Should you be concerned about bisphenol a (BPA) when shopping for plastic baby bottles? How to avoid exposing baby to BPA? And is there anything else you should be concerned about when using plastic baby bottles? We break down all the answers for parents here.
If you’re shopping for baby bottles, you are probably wondering about bisphenol A (BPA), a harmful chemical that is present in some plastics. Should you be concerned about BPA in plastic baby bottles? How to avoid exposing baby to BPA? Is BPA as common as you think? And is there anything else that you should be concerned about when buying plastic baby bottles? We break down all the answers for parents here.
What is BPA, and is it a concern?
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical used to harden plastics. It has been found in some older baby bottles. The BPA can leach out of the bottles when they are heated, exposing babies that use these bottles to the chemicals.
There are concerns that BPA can affect development of a baby’s brain and nervous system, and that it may negatively affect behavior. It may also affect the reproductive system and contribute to early puberty, since it can mimic the body’s natural hormones. And since babies and children are still developing, their bodies and brains may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of BPA.
More studies are needed to determine how harmful BPA really is, though. Results aren’t consistent across the small number of existing studies in humans, and there aren’t enough studies about BPA’s effects within any one age group. Plus, other factors could be at play in the few studies that showed harmful behavioral effects of BPA.
The National Toxicology Program says it has “some concern” about “BPA’s effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in… infants and children.” But “some concern” is only the third level of the five-level concern scale. BPA isn’t a severe concern according to the program.
How to avoid BPA in baby bottles?
All baby bottles and sippy cups sold in the U.S. after 2012 must be BPA-free, under federal law. (Canada and Europe also don’t allow the sale of bottles that contain BPA.) So, you won’t find BPA in any bottles that you buy new from the store. The same is true if you’re shopping online, although it’s still best to look for bottles that say “BPA-free.”
If you’re using hand-me-down or secondhand bottles, though, some of them may contain BPA if they were made before the ban.
How to stay away from BPA if you’ve got secondhand bottles? Avoid bottles with the recycling number 7 on them, as most bottles with that number contain BPA. Also, avoid bottles with “PC” imprinted on them. This stands for “polycarbonate,” and many old bottles made with polycarbonate contain BPA.
Older bottles with the recycling numbers 2 or 5 are made from BPA-free plastic. Opaque (non-transparent) plastic bottles are also usually BPA-free.
Are there other concerns about plastic baby bottles?
You might have heard about phthalates, other chemicals that can be found in plastic bottles. Phthalates make plastic flexible, so they are sometimes used to make latex bottle nipples. Studies have shown that phthalates negatively affect animals’ kidneys, livers, and reproductive systems. But just like with BPA, there aren’t enough studies to know if (and how) phthalates could negatively affect humans.
Also, recent studies have found that bottles made of polypropylene release high levels of microplastics – millions of tiny plastic particles – when heated. These particles fall into baby’s milk or formula and make their way into baby’s body. It’s unknown whether microplastics can negatively affect baby’s health, though. Still, since microplastics have harmed mice, fish, and other animals, it’s easy to understand why some parents are concerned.
How to avoid the other concerns with plastic baby bottles?
If you want to avoid potential concerns with plastic bottles, you may opt for glass bottles instead. Glass bottles can be hazardous to you and baby, though, if you accidentally drop or break the bottle.
So, you might still prefer to use plastic bottles. As mentioned above, there are plenty of BPA-free options to choose from.
If you’re using plastic bottles, there are ways to cut down on the microplastics that are released. Don’t warm up breastmilk or formula in the bottle. Warm it up in a non-plastic container instead, by setting the container in a bowl of warm water or running warm tap water over the container. Handwashing plastic bottles instead of putting them in the dishwasher is another way to cut down on the release of microplastics.
As for avoiding phthalates in bottle nipples, choose nipples made from silicone. Silicone nipples are naturally free of phthalates.
What parents should keep in mind
Even with all of these potential concerns with plastic baby bottles, there’s no reason to be anxious about feeding your baby with a plastic bottle. Making sure that baby gets the nutrition they need is most important. And if a bottle is the best option for you to feed your little one, remember that new bottles sold in the U.S. don’t contain BPA at all. Plus, there are ways to minimize other concerns about plastic bottles.
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