Saturday, September 6, 2008

Safe Bottle Nipples - What's Your Baby Sucking On?

Welcomed light calm rain, and smells good too.

There is a lot of loose terminology when it comes to products and so at this point it is up to the consumer to do their homework. Unfortunately this includes products our children breath, play with, drink from and...suck on.

Baby bottles have rightly so received a lot of attention after finding out that all those cute plastic bottles are leaching some serious BPA. But what about the part that actually goes in the mouth, the nipple that the baby sucks, chews and nibbles on? What the heck is the nipple made from anyway?

The market is divided into basically two options, silicone or latex. And what are these things anyway?

Silicone is actually made from silicon, the second most abundant element on earth, and most benign at that. Silicon in its natural form is mixed with some stuff to create silicone. There are many different grades of silicone, not regulated by the FDA, except in the FDA category of food grade silicone and the allowed additives ( a list which is huge) (think twice about those pretty red silicone muffin bakers). Even in the area of Medical Grade or"High Quality" silicone there is a lack of definition except it seems to have a lot less additives than Food Grade.

And Latex-You've seen the labels before: latex, latex rubber, natural latex, natural rubber and more. Again, since there are no regulating definitions except some very loose FDA clarifications, the products industry can be very clever in its labeling. Lets start with what is, or can be latex.

Latex is what flows from the rubber tree. This is truly natural latex, which is then taken and made into rubber(y) or latex containing things. Latex can also mean synthetic latex, a rubber like material, mostly petroleum based, but can be called just latex. So when ever you see the word latex, it is fair to ask, is it natural or synthetic, because otherwise no one has to tell you.

There is also the latex allergy consideration. Some people are very allergic to natural latex (a protein in latex). And perhaps there are a lot of latex allergies because of early exposure to natural latex. But the protein in latex that causes the allergy can be removed during the processing of latex though not very often.

Then there is the good old name game: made from latex, contains latex, 100% latex (synthetic?) or just plain latex. This applies to silicone as well. Is it 100% silicone? medical grade? food grade? (much lesser quality) made with silicone? And how do you find out? Good luck - it will take some major phone calling because your top leading nipples makers might not tell you the full details.

For instance Playtex has no available information about what they mean by "made from natural latex". (Platex has also kept BPA in several of their products) So is it 100% latex? If so, why don't they just say that? If they are 100% natural latex, any marketing person worth their weight missed the boat. Dr. Brown's nipples only say "high grade silicone" (not medial grade), which again is not a regulated term, and then goes on to say made in Germany like that is suppose to guarantee safety. (although they are more safety conscious there, Dr. Brown's baby bottles also leached the highest BPA) What's the difference between high grade and medical grade? Probably the amount of additives.

Then there is the Nanotechnology issue that is totally unregulated, putting silver and other particles into the nipples for anti-bacterial purposes before any of us can yell "stop", and they don't even have to tell you. Nipples have also been made with nitrosamines, suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors. The FDA immediately dealt with the nitrosamine issue by NOT having the industry omit nitrosamines, but merely reducing the detectable level. To top it all off, phthalates are still unregulated and were only voluntarily taken off the market for toys and nipples in 1998, but that is not to be assured they aren't in there unless the product says phthalate-free.

So what's a consumer to do? Stick with clear medical grade silicone or 100% natural latex nipples. If you are concerned about latex allergies, stick to silicone. Yes silicone is stiffer, not as nice and squishy or "natural", but it sure offers peace of mind. If you really want safe and natural, as a last resort you can use... the breast.


Seeking Harmony said...

Here is a different but related topic I hope someone can help me with.

I was using this post to decide if using a menstrual cup is safe and whether or not I should use a latex/rubber or silicone one.

Why do you emphasize it to be CLEAR silicone. I know that they sell the cups in many colors. I don't know that I have even seen it in clear yet.

I want to be healthier and kinder to the environment but just using pads (I know they have washable) seems so unappealing when I've used tampons all my life.

What do you think would be healthier, organic cotton tampons, (although disposable) or these cups? And I do know that even organic cotton takes a lot of resources, like water, and I do usually go with the least wasteful- but I don't want to have latex or silicone down leaching into my blood stream for about 25% of the rest of my menstruating life. That seems very unnatural. But I cannot find information on it anywhere.

Surely my own bodies waste held there with a tampon and getting in my blood stream is healthier than a foreign material?

Real Green Girl Activist said...

I am so glad you commented. I should have been more clear, sorry for the pun... I mean, I should have described the medical grade silicon, not as clear, but it's a cloudy and colorless, sort of milky, so not really clear. It is the same as a gasket in a water bottle. etc.

But to your point, the cups are by far the greenest for sure. They use medical grade silicon or the real latex. The only concern with the latex is allergies. The latex ones I see are a darker color, a natural rubber color. The silicone I have only seen is the Diva Cup. I would not go for color ones. That is an additive that I feel is unnecessary and I am not sure it maintains its medical grade...grade. The latex will not leach, it is totally natural and very safe (unless you are alleric)Reputable companies like the Diva Cup are very safe, I say no worries. Even cotton tampons have had to be treated with chemicals.

Hope this helps. If I had to do it over, I'ld use a cup. I beg my girls to use them , but they can't get pass the ick factor. Good luck. So I have great confidence.

Chelsea V. said...

I have Dr.Brown's bottles (I also noticed the nipples being silicone and made in Germany, which led me to your site) but they all say they are BPA-free. Maybe they have changed since the article was written? Do you know? My baby will only be taking a bottle a few times a day while I'm at work (she will still have the breast all other times) but I am still concerned about which bottles and nipples I should use. Should I get glass bottles?!