How to Find the Best Transition Sippy

This photo shows a variety of transition sippy cups; note that Pura Kiki (pink sippy on right) is pictured here with silicone nipple. For transitioning  either a softer Pura Original Spout or firmer blue XL Sipper Spout can is substituted.
Article By:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday


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How do you pick the right transition sippy cup for babies just learning new skills? Choosing the right transition cup for baby can seem like an overwhelming task with too many factors to consider. Why is one no-leak cup better than another? Which kind of material should you buy? It is more than a little bit tempting to pick one at random and hope for the best. However, choosing the right cup means the difference between a cup babies will love and want to use, and a cup they find too frustrating to master. The right transition cup should limit spills and leaks, be easy to drink from and clean, and offer health benefits for your baby's developing systems. In this transition buying advice article, we'll walk you through the various leak-proof cups, explain the features we feel are important, and provide help in determining the benefits and drawbacks of each possible design.

We encourage you to read this buying guide's companion article, The Best Transition Sippy Review, to hear more about the award winning cups, and the How to Choose the Best Sippy Cup for a Toddler article for help deciphering differences between toddler and transition cups, and to find more buying advice.

You may also be interested in our related article, Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?

Why Get a Transition Cup?


Does your baby really need a special leak-proof cup, or can they just start using a regular cup? Is utilizing a transition cup even a milestone, or merely a product that makes life easier? Transition cups are not a necessary bridge between bottle drinking and learning to drink from an ordinary cup. In fact, some specialists feel no-leak cups can potentially delay a baby's desire to master the skills needed for a regular cup. Plus, leak-free cups can increase the risk of potential injury if not used properly. So why would you consider using a leak-proof cup with your baby? Here are some of the advantages:
  • Hydration—Leak-proof cups can help keep babies hydrated, without the assistance required by a normal cup. These cups allow babies to help themselves, which can increase the frequency and amount of water they consume. This can potentially help them lead healthier lives by avoiding dehydration, and happier lives by feeling a new sense of independence
Sippy cups work great for spill free in the car hydration
Sippy cups work great for spill free in the car hydration
  • Transportability—Transition cups are easy-to-transport cups that make taking fluids on travel much easier because they don't leak.
  • Convenience—Transition cups are a convenient way to help babies obtain some independence without the worry of spills, nothing is more convenient than a baby being able to do things by themselves.
  • Bridge—These cups are designed for babies, generally easy to use and clean, and when used in addition to regular cups, can be a nice bridge between ordinary cups and bottles.

Most parents like cups that don't leak, can be thrown in a bag, and are unlikely to break. So while you should continue helping children master regular cups, a leak-proof transition cup can make life a little easier.

Disadvantages

  • Potential Injury
    Babies should be seated when using sippy cups to avoid injuries
    Babies should be seated when using sippy cups to avoid injuries
    Leak-proof cups in general are responsible for many trips to the ER. Injuries are usually a result of improper use by children walking or moving while using the cups. When falls occur, the cup spout can damage the face and palate.
  • Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Because leak-proof cups help prevent spills, parents may be tempted to fill the cups with sugary beverages. Increasing exposure to sugar/carbohydrate beverages can increase the occurrence of dental decay; a concern outlined by the American Dental Association.
  • Delay Using Real Cups— Some feel the use of leak-proof cups inhibit parents from teaching children how to use ordinary cups. Children may resist practicing cup skills because they have a much easier option available.

Types of Leak-Proof Cups


This photo shows a variety of transition sippy cups; note that Pura Kiki (pink sippy on right) is pictured here with silicone nipple. For transitioning  either a softer Pura Original Spout or firmer blue XL Sipper Spout can is substituted.
This photo shows a variety of transition sippy cups; note that Pura Kiki (pink sippy on right) is pictured here with silicone nipple. For transitioning, either a softer Pura Original Spout or firmer blue XL Sipper Spout can is substituted.
This review is for transition cups for babies at least 4months of age; the cups in this category have features geared for this age group. Some cups, such as the Thermos Foogo Phases line, have interchangeable tops/spouts that change between transition stage and toddler stage cups.

