Yesterday I put out a huge blog post about plastic and the effects on our health. It was there that I broke down the effects that plastics have our on health, specifically if food or beverages are consumed out of plastic containers. I wanted to dedicate a completely separate post to plastic alternatives for babies and kids, since it’s so much more extensive. Plastic is the most popular form of material for anything pertaining to baby and kid stuff: bottles, pacifiers, cups, bowls, plates, toys, etc. My intent is not to scare anyone into thinking they or their family member will die from plastic. I only want to bring more awareness to the risks of certain exposures and what changes you can make if you feel strongly about it as well.
Let me start off with 2 personal disclaimers:
#1- I’m not an expert, or a bio-chemical engineer. I only read reputable articles and give you the bottom line takeaways from what I find.
#2- I’m late to the game. People have been living limited-plastic or plastic-free lives for years. This is my 3rd pregnancy and just NOW I’m really learning about the effects on fertility, pregnancy, growing fetuses and developing babies/kids. My first two kids turned out fine before I made this change, and I’m sure this one will too. It’s just a conscious decision I’ve made for our family from here on out to safeguard our future health and reduce our carbon footprint on the earth.
This is literally my TWO drawers of plastic food storage containers. I don’t plan on throwing them all out, because that would just contribute to the environmental epidemic. I will somehow repurpose them elsewhere in the house unrelated to food storage. Most likely for arts and crafts, toiletries, etc.
Basics about plastics and development:
As I mentioned in my previous post, there are many medical risk factors to certain exposures to plastic compounds. For pregnant women, high levels of BPA and other chemicals that have leached into food can have a negative effect on fetal development. For kids, this can affect their neurodevelopment, reproductive and endocrine systems.
The main message is to be knowledgeable about what type of plastic you’re dealing with. Even if you choose to continue to use plastic (which is totally understandable), be conscious of a few things:
- Know what the little numbers inside the triangle mean.
- Opaque bottles/containers vs clear bottles tend to have lower or no BPA-type (usually made of polyethylene #4 or polypropylene #5)
- Avoid heating foods or liquids in plastic containers or bottles containing polycarbonate, PC, #7
- If there is NO information about what it is made out of, (e.g. #5 PP, #4 LDPE), and not clearly identified as “BPA-free” or “No BPA, phthalates, PVC” etc., you probably want to avoid it.
- There is no right answer, this is not an all or nothing.. Just like everything in motherhood, do what feels right for you and your family.
Food storage vs. toys and everything else
I’m only going to talk about products that have to do with food storage and eating/drinking. We could go on and on about teethers, toys, other household items etc. However, all of these principles can be applied to any baby or kid item. Teethers/pacifiers we try to stick to 100% silicone. The baby toys we have are mostly silicone, cotton, or wooden, since they love sticking everything in their mouth at that stage. Toddler and kid toys I’m not as vigilant about. We try to use wood and silicone and reduce plastic, but their obsession with trucks, vehicles paw patrol makes plastic avoidable.
In the list above #3 mentioned not heating up liquids in bottles. You may be thinking, um how else am I supposed to heat up bottles of milk?? So here’s the scoop. Most bottle manufacturers these days are making conscious efforts to use the safest plastic possible- which is usually #5 PP. Most parents warm up milk in these, sterilize them in the microwave/sterilizer, boil them in water etc.I’ve used Tommee Tippee bottles for both of my boys. I would sterilize them, warm them up, throw them in the dishwasher etc. Some sources say this is still ok, since #5 PP usually does not contain BPA and has a lower tendency to leach chemicals when heated up. However, if you wanted to go the conservative route (which I will probably do for this baby, knowing what I know now), there are some alternatives.
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A lot of big bottle brands are coming out with glass alternatives to their popular plastic bottles. One thing to consider is the obvious risk of it dropping and breaking. There are some that come encased in a protective sleeve. Here are some top rated on the reviews:
Silicone is another great alternative, be sure to look for “food-grade 100% silicone”. It is resistant to exposure of very high temperatures, which means no leaching of chemicals if warmed up. It’s also pretty easy to clean. I’m a big fan of the ComoTomo bottles, and seems like a lot of other parents are as well based on the reviews and what other mom friends use.
