Feeding

FEEDING/Pacifiers and Teethers

Overview

Many babies enjoy the ability to suck beyond what they need to be fed, and as teeth start coming in, will benefit from having something to chew on to soothe their gums. That''s where pacifiers (also known as pacis, binkies, dummies, nubbies, and many other odd names) and teethers come in. Many of these are made from plastics and silicone.

Hidden Hazards

Some teethers are made out of polyvinyl chloride, which can leach plasticizers. In the past, this included now-banned phthalates. They may also be made with plastics that release bisphenols, antimicrobials, benzophenones, and parabens. Solvent ethylene glycol and styrene have been reported in teethers/pacifiers to Washington State. Teethers can be made of many hard and semi-hard materials. 

Pacifiers can be made of latex, or plastics, in addition to safer silicone. 

Other Considerations

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is a month old before introducing a pacifier, and then weaning them from pacifier use sometime between six months and a year old. Reliance on a pacifier at two years of age or older could harm dental development.  Even if your baby is not allergic to latex, the softer material can tear when used with older babies who have teeth. 

Pacifiers come in many shapes, and are sized for babies as they grow. Your baby will have their own preferences on style, and these preferences may change as they grow.

Recommendations

For pacifiers, silicone is the safer material. If using a pacifier with a plastic shield, make sure it is made without PVC. 

For teethers, consider skipping synthetic materials (plastic, latex, silicone) all together. A wet cotton washcloth, stuck in the freezer, can offer a lot of relief, as can stainless steel spoons, or unfinished wood blocks (that are not choke hazards). If you do want a "rubbery" teether, consider food-grade silicone.

MADE SAFE has certified the following products:

Bioserie

  • Star Teether / Green
  • Star Teether / Orange

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

FEEDING/Bibs

Overview

You'd make a big mess, too, if you were learning to eat while also still figuring out how to make your arms and hands go where you want! Bibs can help save clothing from excessive drooling during teething, and food as babies start to explore different tastes. Bibs are also fashion statements, and there are a huge variety of choices out there.

Hidden Hazards

Washington State's database of chemicals of concern disclosed by manufacturers reports a surprising number of chemicals of concern in bibs: acetaldehyde, acrylonitrile, antimony, phthalates, and solvents such as ethylbenzene, ethylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone, phenol, phthalic anhydride, styrene and toluene. Most of these have no purpose in the final product. After mainstream media started covering phthalates in baby products and their potential health effects, many companies stopped using vinyl to make bibs waterproof. Now many waterproof bibs use polyurethane coating.

Other Considerations

Bibs don't need to be waterproof to be effective.

Recommendations

Regardless of the bib you choose, the fact that there are so many reports of chemicals of concern as contaminants means you should thoroughly wash all washable products for your baby, bibs included. Note that in some cases antimony was added as a flame retardant, something entirely unnecessary in a bib. Snaps for holding the bib to around baby's neck may contain metals like antimony - consider snap-free options. You can bet that at some point, your baby will likely chew on those snaps.  Choose solid natural materials like cotton. If possible, choose GOTS certified organic cotton. As with all textiles, wash with unscented laundry detergent before use with baby.

References & Resources

Learn why Washington State includes the chemicals it does in its mandated reporting program. 

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

FEEDING/Baby's First Foods

Overview

There are a lot of ideas about what should constitute a baby's first food. Do you make your own? Buy prepared food? Oatmeal? Cereal? Banana? Whatever baby reaches for?

Hidden Hazards

It's no secret that pesticides used in agriculture can end up in foods. Other chemicals present when crops are grown can also end up in foods. Such is the case of arsenic in rice. Arsenic is present in rice paddies due to natural variations in soil, and from historic use of arsenic as a pesticide. Rice cereal can contain up to six times the levels of arsenic as other grains. Refined foods can pick up chemicals and materials used during processing and in packaging. This includes phthalates and bisphenols.

Other Considerations

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce foods or beverages aside from breast milk/formula until babies are six months old. Babies benefit when nursing continues through at least the first year of life, or longer.  

