Sippy cups versus straw cups: Which one to choose?

From about the age of 6 months, the recommendation is to introduce a cup of water to sip on at mealtimes so that babies learn to drink independently (find out the reasons for this and how to go about the transition here). With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which type of cup is best for your baby.

You might decide to go with an open cup, but if you’re weighing up whether to purchase a sippy cup or straw cup, we’ve got you covered. To save you the time and money of trialling several different designs, read on to discover the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision.

Sippy cups versus straw cups for babies: Which one to choose

It seems like an easy task for us grownups, but babies have a lot to learn when they transition from the breast or bottle to a cup. Firstly, they’ll need to learn the proper tongue and mouth placement, and then master the hand-eye coordination to hold it, lift it, and tip it towards their mouth. And all of that is while they’re trying to sit upright, which is a skill that they may have only recently learnt.

What are the pros and cons of sippy cups?

A training cup or sippy cup is usually what parents tend to start their babies off with. They’re spill-proof, easy for little ones to pick up and drink from, and can conveniently be taken out and about in the nappy bag or pram.

The downside to them is that babies still have to suck on them to get the liquid out just like a bottle, rather than sip on them, which is the purpose of transitioning to cups. Therefore, they are only intended to be used temporarily for a few months until your baby learns to sip, and then you can move onto a straw or open cup.

What to look for in a sippy cup for babies

  • Two ergonomic, non-slip handles for little hands to easily hold
  • A soft, silicone spout that is gentle on little gums
  • Leak-proof and made from BPA-free material
  • A weighted base to keep them upright and reduce spills
  • Easy to clean, removable parts
  • A temperature indicator if you’re using it for warm milk

What are the pros and cons of straw cups?

Straw cups can help older babies and toddlers learn how to sip. It’s best if they’re offered to babies whilst sitting up, rather than reclined, so that they also learn the important skill of sitting and drinking.

From a speech development perspective, many speech therapists are proponents for straw cups and open cups over sippy cups, as they help little ones develop the necessary muscles they will need to produce sounds.

The cons that parents report about some straw cup designs is the number of parts and the difficulty in cleaning them.

What to look for in a straw cup for babies

  • A soft flexible silicone straw that’s gentle on baby’s palate and gums
  • A closing lid to protect the straw from leaking or getting dirty when on-the-go
  • Spill-proof and made from BPA-free material
  • Easy to clean, removable parts
  • A temperature indicator if you’re using it for warm milk

Bottom line: Which cup?

Sippy cups are a great transitioning tool, so they’re perfect for the first few months of learning to drink independently from a cup. Once a baby has mastered sipping, you can move onto a straw and/or open cup.

Straw cups are also a good learning cup, and even once your baby or toddler has moved onto an open cup, they can still come in handy when you’re out and about, for example, in the car.

The goal should be to move to an open cup (read more about that here) to ensure your little one’s mouth, tongue, and facial muscles are developing appropriately, but sippy cups and straw cups still definitely have their place in the learning process.