Imagine this: Your baby transitions from using a bottle to an open cup effortlessly overnight.
Wouldn’t that be perfect?
Sadly, this isn’t a perfect world, and making the switch from bottle or breast to a proper cup can be challenging for a lot of new parents and their babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving up a bottle somewhere between your baby turning 12 and 24 months old. But there is a learning curve involved in using an open cup, and understandably so.
So until your baby has perfected drinking from a cup, you could expect ample spills and messes to clean up!
This is exactly where sippy cups come in.
The usefulness of the sippy cup means there are plenty of variations to choose from.
You can find six main types of sippy cups on the market. They are:
- Transitional, soft-spout cups
- Hard spouted cups
- Straw cups
- Flat lid cups
- Doidy cups
- Open top cups
With so many choices out there, choosing the right one can feel confusing. But don’t you worry, it’s not as overwhelming as it seems!
In this guide, we’ll discuss the main types of sippy cups, along with their advantages and disadvantages to help you make the right choice for your baby.
Discontinuing the bottle with the help of sippy cups
Children can typically start using sippy cups as soon as they can sit in a highchair, meaning they’re suitable for seven to eight month old babies.
Once you make the switch, you should try to discontinue bottle use or breastfeeding altogether since the habit gets harder to break the longer you wait.
Think of sippy cups as a bridge to the real deal.
Once your baby gets the hang of holding the sippy cup upright, it might just become their new favorite companion.
“Sippy cups are designed to accommodate babies and toddlers at different times in their growth and development. They can be used as early as four to six months, supervised,” says Dr. Kim Langdon, a renowned OB/GYN at Medzino.
She advises parents to choose sippy cups that resemble the shape of a nipple for babies who are just starting out.
At the same time, Dr. Langdon warns against sippy cups that are too difficult to suck from.
She says, “The earlier ones should not be as difficult to suck from [as a nipple], with some free flow.”
The goal is for babies to get enough liquid safely, which means avoiding too much overflow that could choke them or spill out.
She encourages parents to pay attention to other components of a sippy cup, such as the valve and lid type, as well.
Considering the valve design is essential, as it impacts your child’s development: “Avoid no-spill valves because they do not promote normal sipping—just more sucking.”
When it comes to lids, Dr. Langdon asks parents to opt for snap-on or screw-on ones because they are better for children’s dental health.
Since they don’t fill with sugary fluids, these lids can help avoid tooth decay.
What are the different types of sippy cups?
Take one step into the baby aisle, and you’ll find dozens of sippy cups in different shapes and sizes.
Similar to other baby gear, you’ll have to make your pick after doing some market research.
“There are basically three types of sippy cups: those with spouts, those without spouts, and those with straws,” Dr. Langdon points out.
Spouts can be divided into two groups: nipples and latches.
The latch version has a more rectangular shape than the rounded nipple, and has a slit for the liquid to flow out from more freely (with no sucking required).
Doidy cups are another option.
Instead of a nipple or a latch, the doidy cup encourages the child to sip from a rim.
According to Dr. Langdon, “These cups don’t require that the cup is tipped because of the slant of the body of the cup.” However, if your child doesn’t like holding onto things, this may not be the best choice. “Children who throw cups a lot should not use this cup,” warns Dr. Langdon.
With this in mind, read on as we discuss the different types of sippy cups in greater detail.
Trainer or transitional soft-spouted sippy cups
As the name suggests, a trainer or transitional sippy cup “trains“ your baby, allowing them to get the hang of how to use the cup properly. These are appropriate for infants who are four to nine months old.
The cup is designed to be baby-friendly, with some featuring two handles that make it easy for young infants to hold and learn gripping skills.
The spout on the cup is soft and replicates the shape and feel of the bottle nipple, which is why it makes the transition easier for your baby.
The soft spout can be especially useful for babies who are in the early stages of teething as the little ones can nibble on it, helping it soothe their gums.
Many transitional sippy cups require the child to bite the nipple and suck at the same time which can make it difficult to get any fluid out.
Dr. Langdon suggests every parent try the sippy cup out for themselves to see how easy or hard it is to use.
Although a transitional sippy cup relies on sucking like a bottle, the fact that the spout feels familiar encourages faster acceptance. This makes the soft-spout sippy cups ideal for transitioning your infant to their first sippy cup.
- Suitable for infants between four and nine months old
- Features handles that teach gripping skills
- Spout feels like the bottle nipple, making weaning baby easier from the bottle
- The spout does not teach sipping
Hard-spouted sippy cups
Once babies turn into toddlers, parents have to swap their baby products for ones that are designed to feel similar to their adult counterparts—a sippy cup being no different.
Hard-spouted sippy cups should be on your list if you have a toddler at home.
In fact, when people imagine a sippy cup, many imagine the hard-spout lids.
These sippy cups require less sucking and more tilting, so they are a good step towards helping your baby learn open cup skills.
Some hard-spouted sippy cups have extra features, too—you can find spill proof and insulated models that are backpack safe and preschool friendly. You can also find stoppers inside a few models that ensure the flow of liquid is directed in one direction.
- Good choice for babies who are already used to a soft-spouted cup
- Can be used by preschoolers and toddlers
- Unsuitable for younger babies
Straw sippy cups
Not all parents are comfortable with the thought of using spouted sippy cups for the long run.