Recommendations

When choosing a first grain, skip over rice. Oatmeal, quinoa, and barley all have much lower levels of arsenic. If you are buying prepared baby food, consider food packaged in glass with bisphenol-free lids. Next best is solid polypropylene plastic, and least preferable are plastic pouches. Pouches in particular are very challenging to recycle due to their many layers. If possible, choose organic foods. You can reduce chemicals from processing by preparing your own simple foods by pureeing fresh fruits and vegetables, best in a blender with a glass jar. Don't have access to organic food? Check out EWG's high and low-pesticide conventional foods to reduce pesticide exposure.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

Healthy Babies Bright Futures tested infant cereals for arsenic. Learn about what they found and safer alternatives.

Environmental Working Group tests produce for pesticides.

FEEDING/A Place to Sit

Overview

Once your baby is old enough to be sitting up at meal time, you'll probably want them to have a seat at the table (or in the kitchen, etc.). There are a number of ways to accomplish this - some seats attach to the table itself, some are boosters that can be attached to full-sized chairs, some are free-standing (the traditional "high chair). Some have attachable trays and some are intended to be used right at the table. If you are pressed for space, there are a lot of options that fold up into small packages - either to slide into a narrow space, or fold up for travel.

Hidden Hazards

Formaldehyde is used in the adhesive that binds composite wood, particle board, and plywood together. It can also be used as glue or adhesive with solid-wood furniture. Older high chairs sold before 2008 may have been painted with lead-based paint. Metal high chairs can be "powder-coated" with a material made with bisphenols. Some trays may be made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Padded seats may be made with PVC (for washability) and/or have antimicrobial chemicals added. They may also be made of polyurethane foam, and thus could contain flame retardant chemicals.

Other Considerations

Some chairs offer different positions depending on age (reclining for younger babies, for example). Make sure your seat has proper restrains/straps to keep babies from slipping. Family heirlooms are unlikely to have such safeguards. Want to be especially frugal? Simple fabric seats attach to existing chairs can save space and money. 

Recommendations

If you choose a full sized high chair, consider a solid wood chair. If the chair is made of composite wood or plywood, ask about volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde - and seek those that are certified to CARB (California Air Resources Board) Phase 2 limits. Look for a "flame-retardant free" label on any padding. Some wooden high chairs can convert to children's chairs that you can adjust as they grow, to extend the life of the chair. On a budget? A second-hand high chair can be just fine. Be sure it's made after 2008. Avoid older padded items, however, which will very likely contain now-banned flame retardant chemicals.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

Learn more about the California Air Resources Board's limits on formaldehyde and other chemicals here. 

FEEDING/Bottles & Nipples

Overview

Whether you plan to feed your newborn breastmilk or formula or a combination of the two, there are many reasons to have baby bottles. After research found hormone-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA) in many hard plastic baby bottles, public outcry, advocacy and policy drove a dramatic change in the sector. Now you can find a variety of plastics, glass, and stainless steel bottles on the market.

Hidden Hazards

While BPA captured widespread attention for its estrogen-like effects on developing bodies, further research has found hormone-disrupting chemicals leaching from a number of plastics. Today's hard, clear plastics can include BPS, another bisphenol, or other hormone-disrupting chemicals. Glass bottles are free of chemical hazards. High-quality stainless steel also poses few chemical hazards, though some insulated bottles have tested positive for lead in the seals on the outside bottom of the bottle. Nipples can be made of latex, which may turn out to be an allergen for your baby. Silicone has become the primary material for nipples, and food-grade silicone appears to be safer.

Other Considerations

If you choose plastic bottles, discard them when they become cloudy or scratched. This isn't about looks - as plastic gets older, small breaks in the surface can release additives or basing building materials. Don't use nipples that have cracks or tears. Glass bottles can break, though newer bottles are often made of tempered glass to minimize this. Silicone sleeves can be used to protect glass bottles if this is a concern for you.

Recommendations

The Getting Ready for Baby campaign specifically recommends products that have been certified MADE SAFE. For baby bottles, this includes products from Pura Stainless, which are MADE SAFE Nontoxic Certified.

