Glass vs. Plastic Baby Bottles

Decades ago, the only baby bottles available to parents were made of glass. But glass was heavy and 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, along with 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. In 2012, the FDA banned the use of bisphenol A in the manufacture of baby bottles and sippy cups. There were concerns that the chemical in polycarbonate plastic could lead to certain cancers, changes in the brain and reproductive system, and early puberty. All baby bottles and sippy cups sold in the USA are now BPA-free.

In 2013, the FDA supported a food additive amendment to end the use of bisphenol A-based epoxy resins in the lining of formula cans. Manufacturers had abandoned the use of BPA in those products, so the move was largely supportive.

Continued

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.

Caring for Your Child's Baby Bottle

Here are some tips on caring for your child's baby bottle:

  • Never store breast milk or formula in plastic bottles. Pour it into the bottle just before your baby is ready to eat. Throw out anything that is left over.
  • Don't use hot water or a harsh cleaner on polycarbonate bottles, because this also can cause the plastic to break down more quickly. Instead, use a gentle cleaner and warm water.
  • Replace any glass bottles that have cracks or chips in them.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on July 09, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Environment California Research and Policy Center: "Toxic Baby Bottles."

WebMD Health News: "FDA Bans BPA in Baby Bottles."

Prins, G. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 2008.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: "NTP Brief on Bisphenol A."

Newbold, R Reproductive Toxicology, 2007.

Children's Health Environmental Coalition: "Chemical Profile bisphenol-A."

Statement from Norris Alderson, PhD, Associate Commissioner for Science, Food and Drug Administration, Before the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety, United States Senate, May 14, 2008.

Environmental Working Group: "EWG's Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles: Guide to Baby-Safe Bottles & Formula."

FDA: "FDA Regulations No Longer Authorize the Use of BPA in Infant Formula Packaging Based on Abandonment; Decision Not Based on Safety," July 11, 2013.

 

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