The main cause of concern is that these cups can lead to speech problems or dental issues, with several speech therapists and dentists cautioning against relying too much on them. Instead, they find straw cups to be a better alternative.
Straw cups are a great option for older babies who are between one and two years old. Many parents who opt for this type have babies who like to suck harder, or who simply refuse a spouted sippy cup.
One of the major drawbacks of straw cups is the cleanliness. Since you cannot take apart the straw, adequate cleaning can be difficult.
Additionally, drinking from these cups is different from regular cups—it doesn’t have to be tipped back to work.
This can be a little confusing for babies later on when they learn that they have to tip back an open cup to sip, and not keep it leveled like a straw cup.
- A great choice for breastfed babies
- Favored by speech therapists and dentists
- A good option for children who refuse to drink from a regular sippy cup
- Not suitable for babies younger than one year old
- Can be hard to clean
Flat lid or 360 sippy cups
Flat lids, also known as 360s, have a very unique design.
In this case, the liquid comes out all around the sides of the lid when lips press on it.
This style is often hailed as the first sippy cup lid that has been invented keeping both children and parents in mind. It can prevent spills, eliminating messes, and it supports good dental health—all at once.
Plus, as the baby can drink from anywhere around the rim—as they would with a regular cup—the flat lid promotes normal muscle development in a child’s mouth.
You don’t have to worry about any straws or spouts impacting their teeth. Plus, and it’s easy to keep clean.
Dr. Langdon is also a huge fan of this style and how it allows normal sipping from the rim, especially the Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup (see this cup on Amazon here).
“The inside button or valve of the cup closes automatically when the child is not sipping from the rim. The fluid flows once the lips are on the rim and tilted,” Langdon remarks.
- Dentist recommended design
- Doesn’t have any spout or other extra parts or valves
- 360° edge enables drinking from any side of the cup
- Automatic sealing mechanism eliminates spills once the child stops drinking
- Easy to clean
- May splatter or drip if dropped or laid on the side
- Not suitable for younger babies
- Might be difficult for a few to learn
Children who turn 18 months old graduate from being a baby to a toddler.
This is the perfect time to make the transition away from cups with valves that involve hard sucking.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), once your child masters drinking from the open cup, you can consider putting away sippy cups for good.
Pediatricians also urge parents to switch completely to an open cup as soon as their toddlers can handle it, and a doidy cup could be the first step to ensure this.
The doidy cup is essentially a regular open cup with a slanted design — it teaches regular cup holding and sipping skills while the angled side makes it easier for your toddler to sip without tilting the cup.
- Specially designed for toddlers
- Acts as a bridge between sippy cups for younger kids and regular cups
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Not suitable for children below the age of 18 months
- Can take time to get accustomed to
Open top cups
As the name suggests, an open top cup is a type that is most similar to adult cups.
They’re simply regular cups that are less breakable and easier to hold than full-sized versions.
You can use these cups for practice once your child is between 6 and 12 months old—you, of course, have to hold the cup at this stage.
Eventually, with practice, your baby will slowly start holding onto the cup, have good lip closure on the rim, and be able to tilt the liquid gently to drink properly, spilling less.
- Easy to clean
- Can be used for introducing practice sessions
- Helps babies get accustomed to regular adult cups
- Requires parental supervision
- Can be difficult to hold at first
Sippy cup materials
You can also differentiate between sippy cups by their material.
While it’s true that plastic continues to dominate the market, you can still consider other materials according to your preference.
Sippy cups made out of plastic are lightweight and commonly cost less than other materials.
The most prominent disadvantage of plastic cups, though, is that even if it’s BPA-free, you still have to face leaching problems.
Using a sippy cup that is made of glass avoids the chemical issues related to plastic, but these are obviously heavier and more prone to breakage.
If you do opt for glass cups, make sure you invest in silicone sleeves to make them less slippery and more shatterproof.
Stainless steel sippy cups have a lot going for them.
Not only do these cups eliminate issues surrounding plastics, but they are also very durable and easy to clean.
Some brands also offer stainless steel sippy cups that are insulated to keep milk and other liquids hot or cold as needed.
The majority of transition cups use silicon in the form of soft sprouts, sleeves, valves, or straws.
The soft and pliable material helps prevent gum injuries, even after being gnawed on by a teething baby.
However, the silicone can become too chewed up and require replacement – sometimes just the spout, but possibly the whole thing.
Sippy cups are an integral part of your child’s life, and the most important thing is to find one that your baby likes and can use easily.
You may have to buy two to three varieties to find the right fit.
Dr. Langdon says, “The key is to get adequate fluid intake and less spillage over the face and on the environment. Additionally, the ability to hold the cup is another critical factor, which is why some cups have two handles so that they do not slip out of the child’s hand.”
When it’s time to first introduce your baby to sippy cups, look for transitional models or those that have soft spouts. Hard spouted sippy cups and toddler cups are a better option for more experienced toddlers who have mastered the soft spouted models.
In terms of the material, plastic is a dependable choice—provided you replace the cups regularly. Stainless steel sippy cups are great alternatives if you want a sippy cup that is durable and easy to maintain.
At the end of the day, remember that it’s okay if your child doesn’t want to use the sippy cup at first.
After all, every baby follows their own timeline. If that’s the case, patience and persistence are key: just keep offering them the sippy cup with each meal until they adjust.
Before you go, check out more guides like this one including:
Hope this helps!