Stainless Steel bottles
Stainless steel is a third alternative to plastic bottles. They are fairly new to the market and seem to be in transition to mainstream use. I really only found two companies, Pura and ThinkBaby who are making stainless steel bottles as an extension of their water bottles. With Pura Kiki it can transition through different stages of bottles and sippy cups by only changing out the nipple grade. Two cons: Obviously can’t be warmed up in the microwave and if it doesn’t have a silicone protective sleeve or double-insulated wall, it may become to warm or cold for baby to hold (both of these brands included this feature).
Just as I mentioned with bottles, there are alternatives to plastic dishware. To be honest, my kids 100% not ready for glass or ceramic plates, bowls and cups. I did go through our inventory and toss anything that was not identified with a plastic resin number. Here are some alternatives and considerations:
I’ve been using EZPZ plates/bowls since Chase was little. I teamed up with them last year with an EZPZ product giveaway on instagram and still a huge supporter of their products. I love that they’re easy to clean, stick to the table (most of the time, unless the boys figure out how to hack it), and each product clearly identifies that they are BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free. Here’s a special link for Therapeutic Miles readers to receive 10% off of any of their products!
We do still use plastic, but I made sure it was clearly identified as#5PP, heat up the food in glass or ceramic, and usually handwash. This set I found at Target made by Pillowfort is great if you want to stick with plastic, super inexpensive and very transparent about their chemical properties.
Snack and travel containers
Both of the boys go to school/daycare during the day and we have to pack all of their lunch and snacks. Even when we travel to go to a friend’s house or out for errands I’m packing snacks (most moms know this similar plight). After doing this research about plastics, I started looking for stainless steel containers that had silicone tops, and found that most companies make them with plastic tops. I did, however, find only a few that made theirs with silicone tops. The Tavva Company sent us this set of nesting snack containers to try out and let me tell you, we. love. themmmmm. They are easy for the boys to open but secure enough to not accidentally open in their bags. I throw them in the dishwasher every night and so far no issues.
There are also stainless steel bento-boxes for older kiddos!
Chase’s new classroom no longer has a microwave to heat up food. Instead, we warm up the food at home and put it in a vacuum-insulated stainless steel thermos that keeps it warm until lunch time. We bought the Mira brand, although Thermos is also a great option.
We also had become notorious for using ziploc baggies for everything. I’m reducing our use not really for the health reasons, but for sustainability. I did find silicone reusable snack bags that aren’t a bad alternative since they are also washable!
I’m embarrassed to say that we have become quite the collector of every sippy cup known to man. Each of our boys have very particular preferences for what they drink out of…which drives me absolutely bananas. However, we made a switch and so far they have been well-received. Here are some options for at-home and on-the-go drink containers.
Stainless steel drinking cups
Because school doesn’t allow any glass containers or water bottles, we went with stainless steel. There are a lot of stainless steel travel water bottles for little kids on the market that come double-wall insulated so they stay cold all day. We went with Bubba, only because I found them in Target for $10 and they don’t have too many complicated valves that could potentially harbor bacteria. I see a lot kids with camelback water bottles too. The stainless steel drinking cups that we got are great because you can pair it with a silicone top. They are made by Healthy Sprouts, are around 10oz, which is perfect for toddlers, and is double-wall insulated, so no cold hands!
Carter LOVES his Munchkin 360 cup. Luckily they do sell a stainless steel version of this cup. It’s on the pricey side for one cup, but it works well for school everyday and home use.
Silicone sippy tops and straws
We’ve tried out these two silicone tops and straws to pair with the little stainless steel cups and replace our Take n Toss cups. So far they hold up well after washing and are easy to use. The Healthy Sprouts sippy tops are 100% silicone and are leak-proof and bite-proof. The Boon company makes the straw tops, but sadly their straws are plastic. I ended up getting separate silicone straws to go with the tops. When we use the plastic Pillowfort cup, Chase usually drinks straight out of it without a top, but we slap on the silicone sippy top for little Carter.
So that’s it in a nutshell!! Those are some small considerations when dealing with plastics and simple alternative options for your little ones. It’s definitely an investment, and may not be feasible for all families. Just with every other baby and toddler product, there are always pros, cons and a spectrum of choices. Remember that no one should shame you for your decisions as a parent. If you decide to stick with plastic products because it makes life easier and more convenient, do not feel ashamed at all. You are still an amazing parent no matter what!! I’m just here to share info and inspo from one parent to another.
Have you made the switch? What are your favorite and highly recommended tips, tricks and plastic-free kid and baby products?? Share below in the comments for other families!