Baby Bottle Nipples: Which Ones are Safe?

Safe Mama has put together another one of her famous “Cheat Sheets” to help answer this question:

FAQ: BPA and Phthalate Free Bottle Nipples

Dear SafeMama,I’ve switched to BPA free bottles but now I am wondering about the bottle nipples. Are they safe? Is there BPA in Silicone?

I’ve gotten this question quite a few times so I thought I would address it since it seems to be a concern for parents who are taking BPA into consideration when buying for their little ones. Bottle nipples tend to come in two materials. One is Silicone. Silicone is the popular choice for parents these days and with good reason. Silicone is soft and easy to sterilize and importantly is non-porous. not to mention it does not contain Bisphenol-A, Phthalates or PVC so it is a safe choice for your baby. When buying silicone nipples, opt for products that use “medical grade” silicone when possible to ensure the silicone was made with the highest standards.

Other bottle nipples are made with Latex. Infants sometimes take to latex versions easier and there are also pacifiers made with it. Latex is also BPA free but there have been some research showing that over time, latex can leach carcinogens called nitrosamines. The FDA regulates levels allowed in latex bottle nipples but some levels are permissible so medical grade silicone is the better alternative. It has also been suggested that exposure to latex early in life can trigger a latex allergy.

Green Living also provides a good explanation for choosing silicone nipples:

As for bottle nipples, clear silicone is preferable to plastic or yellow rubber. The rubber nipples tend to develop cracks faster than silicone, creating a harbor for bacteria. Rubber nipples may also release carcinogens and cause allergic reactions. Not only do clear silicone bottle nipples hide less bacteria, they are heat-resistant and can be safely put in a dishwasher. Some manufacturers still produce nipples made of soft PVC that contain phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals used as plastic softeners. You’ll want to avoid these.

Here’s more detailed background info on silicone from our favorite silicone experts, the Silikids company:

  • Silicone is hygienic and hypoallergenic. Its rubber like material is safe, durable and pliable, there are no open pores to harbor bacteria.
  • Silicone is easy to use and to clean.
  • Silicone is microwave or freezer safe/dishwasher friendly.
  • Silicone does not fade or scratch.
  • Silicone is extremely temperature resistant.

UPDATE (2/12/08): We’ve received the following question from several people.

QUESTION: What about the Nautursutten natural rubber pacifiers? Don’t they carry the same risk of containing nitrosamines like all other latex rubber pacifiers and nipples?

ANSWER: We contacted the Natursutten company and this is what they told us:

No. The difference between natural rubber and conventional latex is that no chemicals or artificial ingredients are used in this process, just water, air and high temperatures. Also, the company states that the latex protein that on rare occasions can provoke an allergy, is washed out of the rubber they use.

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  • Ed Loewenton

    Hello, everyone!
    We have put together, over the past 10 years, a rather extensive information resource on the hazards of PVC.
    http://www.turnertoys.com/PVC_framepage1.htm
    Incidentally, the FDA is now officially on the side of those who understand the hazards of PVC plasticizers for very young children, prepubertal boys (especially those receiving multiple medical procedures such as dialysis), and fetuses.

    Fortunately, by now much of this information is widely accepted as fact and fairly well understood by the public.

    We also have looked into materials, including common plastics, used for food handling. We provide some technical details, and scholarly references for those who wish to check our sources.
    http://www.turnertoys.com/Polymer_update20051009.htm
    Not surprisingly, stainless steel, cast iron, and glass come out looking very good as far as safety goes. Polycarbonate, PVC, and Styrene are identified as unsuitable for food handling, infant bottles, nipples, dishware, etc.
    Something to consider regarding silicone products: According to various chemical engineering and resin manufacturers’ websites, silicone is often mixed with other polymers (copolymers), among them PVC, to obtain specific characteristics. When buying pacifiers or nipples, be sure the manufacturer specifies “medical grade” and is credible in so specifying. You should expect it to be a bit expensive. Medical grade silicone is catalyzed during the manufacturing process with platinum, rather than chemical additives, and should contain no other polymers.
    My first choice for a baby bottle would be glass; it is really a very strong material if thick enough. The only possible hazard is breakage. That should not be a problem when the bottle is used in a crib or padded playpen, or during hand-feeding. A small carpet could be placed around a high chair
    As far as teethers go, we have been making a maple teething rattle in Vermont for the past 29 years. It has gained wide acceptance as being just the right product for the purpose. You can have a look at it at
    http://www.turnertoys.com/wood_rattle.htm

