Sippy Cups, Bottles & Pacifiers: Toddler Health Hazards

To the list of things to worry about keeping your child safe from, you can now add sippy cups, pacifiers and bottles.

A just-published study in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has found that, from 1991 through 2010, an average of about 2,270 children a year received treatment in an emergency room for injuries related to those staples of childhood.

Altogether, researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that an estimated 44,398 children under the age of three were brought to the ER for treatment with bottles the culprit for 65.8% of injuries; pacifier-related injuries accounted for 19.9% of the visits and sippy cup ones for 14.3%. In most cases (86.1%), a child fell “while using the product,” suffering a laceration to the mouth. One-year-old children were most likely to be injured.

While a child walking while holding a regular cup is not safer, study author Sarah A. Keim points out that “parents are simply more likely to make their children sit or stay in one spot while drinking from a lidless cup to prevent spills.” That is, it is not the bottles or sippy cups in and of themselves that are inherently dangerous (though some dentists have singled out the lidded cups as linked to an increase in numerous cavities in very young children). The cup’s (or bottle’s) design means that parents are more likely to let a child walk around with a cup or bottle:  best watch your sippy-cup holding child as much as you would if she or he were drinking from a regular cup.

Another new study in Pediatrics, also by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, focused on the potential hazards posed to children by another staple of our early 21st-century lifestyle, the tiny button batteries routinely used in everything from toys to remote control devices as well as other home electronics. In the past two decades, about 66,000 children and teenagers have gone to the ER after ingesting batteries. None of the instances were fatal, but, as the New York Times’ Well blog underscores, “lithium-cell batteries that are swallowed can set off a chemical reaction inside the body that can lead to severe tissue damage in just two hours.” As the batteries can be mistaken for a coin, an electrocardiogram electrode or other external object when a chest x-ray is taken, the study authors urge not only parents but also doctors to be aware of the hazard.

As the mother of a teenager (who is indeed turning 15 years old tomorrow), my first reaction to both of these studies was, “where is the parental common sense”? But then I recall my worried mindset in those days (compounded by the fact that my son, when a toddler, was showing numerous signs of autism, which he was diagnosed with shortly after his second birthday), when the whole world seemed a hazard, full of numerous small items readily gulped down. Charlie never took too much to a pacifier and my main memory of sippy cuts was exhaustively scrubbing the lids to make  sure not a bit of residue was left.

The two studies have led to me reflect on how modern conveniences and innovations so often seem to create so many new woes and worries that you wonder, are they worth it?.

Do such studies from the AAP offer valuable advice to keep our children safe and help them lead healthy, happy lives? Or do they only create undue alarm?

Related Care2 Coverage

Maurice Sendak In the Age of Overprotective Parenting

Toothachey Toddlers Need Surgery For Multiple Cavities

Toxic Toys “R” Us: Broken Promises by Major Toy Retailer Uncovered


Photo by AmberStrocel


Amber Beasley
Amber Beasley5 years ago

oh, I thought this was about chemicals or something in the bottles and pacifiers.

Patricia S.
Patricia S.5 years ago

On reason both sippy cups and pacifiers are bad for toddlers and young children is that both promote an immature swallow response and lead to articulation problems. Tongue thrust and frontal lisps have been linked to use of both items. Some people are not concerned with such speech problems, but for many growing children, lisps result in many hours of speech therapy. Bottle usage has not been specified in the literature I have seen, but it makes sense that it would also contribute to speech sound distortions.

Berny P.
Berny p5 years ago

Cant believe you have to tell people to use their brain...if so....then you should give them one!

Anna M.
Anna M5 years ago

oh come on! kids if not watched from an adult can be hurt by anything, even tripping on their own in their house!!! that's why they are kids!! if we are careful with them a little can happen... but then again you can't watch them all the time, eventually they have to learn to be careful on their own!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

omg. kids will be kids. watch them and let them learn

Barbara S.

Sippy cups are no more dangerous than glass bottles were, when I was a kid. My brother, who was 18 mos. old, threw his bottle at me, and shattered by glass bottle, in 1949. Kids have accidents because they are KIDS. No one can watch them 24/7/52. Accidents happen. So a kid gets a chipped tooth? It's not the end of the world. Same thing goes for parents putting helmets on their children to stop bumps on the heads... That's part of growing up. So was falling off a merry-go-round or a monkey bars, when I was a kid. A broken arm heals. Scrapes & cuts heal. That's how we learn NOT to do the same things again.

Samantha D.
Samantha D5 years ago

I try to teach my kids to be still while they are having a drink or eating. It is simple common sense..

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons5 years ago

lock the kids in a rubber room with nothing then they will be safe.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons5 years ago

OMG let the poor kids fall once in a while or they are not going to learn anything.

Troy G.
Troy Grant5 years ago

Why not make these things entirely out of non-toxic rubber instead of hard plastics?