I like to point out that pacifiers basically facilitate the same action as sippy cups but are way worse than sippy cups because of duration of time using them. Many kids use pacifiers for long stretches of the day and night, while how long is a child really going to suck on a sippy cup? A few minutes at most? If your child is already using a pacifier, then the potential detriment to speech is already there, so it won't really matter what type of cup you're using. If your child isn't using a pacifier, sippy cups are probably okay sometimes as long as you're offering other types of cups as well. If you're nursing when you start to offer sippy cups, be sure to choose ones with hard spouts. Some of the soft-spouted ones encourage biting because the liquid comes out faster when kids bite down on them, and you definitely don't want your baby to carry that habit over to the breast.
I would definitely encourage offering regular, non-capped, open cups to your baby right when you start to offer water (usually around 6 mos or when solids are started). You can use regular cups in conjunction with sippies or straw cups, but it is good to expose babies to open cups and encourage them to work towards using them. If you just put a couple of sips of water in a small cup, you don't have to worry too much if it spills. I usually give Penny an open cup when she's in her high chair and use sippies or straw cups when we're out and about or when she's running around the house.
You may have to get creative with finding just-right sized open cups for you little ones, as many manufacturers don't think about making open cups in baby sizes. I've heard some parents offer sips of water in shot glasses, as they're a good size for kiddo to grip and drink from. I tried that a couple of times. One broke way too easily for me, and I also thought it was just a little strange. I just bought a punch bowl set at Goodwill for $8 that came with 12 little glass punch cups with handles. They are perfect for Penny–just her size, dishwasher safe, a thicker glass than the shot glasses, so much more durable, and plastic-free! She also has a metal camping cup that works well for her.
I will share some other cups that have worked for us:
Klean Kanteen: this has a sippy cup spout. I love that you can buy different tops as kiddo grows, so it will last a long long time. Penny mostly uses the sippy top now, but we do have the sport top cap, which she is starting to use as well. We usually reserve the "messier" cups for high chair/mealtime so that she can practice with them without making a mess all over the house! And it's stainless–no plastic except the cap. I actually prefer the all-stainless ones over the colored ones because they can go in the dishwasher without the paint chipping off.
Lifefactory: Also a sippy spout, but this one is a little less expensive. Glass–again, no plastic except the cap. And, again, as kiddo grows, this can transition to a water bottle by getting a flat cap to replace the sippy cap. I love versatility and using products that have a life after babyhood.
EIO: This cup is a great one for learning to use a "real" cup. Super easy to clean, made of glass, no working parts. Just simple and straightforward, a glass jar with a silicone sleeve and a plastic cap with a small hole. It has potential to be messy if not supervised, as kiddo just drinks through the hole in the top, and there's nothing to keep the liquid in if the cup topples or is turned upside down. It is a great transitional cup from sippy to open cup.
Playtex Baby First Lil' Gripper: 2-handled straw cup. This is a great learner cup–if your baby has trouble figuring out what to do with a straw, you can squeeze the sides and make the water come up the straw. This helps him/her figure out that there's water in there and how to get it. Just make sure when you put the lid on that the straw is leaning to the side a bit. If it's centered on the bottom of the cup, it actually forms a seal and blocks liquid from coming up the straw.
Playtex Insulator Base Straw Cup (no handles). Once baby has the hang of straw drinking, these are good cups. I've tried a couple of other straw cups, and I think this one is my favorite in terms of balancing ease of cleaning with limiting leaking. Basically, the easier it is to clean straw cups, the more they leak, so you need to find a happy medium that works for you.
I have not found a plastic-free straw cup for kids. If you find one, please let me know! I sometimes think about drilling a hole through the top of a mason jar lid and putting a stainless steel straw through it with a rubber washer to make my own straw cup, but Josh says the stainless straw might be dangerous if Penny bites on it or falls on it if she's carrying it around. I might make a grown-up version for myself though so I can straw-drink on the go plastic-free.
What are your favorite baby/toddler cups? Did I miss any?
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