There are three common types of leak-proof cups; transition, toddler, and kid bottles.
  • Transition Cups—
    These cups are for babies age 4-9 months. The cups normally hold less than 8 ounces, have softer spouts that are gentle on gums, handles for easier grasping and cup control, and are lighter so small babies can maneuver them without dropping the cup. Transition cups can help babies master hand-eye coordination, holding objects, and feeding themselves.
  • Toddler Cups—
    A good example of a standard toddler sippy cup
    These cups are designed with toddlers in mind; typically 12 months to 3 years old. These cups hold more volume and are taller typically with a contoured body that helps children hold the cup without handles. The cups are a convenience item that help toddlers stay hydrated without spills.
  • Kid Water Bottle—
    Kid bottles are designed for children over the age of 3. They normally hold more liquid than other stages, are often insulated, and have fewer soft spouts. These cups are not always leak-proof, because many do not contain an actual valve, but instead have a closeable lid or spout.

Transition Cup Design


This stage of leak-free cup is designed to ease the transition from bottles to cups by helping little ones master similar skills without the mess.

Transition cups have a leak-proof valve that stops liquid from escaping should the cup be dropped or tipped upside down. The cup bodies are usually short and squat with a wider circumference than other stage cups. Transition cups don't normally fit in cup holders because the bottom of the cups are designed to help babies set them down, so they are wider. Most of the transition cups had handles, but a few offered alternative methods for assisting babies with grasping and holding cups like a grippy silicone sleeve.
Tommee Tippee is a good example of a transition sippy; smaller volume size  softer spout  dual handles  and debris cap. This brand has a transition sippy lid which is interchangeable their Closer to Nature bottle  Best Value award in our Best Baby Bottle Review.
The Sip and Smile has a stiffer hard spout with what looks to be a soft silicone lining for baby's gums.
Thermos Foogo Phase I Insulated was the only insulated stainless steel transition sippy cups we tested.
 
Above photos are some examples of different styles of transition cups; Tommee Tippee First Sips, Gerber Graduates Sip & Smile, and Thermos Foogo Phase 1 Insulated

Performance Considerations


Not all transition cups are created equal. There is more to consider when choosing a good cup than the test metrics we reviewed in The Best Transition Cup Review, or the companion article How We Test. It is just as important to consider the different designs and how they their specific features will impact daily life. These variables can be the difference between a cup you love, and a cup baby doesn't use.

Cup Body


Transition cups really only come in one body style, but that style is somewhat different depending on the cup. Some cups are really round, some are slightly taller, but most are similar to bottle shapes and sizes. Choosing a cup size and shape will depend on the needs and skills of your baby
  • Short and Contoured—
    This cup came with a detachable lid that helped keep the spout clean  and aided in leak prevention
    Short cup designs ranged between slight tapering to hourglass. These cups usually held more volume, fit in some cup holders, and had two handles. But they were harder for babies to hold without using the handles.
  • Squat and Wide— The squat cups were the most common style in the transition cups, and they were similar to bottle shapes; the
    Tommee Tippee First Sips and the Philips AVENT Classic Bottle to First Cup Trainer even used the same body as they did in their bottle line. Many of these cups had "fat bottoms" which helped babies set them down after use. But these cups usually didn't fit into cup holders; they were hindered by their shape, as well as the handles that normally hung down too low to sit the cup properly in a holder.
    Pura Kiki is a stainless steel transition sippy that has internal volume gradations. There is zero plastic in this sippy cup.

Most of the cups fit into the two designs described above; the only exception is the Pura Kiki Stainless, which is just a shorter version of the Pura Kiki Toddler. It is not contoured or wide, it is narrow and has a silicone sleeve to assist in holding.

Materials


The Transition cups we tested are made of stainless steel, plastic, and silicone parts. Many of the cups are made completely out of plastic, but most offered a combination of materials. The Editors' Choice winner, Pura Kiki, was a combination of eco-healthy materials with a silicone spout and stainless steel body. The materials used in a sippy cup can impact cup longevity, and parent's ability to keep them clean. The materials can potentially influence baby's health, so it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks to each type of material.

Stainless steel
Thermos Foogo Phase I Insulated
Thermos Foogo Phase I Insulated
Stainless steel is a great cup material. It doesn't leach chemicals, lead, or phthalates; it is an inert substance. Stainless steel is easy to clean, and sometimes insulated to keep contents cooler. Pura Kiki, our Editors' Choice, is a nice simple stainless steel cup, with a great silicone spout babies loved.

