposed to help, particularly if you are grappling with speech delays.

In addition, it’s best to stay on top of where the cups land if you don’t want your toddler rediscovering it a few days later and drinking its well-mellowed contents! And monitoring may pay off: a new study shows there are a substantial number of injuries from toddlers tripping while walking around with sippy cups and bottles and taking it in the teeth.

The other major issue I feel obliged to flag, given my recent post on bottle feeding and obesity, is what goes in the cup. We stay away almost entirely from refined or extra sugar in Maya’s diet, including juice. Instead, she drinks water and milk and has never yet been made aware that beverages can be full of what she always calls (with an almost mystical look of bliss on her face) “suuugar.”

Sippy cups, to the extent that they are highly convenient sugar-delivery devices, are likely problematic mostly for this reason, so (if it’s not too late), you may want to attempt the cruel but effective total denial strategy we’ve used, which has worked fairly well.

My rating system for a score of 0 to 15:

Environmental Health:

  • 5 = no chemicals of concern and no plastic
  • 4 = no chemicals of concern / plastics considered safer & outside areas of use
  • 3 = no chemicals of concern / some safer plastics in areas for use
  • 2 = some chemicals of concern near areas of accessibility and use
  • 1 = serious chemicals of concern in accessible area
  • 0 = outright hazard to health

Transparency:

  • 5 = information about components and plastics fully presented on company Web site
  • 4 = information about components and plastics partially presented on company Web site
  • 3 = information not on Web site, but fully answered upon email inquiry
  • 2 = information not on Web site, and only partially answered by email inquiry
  • 1 = response to email, limited or no information provided
  • 0 = no email response

Durability and Use:

  • 5 = No consumer complaints on durability, safety or ease of use
  • 4 = Few or insignificant consumer complaints on durability or ease of use
  • 3 = Some consumer complaints; durability or ease of use only
  • 2 = Significant consumer complaints; durability or ease of use only
  • 1 = Consumer complaints raising safety risks
  • 0 = Alarming information showing lack of safety of product

###

I hope this is helpful to you!

Anyone looking for information on baby bottles and feeding issues should check out this useful summary of tips from the Environmental Working Group. And here’s another sippy cup review from MightyNest, which sells many of these options.

I’d love feedback on this new rating system, which I hope to use with other products as well, and if you had a different experience with these cups, do tell.

Also, please do feel free to add your own ratings of sippy cups you’ve used with a brief explanation in the comments. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the options out there, and folks will be very interested in your experience and views, as this question comes up a lot!

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21 thoughts on “The Safest Sippy Cups, Ever…

  1. Pingback: New Reusable Silicone Re Usable Food Storage Wraps Safe Kitchen Wrap

  2. Thank you for this great, informative post. We’ve used Lifefactory bottles with our son from Day 1 and have been very pleased with them. No breakages or problems. Now that he is old, we’d like to transition these to a sippy cup. However, the sippy cap lids offered by Lifefactory: 1) are hard plastic, 2) don’t have any handle for ease of holding onto. Has anyone tried the Klean Kanteen sippy cup lids on the Lifefactory bottles? Would this work, or any other lid that is soft and has a handle? Not sure if the threads match. Any advice?

  3. Hi. I realize this is an old post but wanted to address the above. Customers can always reach us at 805 884 0313 or cs@purastainless.com We always stand behind our products and 100% customer satisfaction is our number one priority. We are also proud to share with your readers the new 100% plastic-free straw top that is compatible with all Pura Kiki bottles https://www.purastainless.com/purchase/silicone-straw/. Thanks so much for everbody’s support

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  5. I really appreciate this blog post. It’s exactly what I was looking for! My son is ready to start transitioning to sippy cups soon, and I’m trying to find safe options for him. We’re going to start with some glass ones and see how he does, but for transportability and safety outside of the house, we’d love to have something that is less breakable. However, I’m concerned about the fact that all stainless steel bottles are made in China. There apparently have been some recalls on some children’s bottles because of contamination from lead or other metals. Do you know of any way to ensure that the stainless steel bottles you buy for your child are definitely stainless steel and not tinted with other unsafe metals?

    Also, there seem to be some concerns that some bottles are actually aluminum bottles in disguise. Do you know of any concrete way to check and make sure that they are not aluminum?

    I recently came across the Oxo Tot sippy cup. It says that it is BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free. Do you know anything about this? I prefer to avoid plastic in general, but I’m wondering if this might be one of the safer plastic options . . .

  6. I guess I’m not the only one having trouble with this sappy cup thing. I have the pura bottle with the sippy top, but he really does not want to use it. He is just one and has never used a bottle. He loves drinking out of a straw, but there are no all stainless/glass straw sippy cups. I have mason jars with stainless straws, but I have to hold it for him when he drinks. I also would not want him to fall on one of those stainless straws or break something glass! What is a mommy to do??? The pure cups are also very narrow so they are hard for a little one to set down or not knock over. My dream sippy cup would be a stainless cup with a screw on lid and a fixed interior stainless straw with a flexible plastic (as safe as possible plastic) top straw. I wish I could find something like that!

