Please note: We have just released a second edition of our Z Report on BPA, and have incorporated detailed lists of BPA-free and non-BPA-free sippy cups into the report. The directory includes profiles of more than 25 companies, identification of BPA content in both bottles and sippy cups, and a continuously updated log of additional feeding products produced by these companies. The reviews here can still help you make an informed decision regarding product design, durability, and appeal, but for a more complete reference guide to non-BPA sippy cups, we encourage you to access the updated information here.
Bisphenol-A, a substance used in the production of polycarbonate plastics that has estrogenic properties and has been shown in animal tests to cause a host of health problems, has brought the issue of potentially toxic plastics into the news over the last few years, and both parents and manufacturers are starting to catch onto the idea (plastics industry efforts notwithstanding) that safer plastics and even non-plastic materials can be used to make durable and attractive baby bottles and toddler cups. (Update: You can delve into the research we've discovered by checking out our del.icio.us list here - just be aware that some of the links are astroturf or industry organizations.)
We field-tested seven toddler cups made of either metal (aluminum or stainless steel) or non-polycarbonate plastic, all known to be free of bisphenol-A or other potentially toxic monomers or plasticizers. We used and abused the cups for a period of about two weeks. We got to know their strengths and weaknesses, watched our 2.5-year-old daughter Z use each of them repeatedly, and put each one through a series of leak and drop tests to assess their durability and reliability. In the end, we decided to assign them ratings in ease of use (Z) and care (us), durability, and eye appeal, with each category having a maximum award of ten points, for a total of 30 points. The final scores don't quite reflect our personal preferences, so we made sure to throw in a word about each of our favorites we reviewed.
First up, metal alternatives to plastic sippy cups.
Design: This 7 oz. sippy cup has a soft plastic spout and is sold with or without non-removable handles attached to the screw lid. Sold in pink/purple and blue/yellow color combinations.
Dishwasher safe? Top rack only, and not recommended.
Observations: This sippy is a great size for little hands, and the vacuum-insulated design makes it comfortable to hold with cold liquids. But the plastic screw lid is difficult to open and close tightly without considerable effort. The Foogo sippy performed well in our drop tests, receiving only minor scuffs due to its tough plastic base (we dropped each cup from 45- and 90-degree angles from a height of about three feet onto a brick patio). But the "Leak Proof" cup performed poorly in our leak tests, leaking water when shaken upside down and also slowly leaking drops of water from its spout when left on its side for a few minutes. Spout components are moderately easy to take apart and clean.
Z's Take: Z latched onto this sippy quickly, probably because it was very much like sippy cups she already has.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 7. Durability: 9. Eye Appeal: 5. Total points: 21/30.
Design: The 12-oz. Foogo straw cup has a Thermos-like cylindrical look and features a smoothly-operating flip-top lid and innovative straw construction. Vacuum double-walled, with a thin plastic housing on the bottom edge. Sold in pink/purple and blue/yellow color combinations. Thermos also makes a Foogo Food Jar in the same style and colors.
Dishwasher safe? Top rack only, and not recommended.
Z's Take: Z quickly mastered the lid's release button and enjoys using the cup.
Observations: Larger than the Foogo sippy, Thermos' Foogo straw cup is ideal for older toddlers due to its size and flip-top lid. The straw and lid components are a far superior design to other straw cups we've had (we learned to curse a Munchkin model) and the parts come apart easily for cleaning. (Baby Toolkit has a great post examining the lid design, in both words and pictures, and comparing it with Thermos' last generation of toddler straw cups, the Funtainer.) We believe this cup will transition fairly well as our daughter grows out of the "sippy" stage. The cup lived up to its "Leak Proof" title with its lid closed but fared poorly in our drop test; dropped from both 45- and a 90-degree angles, it suffered dents in its bottom edge through the weak plastic frame and showed discolored denting in the plastic as well, making us wonder whether a bit more abuse would break off the bottom shell completely. Recommended for older toddlers. Jeremiah's runner-up favorite.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 8. Durability: 6. Eye Appeal: 8. Total points: 22/30.
Design: The SIGG is a stylish standout in this bunch, with 0.3 liter and 0.6 liter bottles recommended for toddler use, and 1-liter models available for adults. All SIGG bottles can share interchangeable lids - screw-top, "active" (flip-top) and "bottle top" (a twist-style sports bottle lid), plus additional accessories which further expand on the lid varieties. Toddler SIGGs are sold with the bottle-top lid and a "mud cap," a hemispheric snap-locking cap held onto the neck via a plastic ring slipped on between the lid and the bottle body.
Dishwasher safe? Not recommended
Z's Take: Z immediately loved her SIGG sippy for its colorful, playful graphics. She has had some difficulty mastering the twist-to-open sports cap, but she loves the round cap that snaps on top of it.
Observations: The SIGG's single-walled design means the cup gets very cold with cold liquids. The bottles also dent and scratch easily if (when) dropped. And while minor dents and scratches may just make a bottle look well-loved, larger ones could cause paint to chip off. SIGG does sell some models with a more durable exterior coating but somewhat less vibrant designs. The SIGG leaked a slight amount of water into its cap when left on its side for an hour, but the water did not escape. Based on Z's current difficulty in twisting the lid, we'd recommend the larger 0.6 liter bottle for older toddlers, for whom manual dexterity, a decreased inclination to drop things at random, and increased water needs should dovetail nicely. Interchangeable caps mean that Z may be able to use her SIGG for a while as she grows - if she doesn't outgrow the design. Jeremiah's hands-down favorite, and Jenni's runner-up; the variety of bright and clever graphics must be seen to be believed.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 9. Durability: 7. Eye Appeal: 10. Total points: 26/30.