There is some evidence that suggests that the nutrients of breast milk may "cling" to the insides of the steel container. This is definitely something to consider if you plan to use the cup primarily for feeding. However, stainless steel is potentially still the best option for leak-proof cups for health, and this potential clinging (the jury is still out)is still not a deal breaker in our book. In addition, an insulated steel cup can help prevent the milk from spoiling.

Steel is a better option, in our opinion, than containers that can potentially leach chemicals. But stainless steel is heavier than plastic, especially if insulated, and some babies may have trouble holding cups made from steel. This might be something to consider if your baby has special needs or limitations. Stainless steel is a great, healthy alternative to plastics. It is also eco-friendly and durable so babies can use the cups for years to come. The Editors' Choice winner, and the Top Pick for insulated, Thermos Foogo Phase 1 Insulated, were both steel cups, proving that steel has what it takes to be a great cup material.

Plastics
Plastic is used in leak-free cups because it is economical, light, versatile, and user-friendly. Our Best Value winner was the plastic Gerber Graduates Sip & Smile, which eared a 3rd place spot in our tests. Plastic cups come in various body styles and colors, and their budget friendly prices make losing them tolerable. However, plastic has some potential eco-health concerns to be aware of when choosing which transition cup is best for your baby.
thinkbaby is free of many things in addition to BPA
thinkbaby is free of many things in addition to BPA
We have already said much about plastics in previous articles. For a full breakdown on how we feel about plastics, and the resources we considered in our thinking, please see our article entitled Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?. We also reviewed plastic in significant detail in our How to Choose a Sippy Cup for a Toddler article.

The down and dirty list of things you should know about plastics are:
  • Some plastics can potentially leach chemicals similar to the banned BPA. A study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives stated that:
In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.

Another study found that some plastics potentially leached estrogenic chemicals . This study was published in Environmental Health.

Many unstressed and stressed, PC-replacement-products made from acrylic, polystyrene, polyethersulfone, and Tritan™ resins leached chemicals with EA, including products made for use by babies. Exposure to various forms of UV radiation often increased the leaching of chemicals with EA.

The jury is still technically out on plastics, and more research needs to be done to determine their safe use in cups. However, we feel that these studies were enough to give us pause, and make us more comfortable using stainless steel.

Given the vast amount of plastic cups available, we suggest you remain calm, but act thoughtful when choosing a cup. In our opinion, cups with bodies made of glass or steel had many valuable attribute that put them high on our list, regardless of how the plastic debate plays out, but there were some nice high scoring plastic cups in our tests.

Silicone
Silicone sleeve for a Pura Kiki 5 oz sippy
Silicone sleeve for a Pura Kiki 5 oz sippy
Silicone in transition cups is usually used in valves, spouts, and sleeves. Silicone is generally considered a safe material, and medical grade silicone was a common choice for spouts or valves.

Silicone is a soft, flexible material that allows spouts to be very gum friendly, and due to their soft nature, silicone spouts are less likely to cause injury than hard plastic spouts. However, given the possible degradation of silicone that is exposed to heat, we suggest hand washing silicone parts to avoid this possibility.

The silicone sleeves made cups easier to grasp. Only the Pura Kiki had a silicone sleeve in the transition cups. The transitions cups with silicone components usually scored higher in our tests than cups without silicone.

Parts


For the most part  the more parts a cup had  the harder it was to clean
For the most part, the more parts a cup had, the harder it was to clean
The number of parts in a transition cup can vary. So it is important to consider the individual parts of a cup, and how difficult the parts are to clean and reassemble. A cup with just a few parts is usually better than a cup with many parts. Most of the cups got easier to assemble over time, but the number of parts is still a concern when it comes to cleaning or potentially misplacing them. Throwing away a perfectly good cup because you can't find a missing part necessary to make it work properly can be very frustrating.

Spouts


Playtex offers all spout types in the sippy cup realm; the three cups in the back are toddler cups  the two in the front a transition sippy cups
Playtex offers all spout types in the sippy cup realm; the three cups in the back are toddler cups, the two in the front a transition sippy cups
There are 3 different kinds of spouts in transition cups; plastic spouts with a soft outer covering, soft spouts, and straws. Each type has functions and features parents should know before making a decision.