  7. Hi Laura,
    Thanks so much for sharing you research! My kids loved their camelbak bottles, but they were plastic. I was happy to see that they did indeed come out with a stainless steel version. My kids beyond the sippy stage, but still at the point where the wide mouth chug bottles give them difficulty. Do you have any information or opinion on the stainless Camelbak?

    Thanks again!

    Kristin

  8. hi,
    I was wondering if you had any feedback for the organickids bottles? I found them on zulily and bought two, they are stainless, and have silicone spouts but I was wondering where they might fall on you tier. 🙂 I really valued that system! Thanks!

  9. Thanks for all the great info! Is the kleen kanteen that you have a newer one? I was looking at the reviews on Amazon and it seems to me that they have a new cap.. A few reviews complained that the ring pushed into their child’s nose which I think my son would get annoyed with. I wish the pura bottles had a way to turn it into a straw sippy!

  10. So this doesn’t have to do with the sippy cups but should we not be cooking in stainless cookware? We cook a lot in our stainless which is warm / hot so therefore leaching? What do you cook in for your family?

  11. Ok first I would just like to say THANK YOU for posting all your findings and knowledge. It has made my life a lot easier with you pointing to the answers I would have otherwise spent weeks searching for. Every time I go to research something nowadays I’m like “wait…lets see what Laura has to say about this” and THEN I research it, and it’s like you have just pointed to the finish line every time. It’s wonderful knowing someone else out there is putting so much effort into all this. I have been silently adoring you for a while now. I was just wondering if you know what makes the “pura kiki XL sipper spouts” blue?

  12. Hi Laura,
    You mention that even stainless steel can leach a bit and we should not put hot foods into it. Do you feel that the foogo line of insulated food jars and other stainless steel food storage jars specifically meant to store hot soups, stews etc. should be avoided? I was planning on buying a foogo insulated food jar for my 4 year old for preschool (for the very purpose of offering a hot lunch once in a while) and now feel I shouldn’t. I appreciate any thoughts and suggestions you have for a different product—glass maybe? But probably too heavy for a 4 year old. Thanks so much and very helpful blog!

    Vanessa

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Oh dear, this seems like a hard question. I can certainly understand the appeal of a warm lunch, and I’m guessing that it’s too hard for a 4 year old to figure out how to heat stuff at preschool, if that would even be allowed. I imagine, based on my reading, that the amount of leaching from stainless steel, particularly from an occasional meal, is not generally a problem, unless the adult or child has a nickel allergy. High levels of acid, such as tomato sauce, is supposed to result in additional leaching. So if you have occasional use in mind, and no evidence of an issue with nickel, and stay away from highly acidic foods, I would think Foogo would be alright. You could also ask them about it, or I could, just to see what they would say. Tempered glass, like a Pyrex, might survive the travel, but it would be heavier, and would not keep food warm. Nor would I recommend Pyrex for hot foods, given the plastic lids. Anchor Hocking makes a fully glass container, but it’s not suitable for liquids, in my understanding. So there we are — no great options! Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful — if others have ideas, please comment! All best, Laura

  13. Hi Laura,

    I just bought 4 .6 liter stainless steel Pura bottles for my kids and me. Unfortunately, Amazon has had trouble locating them, so we only received two. One of them leaks. I tried calling the toll-free number for Pura (877-578-PURA) twice, but both times I got messages that it was disconnected. I\’ve e-mailed them and I\’ll wait to receive their response. Do you know if they’re going out of business? I just spent $60 on 4 bottles, so I\’m kind of concerned.

    Thanks for your blog!

    Eve

  14. Hi Laura,

    I just bought 4 .6 liter stainless steel Pura bottles for my kids and me. Unfortunately, Amazon has had trouble locating them, so we only received two. One of them leaks. I tried calling the toll-free number for Pura (877-578-PURA) twice, but both times I got messages that it was disconnected. I\’ve e-mailed them and I\’ll wait to receive their response. Do you know if they\’re going out of business? I just spent $60 on 4 bottles, so I’m kind of concerned.

    Thanks for your blog!

    Eve

  15. Hi Laura,

    I just bought 4 .6 liter stainless steel Pura bottles for my kids and me. Unfortunately, Amazon has had trouble locating them, so we only received two. One of them leaks. I tried calling the toll-free number for Pura (877-578-PURA) twice, but both times I got messages that it was disconnected. I’ve e-mailed them and I’ll wait to receive their response. Do you know if they’re going out of business? I just spent $60 on 4 bottles, so I’m kind of concerned.

    Thanks for your blog!

    Eve

    • Eve, Thanks so much for writing about this and please let us know what happens. I share your concerns! I just ordered mine from Amazon with no problems — did you order from a supplier or directly from the company? Just curious as to who might be at fault… Keep us posted, please!

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