    Ed Loewenton

  • softlanding

    @Ed: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your vast knowledge on PVC and silicone! You’ve really invested a lot of time and effort in gathering helpful resources, and I have checked with you several times for my own personal benefit.

    Another favorite resource of mine is PVC: The Poison Plastic available at BeSafeNet.com.

  • Ed Loewenton

    Hello, everyone!
    We have put together, over the past 10 years, a rather extensive information resource on the hazards of PVC.
    http://www.turnertoys.com/PVC_framepage1.htm
    Incidentally, the FDA is now officially on the side of those who understand the hazards of PVC plasticizers for very young children, prepubertal boys (especially those receiving multiple medical procedures such as dialysis), and fetuses.

    Fortunately, by now much of this information is widely accepted as fact and fairly well understood by the public.

    We also have looked into materials, including common plastics, used for food handling. We provide some technical details, and scholarly references for those who wish to check our sources.
    http://www.turnertoys.com/Polymer_update20051009.htm
    Not surprisingly, stainless steel, cast iron, and glass come out looking very good as far as safety goes. Polycarbonate, PVC, and Styrene are identified as unsuitable for food handling, infant bottles, nipples, dishware, etc.
    Something to consider regarding silicone products: According to various chemical engineering and resin manufacturers’ websites, silicone is often mixed with other polymers (copolymers), among them PVC, to obtain specific characteristics. When buying pacifiers or nipples, be sure the manufacturer specifies “medical grade” and is credible in so specifying. You should expect it to be a bit expensive. Medical grade silicone is catalyzed during the manufacturing process with platinum, rather than chemical additives, and should contain no other polymers.
    My first choice for a baby bottle would be glass; it is really a very strong material if thick enough. The only possible hazard is breakage. That should not be a problem when the bottle is used in a crib or padded playpen, or during hand-feeding. A small carpet could be placed around a high chair
    As far as teethers go, we have been making a maple teething rattle in Vermont for the past 29 years. It has gained wide acceptance as being just the right product for the purpose. You can have a look at it at
    http://www.turnertoys.com/wood_rattle.htm

    Ed Loewenton

  • softlanding

    @Ed: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your vast knowledge on PVC and silicone! You’ve really invested a lot of time and effort in gathering helpful resources, and I have checked with you several times for my own personal benefit.

    Another favorite resource of mine is PVC: The Poison Plastic available at BeSafeNet.com.

  • Pingback: MommySuperShopper - Savings & Safety Tips for Kids & Babies » Glass Baby Bottles, Better than Plastic

  • L. Sadri

    so in the end, am I better off going with silicone nipples/pacifiers or natural rubber ones?

  • http://thesoftlanding.com Alicia

    Hi L. – yes, in the end silicone or natural rubber is a better choice than synthetic latex.

  • http://silicone.jimdo.com silicone baby products

    I agree with you!Silicone is called organic silicone,but its components is SiO2 and H2O compound ,which is really non-toxic and healthy to body.

    • Skincaremamma

      Is there a place I could read more about it? Are avent nipples made with the organic silicone components?Thanks so much!! Jojo

  • Pingback: Glass versus Plastic Bottles | Lullaby Baby

  • Christina

    Natural rubber does leach nitrosamines…if Naturosutten denied that, they are lying…

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