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?
- 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
- 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.
- Potential Injury—
- Increased Risk of Dental Decay— Because leak-proof cups help prevent spills, parents may be tempted to use the cups for sugary beverages. Increasing exposure to sugar/carbohydrate filled beverages can increase the occurrence of tooth 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
There are three common types of leak-proof cups; transition, toddler, and kid bottles.
- Transition Cups—
- Toddler Cups—
- Kid Water Bottle—
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.
Transition cups are not all created equal. There many more factors to take into consideration when choosing the perfect sippy than the metrics we tested and reviewed in The Best Transition Cup Review, or the companion article How We Test. It is just as valuable to consider the various designs and how their specific features will affect daily life. These variables can be the reasons you love a cup you, or the reasons baby won't use it.
Transition cups really only come in one body style, but that style varies somewhat 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—
- 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.
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.
The Transition cups we tested are made of stainless steel, plastic, and silicone components. Many of the cups have all plastic parts, but most offer a mix of materials. The Editors' Choice winner, Pura Kiki, was a made from eco-healthy materials, using silicone for the spout and stainless steel for the body. The materials used in a sippy cup can impact cup longevity, and parent's ability to keep them clean. The materials used can also potentially influence baby's health, so it is important to fully understand the pros and cons of each different material.
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.
Gerber Graduates Sip & Smile, which earned 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.
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:
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 thoughtfully when choosing a cup. In our opinion, cups with bodies made of glass or steel had many valuable attributes 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 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.
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.
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 possibly lead to improved oral hygiene overall. 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 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.
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 don'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.
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-proof cup
- To avoid Early Childhood Caries (dental decay), cups with leak-proof valves should only be filled with water and never filled with sweetened or carbonated liquids.
- 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 cleanups. As long as the 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
First, Choose Body Material
Performance and the specific attributes of the cup body materials are wider than any other consideration.
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.
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
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.