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Glass vs. Plastic Baby Bottles

Decades ago, the only baby bottles available to parents were made of glass. But glass was heavy and, more importantly, breakable. So when plastic bottles came along that were lighter and shatter-proof, the glass bottle became almost obsolete.

However, recent reports that a type of plastic found in baby bottles might cause potentially harmful changes in developing babies has left parents wondering if perhaps old-fashioned glass wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Which is safer, glass or plastic? Here is some background on baby bottles plus some tips on how to choose -- and use -- bottles safely and effectively.

Baby Bottle Worries

The problem with glass bottles is pretty obvious -- drop one on the floor in the middle of a late-night feeding, and you'll have a roomful of shattered glass to clean up. Glass is also heavy and cumbersome. On the upside, glass bottles are sturdy, and they don't contain any chemicals that could potentially get into the baby's formula.

Plastic baby bottles are lightweight, strong, and unbreakable. However, concerns have arisen about the polycarbonate type of plastic bottles because they contain a chemical called bisphenol A (also called BPA). Bisphenol A is also used in everything from compact discs to the lining of cans, as well as other consumer products. A 2007 report by the organization Environment California showed that when heated, five popular brands of BPA-containing plastic baby bottles leached high levels of bisphenol A.

In studies of lab rats, low levels of BPA were linked to changes in the brain and reproductive system that researchers say may contribute to an increased risk of prostate and breast cancers, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and early puberty.

While there is still debate over whether or not the amount of BPA used in products such as baby bottles and can linings is sufficient to cause harm to humans, the FDA in 2012 banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cops. All baby bottles and sippy cups sold in the USA are now BPA-free.

Choosing a Baby Bottle

There are essentially three types of baby bottles: plastic, plastic with disposable liners, and glass.

The ban on BPA means you can confidently buy new plastic baby bottles, knowing that they are free of the potentially harmful chemical. If you are using older plastic bottles, for example bottles given to you by family members, check the recycling symbol on the bottom. The symbol #7 or the label PC (which stands for polycarbonate) is a sign that the bottle likely contains BPA. Bottles with the symbol #1, #2, or #4 are made of polyethylene, and #5 bottles are made of polypropylene. Both kinds of bottle can be used safely since neither type contains BPA.

Disposable bottle liners are also typically BPA-free (look for the words "BPA-free" on the label). They tend to be more expensive than bottles alone, though, because you have to change them after each feeding.

If you want to try glass bottles but you're concerned about them breaking, some companies make silicone sleeves that go over the bottle to protect it.

WebMD Medical Reference

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