Beyond that, choose safer materials:

  • Glass bottles (if you're concerned about breakage, consider a silicone wrapper)
  • Stainless steel 
  • Polypropylene

For nipples, seek silcone nipples made for the age of your baby (this affects flow rate). 

There are disposable bags for expressing breast milk, and while these appear to be made of safer plastics (low-density polyethylene - LDPE indicated with recycling symbol #4), they are disposable and made from petroleum products. There is no real method for recycling these.

If you use plastic bottles, they shouldn't be used once they are visibly scratched, as any chemicals of concern present can leach more easily into the bottle contents.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

FEEDING/Nursing Pillows

Overview

Nursing pillows are more firm than most normal pillows, and often are narrower and curved to wrap around mom's body. They are designed to provide support to babies without straining the arms and backs of tired moms. Given the number of hours a nursing mom will spend with her baby that close, they can be very helpful. They can be helpful for supporting babies as they bottle feed with all caregivers. They can also then double as pillows that support a newly-sitting baby (with the infant on the floor with the pillow around their legs, supporting their back. There are a lot of styles from which to choose.

Hidden Hazards

Textiles can contain a host of chemicals of concern in dyes and finishing agents. Some nursing pillows are made with polyurethane foam interiors, some of which may still contain flame retardant chemicals. Polyester is often made with antimony as a catalyst in the manufacturing process, and residual antimony can remain. 

Other Considerations

There are basic safety considerations, such as choke hazards (small parts) but these are rarely present in nursing pillows.

Recommendations

Look for products made without polyurethane foam. Cotton batting (the stuffing) is best, polyester is preferable to foam. When possible, choose nursing pillows with removable covers (so they can be washed), made of natural fibers like cotton and wool. Whenever possible, choose organic textiles for items that will touch your baby's body. Products made of fabric are certified organic by GOTS (the Global Organic Textile Standard). As with all fabrics and textiles, wash with unscented detergent before using with your baby.

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

FEEDING/Pumps

Overview

The benefits of breastfeeding are great. Breastfed infants face a reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, and respiratory infections, and are less likely to develop chronic conditions such as asthma, obesity, lymphoma, and types 1 and 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding also has short- and long-term brain development benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, with continuing nursing as solid foods are introduced through at least baby's first birthday or longer. Around the world, nursing often continues for several years beyond this.

Exclusive breastfeeding can be a challenge for some women - breast pumps help those moms provide all or most of their babies' milk. Even if mom will be staying home and nursing directly most of the time, there will likely be times they'll want to express milk and store it for later. In response to this, there are many pumps available, ranging from simple hand pumps for occasional use, to electric pumps that allow both breasts to express at the same time. Even better news: the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover the of cost breast pumps, and though the extent of coverage can differ between plans, you should look at insurance coverage before you shop, so you know what will be covered. Breast pumps and breast feeding support are also provided under The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). 

Hidden Hazards

While the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 required children's toys and care items to stop using certain phthalates, items for adults, including breast pumps, do not fall under that restriction. Some tubing is still made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC),  Bisphenols may also be used - many companies will list being BPA-free, but not whether they also avoid similar compounds.

Other Considerations

The features you'll want vary based on how you plan to use it. Consider whether you'll have flexibility in which bottles you attach to the pump (the size of the mouth of the bottle makes a difference). If you'll be pumping occasionally, you may just want a hand-pump, which takes longer to use. Electric pumps vary on whether you can use a battery, if the airflow that creates suction is open (meaning liquid can get into the tubing) or closed (the tubing will stay dry). Some only let you pump one side at a time, some will do both (and there are hands-free pumping bras that may assist).

Recommendations

Look for a model that meets your needs based on use, and that avoids phthalates (and preferably all polyvinyl chloride - PVC) and bisphenols. The information about the materials used by breast pump manufacturers differs significantly and is often deep in the FAQs on their website (not in their product descriptions for retailers).   

References & Resources

Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers

Learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding via the American Academy of Pediatrics.