Hard Spouts
An example of a harder spout
Harder spouts are made from plastic, have little to no give, and are often covered in a softer material for mouth friendliness. Hard spouts tend to be more durable and are naturally chew resistant. Unfortunately, hard spouts are the primary source for injuries in sippy cup use. For this reason, we aren't big fans of hard spouts. The Tommee Tippee First Sips and the Gerber Graduates Sip & Smile both have harder spouts. If your baby will only be using their leak-proof cup while seated, as the ADA suggest, then this may not be a concern. Just be cautious when using harder spouts, no one wants to go to the emergency room for a cup mishap.

Soft Spouts
Pura Kiki is a nice stainless steel sippy option
The soft spouts we tested were made of silicone. Silicone was gum-friendly, easy to clean, and most were easy to suck out of. Unfortunately, soft spouts can encourage a similar suckling style that infants use; this skill is not a preferred drinking style of the ADA. However, this may be less of a concern in the transitional cups, since most babies are still suckling to feed. Many of our tiny testers liked the soft spout over other spouts. Both the thinkbaby The Sippy Cup Stage c and Pura Kiki had soft spouts; with the thinkbaby company offering more information on the plastic they use than any other brand in our tests.

Straws
Straws are usually valve free, but the only straw in our test, Playtex Training Time Straw Cup actually had a valve in the lid of the straw. Some dentists and the ADA prefer a straw spout, partially because they usually don't have a valve, but also because using a straw transports fluids to the back of the mouth and bypassing the teeth. This could potentially lead to better overall oral hygiene. Straws are also generally soft, which helps prevent injuries. But, straws do require a special straw brush to clean them properly, and these must be purchased separately. However, this wasn't a deal breaker and quickly became an acceptable habit.

Valves


Valves are a critical part of a leak-proof cup. The valve prevents liquid from escaping when the cup is not actively being used. Some valves and spouts were an integrated one piece, and other cups had spouts and valves that were separate. Some valves even had multiple parts, like the Tommee Tippee First Sips. A few of the valves are difficult to use, but there didn't seem to be a correlation between hard to use valves and anything else about the cup. Even choosing based on brand name was not a sure bet; Playtex cups recently changed their valve style to one that is less user-friendly than the previous generation of valve.
New Playtex valve removed from the lid
New Playtex valve removed from the lid
The American Dental Association prefers that children learn to use a regular drinking cup as soon as possible. They prefer that children NOT suck beverages through any cup with a valve. They advise choosing a valve free cup, and limiting or eliminating sugary drinks to help avoid dental decay. For additional information, read this AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) article.

The problem with the ADA advice is that parents usually prefer an easy to use, leak-proof cup, and the ADA criteria doesn't support this. While we certainly agree with babies being safe with cups, good oral hygiene, and transitioning baby to regular cups quickly, we don't think that many parents are going to toss out their leak-proof cups altogether. Preventing leaks was the most important metric in our tests, because parents desire a cup that doesn't leak. There were no cups in our tests that were both leak-proof and have no valve.

Safety Considerations


Babies should be seat  and assisted if necessary  when using a sippy cup
Babies should be seat, and assisted if necessary, when using a sippy cup
Leak-proof cups can present a hazard to children. Research shows that one child, every four hours on average, goes to the emergency room due to improper product use; lacerations to the face or palate are the primary injuries reported. Between 1991 and 2010, approximately 45,000 pediatric injuries were reported as a result of leak-proof cup use.

With the popularity of leak-proof cups, and their assistance in keeping children hydrated in a drier fashion, what can parents do to follow the safety standards and meet their own needs?
Is this an impossible task? Maybe not entirely. Perhaps there IS a middle ground to be found.