Design: The extruded stainless steel Klean Kanteen's design, shape, and industrial sensibilities inspired love and scorn, depending on where you looked in our family. The toddler size is 12 oz. (sizes go up from there for adults) and lids come in three parts, which are too difficult to describe late in the evening but fit together solidly, if somewhat squeakily. Klean Kanteens outfitted for sippin' use Avent sippy inserts, and a sippy cup purchase includes two of them.
Dishwasher safe? Shell, but not lids
Z's Take: Z seems comfortable with the sippy lid, and the bottle's neck makes for a comfortable grip with no need for handles.
Observations: As with the aluminum SIGG, the Klean Kanteen's single-walled construction means the bottle can get quite chilly if you put cold water in it. The bottle also dents very easily, leaving pea-sized dents in the bottom edge when dropped at both 45- and 90-degree angles. The bottle's logo also faded significantly from gentle hand-washing alone, but then again, the logo is also ugly. The bottle leaked a bit when shaken upside down, but passed our side-rest leak test with no problems. Also like the SIGG, the Klean Kanteen can accept a variety of caps, and the shell's mouth is large enough to make drinking with no lid comfortable. Lids sometimes squeak when they're being screwed on, and the non-toddler sports lid we were sent squeaked a bit when we used it. Jenni's favorite. For more Klean Kanteen reviews, check out Thingamababy and Eco Child's Play.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 10. Durability: 7. Eye Appeal: 7. (Note: This is an average of Jenni's 9 and Jeremiah's 5. Different strokes.) Total points: 24/30.
We began examining the many plastic bottles we already had, discarding those made of dangerous or unknown plastics and giving a fresh look to those we suddenly had a new way of looking at. Based on our experience and that information, and on a sample Born Free toddler cup which arrived in the mail yesterday, we feel confident recommending any of the following for parents looking for a cheap, durable alternative to polycarbonate drinkware.
Design: Simple plastic sippy with soft, nipple-like sippy spout or hard plastic spout and removable handle ring.
Dishwasher safe? Yes, top rack
Observations: We aren't sure what it is, but BornFree's sippy cup just looks nicer than other non-polycarbonate plastic sippy cups. Perhaps it's the unusual polyamide plastic, which is translucent rather than foggy, its soft but pleasant colors, or its ergonomic design. The cup leaked very slightly and the leak was contained in its removable cap, and it didn't dent or scratch noticeably when dropped. The spout is very soft and the vacuum design makes liquids come out slowly, which is ideal for toddlers just starting to use sippy cups. Born Free's other model has a hard spout. Our favorite plastic sippy cup.
Z's Take: Z handles the cup well but finds the flow to be a bit slow. She enjoys chewing on the nipple, which would soon destroy it; for older toddlers, make sure to get the "Drinking Cup" model.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 10. Durability: 10. Eye Appeal: 7. Total points: 27/30.
Design: This 10 oz. insulated cup keeps liquids cold after it has been chilled in the freezer. Loud colors and patterns, bordering on neon.
Price: $8 for two
Dishwasher safe? Yes, top rack
Z's Take: This cup is from our private collection, and has served its owner well, but the flow rate is too slow at this point to satisfy her thirst.
Observations: On the large side of the sippy spectrum, this cup is basically indestructible, not only failing to dent or scratch when dropped, but actually bouncing about 50% of the distance back up off the ground. It does not leak when left on its side, but does when shaken upside down. Spout components come apart easily for cleaning.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 10. Durability: 10. Eye Appeal: 2. Total points: 22/30.
Design: A no-frills plastic sippy cup with a removable handle ring.
Price: $9 for two
Dishwasher safe? Yes
Observations: What can we say? It's ugly, it's cheap, and it gets the job done. The Magic Cup first failed our side-rest leak test with flying colors, but then we realized we had screwed on the lid incorrectly and managed to seal it tight but off its threading. It passed a retest but we are newly aware of its persnickitiness.
Z's Take: Old faithful.
Ratings: Ease of Use and Care: 7. Durability: 9. Eye Appeal: 2. Total points: 18/30.
Update: Since this post was written, Z Recommends has published a report on BPA in bottles made by all major U.S. brands. If you are looking for additional information about safe baby bottles, read our research, and recommendations, here.
If you are uncertain of the types of plastic in your toddler's drinkware, check the bottom of the cup, which may classify the plastic according to a recycling code. 1, 2, 4, and 5 are OK, but 3 and 6 are not, and 7 usually is not, either. If the number is not specified, you can call the company to learn the type of plastic used or simply replace unaccounted-for plastics with known safe alternatives.
If you do and must use plastics numbered 3, 6 and 7, know that the following habits increase the likelihood of toxins migrating to the surface of your plastic and posing a risk to your child:
- Using scratched or worn plastic containers
- Heating food in plastic containers
- Placing hot food in plastic containers to cool
- Heating foods covered in plastic wrap
- Washing plastic containers in the dishwasher