I remember when my oldest child (now 20) was a teetering toddler who loved, loved, loved her sippy cup. What a great invention: A cup that didn’t spill gave both her and me freedom. I could set her loose around the house, in the car, etc., without the worry that she would spill her drink all over the place.
However, these cups, no matter what brand I tried, were not without their difficulties — mostly related to cleaning and drying. Many had plastic plugs that kept the drink from spilling. If you failed to pull the plug and soak all parts of the cup, a nasty, downright disgusting bacterial growth would ensue.
It was my child who discovered this for me when she refused to drink out of a cup I had just thoroughly cleaned (or thought I had) and filled with her favorite drink. She insisted it was gross and didn’t want it. In fact, she went so far as to throw the cup at an amazing velocity out of her crib onto the floor. Okay, I thought, time to take a look.
When I took the cup back to the kitchen, I pulled it apart, only to find a rather difficult, hard plastic piece that was part of the plug. I used a butter knife to remove this piece, and what I found and smelled was disgusting. My daughter was right — this was gross! From that point on, I stuck to the brands that I could clean the best and made sure that I soaked all parts well before refilling.
Sadly, my daughter suffered from repeated ear infections, and I am now wondering if it was a result of bacteria in her cups…
Today, almost 19 years since I had issues with my daughter’s sippy cups, parents are asking the same thing. Have hard-to-clean sippy cups been growing mold where the naked eye can’t see? Has this led to kids being chronically sick? Some concerned parents say yes, and specifically the Tommee Tippee brand of cups are the hardest to clean.
The design of these cups makes it particularly difficult to clean the valve area. In fact, to clean them entirely, you must use something strong to pry the pieces apart. The cups come with instructions to clean thoroughly. However, it is unlikely that most parents would think to pry apart the valve piece to clean.
One mother, Penny Powell, shared photos of the moldy valve on Facebook, which she believes has been making her child chronically ill. The photos and story on Facebook traveled like lightning across social media, and parents from all over began discovering mold in their children’s Tommee Tippee cups.
A parent who took her child to the doctor after discovering mold in a sippy cup, asked if the mold could have been causing her son to become ill. She was told that it is possible, but it was hard to tell if the mold was to blame.
According to Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn:
“Individuals who are sensitive or allergic to mold may experience nasal congestion or wheezing.” Shu continues, “In general, mold creates more of an ‘ick’ factor than actual illness.”
The company response
Tommee Tippee issued a statement apologizing to customers. The company says it will be introducing a new cup in the next few months and is offering customers a see-through valve that will enable parents to see if the valve is clean.
“We want everyone to be happy with our products and we always want to exceed expectations,” a spokesperson for Tommee Tippee said.
Keep your cups clean
If you feel like you can’t take apart every piece of your child’s sippy cup to clean, find a brand that allows you to do so. Be sure to clean all parts thoroughly after each use. I suggest warm soapy water. You can even add in a little white vinegar to let the parts soak overnight. It is also important to rinse and dry all parts well. Use juice cups for clear liquids only, and avoid using the cups for hot drinks, drinks with pulp, formula or milk.
So, while the jury may be out on whether or not a little mold in a sippy cup valve is making kids sick, the thought of it is still super gross. Trust me, I have seen and smelled the inside of a valve that has not been cleaned! It is not pleasant, to say the least.
Susan is the Content Director at The Alternative Daily, a Certified Health Coach, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Master Gardener. With an extensive knowledge of whole foods and wellness, Susan has authored over 3,000 articles and numerous e-books. She presently lives in the mountains of Arizona where she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening and pursuing a healthy lifestyle with her three daughters and numerous animals.