The following is a list that outlines the best practices for leak-proof cup use, as identified by the ADA (American Dental Association) and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics):
  • To avoid injury, babies should be stationary, preferably sitting, when using a leak-proofcup
  • To avoid potential dental decay and abnormal dentition formation, babies should only use leak-proof cups for short periods of time, like during a snack or mealtime
  • It is also recommended that children practice with real cups as often as possible

The benefits, drawbacks, and ADA concerns are all important things to consider when choosing a leak-free cup. However, we feel there is a place for sippy cups to be used on a limited basis, in a thoughtful manner, to avoid the inconvenience of spills and clean ups. As long as baby still works on mastering the skills necessary for using an ordinary drinking cup, transition cups can be a useful way of widening their available hydration options, while giving them a sense of accomplishment and independence.

How to Choose the Best Transition Cup


Finding a transition sippy babies love can be tricky business
Finding a transition sippy babies love can be tricky business

First, Choose Body Material


Performance and the specific attributes of the cup body materials are wider than any other consideration.
Pura Kiki is a stainless steel transition sippy that has internal volume gradations. There is zero plastic in this sippy cup.
Pura Kiki is a stainless steel transition sippy that has internal volume gradations. There is zero plastic in this sippy cup.
Given the potential health concerns to baby, and the environmental impacts of the material used, we thought this was a natural place to start. This first choice will narrow the cup field quickly, by automatically eliminating the cups with the non-preferred body material.

We feel stainless steel cups have more to offer with the least amount of drawbacks. Steel cups are more eco-friendly, healthy, and durable than plastic cups. They had a good variety of the preferred soft spout than the plastic cups. Plus, there is an insulated steel cup, so it is easy to find that option within the steel line up of transitional cups.

Our favorite cups, were stainless steel. Pura Kiki Stainless the Editors' Choice, is a great lightweight steel cup that is electropolished for easier cleaning, and it had a nice silicone spout babies liked. Our Top Pick for Insulated, Thermos Foogo Phase 1 Insulated, was a nice insulated steel cup that can be upgraded as babies get older by changing the spout and lid with any in the Foogo lineup. If budget is a concern, a reason many parents buy plastic cups, we feel that the longevity of steel is greater than that of plastic; in general, it is more durable and versatile, which can save you money over time.
Soft silicone spout with integrated valve
Soft silicone spout with integrated valve

Next, Pick a Spout Type


The second consideration in transition cups is the spout. We suggest parents look for spouts that babies will enjoy using, in addition to the safety guidelines detailed above. For example, in the stainless steel transition cups we reviewed, there was a hard and soft spout to choose from; all options with the exception of a straw (if you really want a straw, Thermos makes an interchangeable straw spout that will work with the Thermos Foogo Phase 1 Insulated). Soft spouts are probably more appealing if you are worried about injuries, and they seemed to be easier for babies to use. However, if you are considering an insulated cup, your hands may be tied on this one unless you try the Eco-Vessel Stainless Steel Insulated in the toddler stage.

Last, Choose Insulated or Non-Insulated


Thermos Foogo Phase 1 is a nice  stainless steel  insulated sippy with removable handles  and lids/spouts that are interchangeable with the whole Foogo Line of products
Thermos Foogo Phase 1 is a nice, stainless steel, insulated sippy with removable handles, and lids/spouts that are interchangeable with the whole Foogo Line of products
Depending on how your transition cup will be used, you may prefer that it is insulated. There was only one insulated cup in our transition cup line up, Thermos Foogo Phase 1 Insulated, but given that the steel cups did better in almost every metric it isn't a bad choice. However, if you are set on a soft spout, you might look at the toddler cup Eco Vessel Stainless Steel Insulated, this cup had many transitional features like a soft spout, and double handles. The cup was heavier than any other cup in either of our leak-proof cup tests, but the handles may make this a viable option for stronger babies.

Conclusion


So before you find yourself staring in wide-eyed bewilderment at all the transition sippy cup options, keep in mind the performance characteristics, and which are important to you and your baby. In our review of 14 transition cups we really feel that the steel cups stand out and deserve strong consideration. In the end, our award winners really do reflect what we have purchased and used with our own children.

Dr. Juliet Spurrier is founder and Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab
Juliet Spurrier, MD
About the Author
Dr. Juliet Baciocco Spurrier is a board certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. Juliet earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley and her Medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. She completed her pediatric residency at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, and subsequently practiced pediatrics in both the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley. Juliet serves as Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab, where she oversees all baby product review activity, assuring that each review delivers on our commitment to quality.

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