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Glass vs. plastic baby bottles: Here’s what doctors have to say

Glass vs. plastic baby bottles is a hot topic; Which is better?

Once a baby is born, a parent’s perspective drastically changes. A parent’s view of the world switches fairly quickly with the primary goal being the baby’s safety. Even something as innocuous as choosing the type of bottle to use becomes an important decision. Glass vs. plastic baby bottles: Which is a healthier choice? With all the concerns around chemicals in plastics, it’s natural for parents to wonder if anything from a plastic baby bottle might leech into a baby’s milk. Thankfully, baby bottles are regulated by the federal government.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the use of bisphenol A or BPA in plastic baby bottles. BPA is an industrial chemical used in making many different types of plastic. Some research indicates BPA can be harmful to people while other schools of thought point to different levels of exposure. Even with ongoing research and FDA regulation, it’s impossible to fully know the effects of every compound in plastics, especially when it comes to a baby’s bottle.

A baby’s bottle is a vital purchase, and it’s certainly worth exploring all the issues when it comes to glass or plastic baby bottles for health, convenience, and cost concerns. There are trade-offs to consider with each. So, here’s what parents need to know when it comes to glass vs. plastic baby bottles.

Baby bottle feeding

Plastic baby bottles

Plastic baby bottles are lightweight, unbreakable, and easy to find, making them a more convenient and practical choice for many parents. A baby can hold a plastic bottle on their own as they get older. Busy parents on the go can feel secure taking plastic bottles out of the house and traveling without having to worry about them shattering. Plastic bottles are also more affordable than glass bottles.

Any plastic bottles manufactured since 2012 don’t contain BPA. The FDA regulates plastic baby bottles to make sure they are safe. “These days, parents don’t need to be concerned about the quality of the plastic that they’re using for baby bottles,” said pediatrician Dr. Janice Heard.

Dr. William Mudd, a Cleveland Clinic pediatrician, adds that “Even a BPA-free plastic bottle has some risk, but you can take steps to limit risk as much as possible.” Mudd recommends not using the dishwasher or other very high temperatures when cleaning or warming plastic baby bottles since compounds can be released when exposed to extremely hot temperatures. Another safety measure is to store milk in a glass container and transfer it to a plastic bottle only when it’s time for feeding. Avoid shaking the bottle since that could release microplastics into the milk.

A study published in October 2020 in Nature Food showed that microplastics are released from plastic baby bottles over time. However, one of the study authors, Professor John Boland, says “There is no evidence of any adverse outcomes from exposure to these plastics,” but “if you’re super concerned about it, then you should use glass bottles.”

Another small concern with plastic bottles is that they might pick up flavors or smells over time since they absorb more than glass. Plastic can also get small scratches on it and bacteria could collect in the dents. On the other hand, since they are much less likely to break, plastic bottles may last longer than glass bottles despite the possibility of scratches, absorption, and warping.

Mother feeding baby with bottle in carriage

Glass baby bottles

Glass baby bottles do have some cons. An obvious one is that glass bottles could drop and break, injuring a baby, parent, or caregiver. Glass bottles are also heavy. Feeding a baby with a glass bottle may be uncomfortable because of the weight. That added weight means babies won’t be able to give themselves a bottle. Babies won’t be able to support the weight of a glass bottle since those adorable hands and fingers have developing fine motor skills. This definitely increases the chances of dropping and breaking a bottle.

Bringing glass baby bottles in a diaper bag or on a plane is trickier for the same reason that there is a chance of shattering and being heavy. Glass bottles are also less readily available and more expensive than plastic bottles. However, glass baby bottles are more environmentally friendly and are safe to clean in the dishwasher without any risk of warping or releasing any chemicals or microplastics. Overall, glass baby bottles are easier to clean since they can be sanitized at even higher temperatures than plastics, and they are not as prone to scratches.

If you are concerned about plastic baby bottles despite FDA regulations, glass bottles despite the added cost, may give you peace of mind.

Plastic bottles in a bottle bag

Glass vs. plastic baby bottles: Which is better?

Clearly, glass and plastic baby bottles have both pros and cons. Glass bottles don’t have any chemical risks but are costlier, can break if dropped, and harder for baby to hold. Plastic baby bottles are cheaper, convenient, and lightweight enough for babies to hold. In the end, choosing which bottle is right for your family is all about balancing small risks with other factors.

“Parents should be aware of the potential risks of plastic, but there’s no reason to be overly anxious,” Dr. Mudd says. “There are always some risks in life. As parents, we just have to do our best to minimize them. The nutrition your child gets throughout childhood is likely much more important than what kind of bottle you use.”

In other words, try not to overthink the glass vs plastic baby bottle decision. There isn’t any choice we make as parents that doesn’t involve some risk. Moms and dads don’t need to be overly concerned with the small risks of using plastic baby bottles if the cost and convenience work best for their family.

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