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Your baby's environment

  • Keep your baby away from harmful products and chemicals.
  • Don’t smoke and keep your baby away from secondhand smoke.
  • Make sure your home is free from things like lead and mold.
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Harmful plastics and your baby

Plastic is a man-made substance that’s used in lots everyday products, like bottles, toys and furniture. Plastic is made from chemicals. Two chemicals sometimes used in plastics are bisphenol A (also called BPA) and phthalates. 

BPA makes plastic clear and strong. It’s sometimes used in baby bottles, water bottles and metal cans. Phthalates make plastic soft and flexible. They’re used in medical equipment (such as tubing), shampoo, make-up and food packaging. 

Can PBA and phthalates harm your baby?

Some research shows that coming in contact with BPA and phthalates before birth, as a baby or early in childhood may cause problems with your brain development and behavior, and with the prostate gland (if your baby’s a boy). Because of this research, some phthalates are no longer used in toys and other children’s products. While there isn’t a ban on BPA, many products are now BPA-free. We need more research to know for sure if chemicals in plastics can harm your baby during pregnancy.

How can you limit your baby’s contact with harmful plastics?

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Breastfeed your baby so you don’t have to use so many bottles. To feed your baby pumped breastmilk, use baby bottles make of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene.
  • Don’t microwave food for your baby in plastic containers or put plastics in the dishwasher.
  • Give your baby toys made of fabric or unpainted wood. If you do get a plastic toy, make sure it’s labeled BPA- or phthalate-free, or that it was made after February 2009.
  • Don’t use plastic containers with the numbers 3 or 7 or the letters PC on the bottom. Plastics with the numbers 1, 2 and 4 are safe to use. 
  • Don’t use shampoo, lotion or powders on your baby that contain phthalates. Check the product label to make sure it’s phthalate-free.

Last reviewed September 2014

See also: Harmful plastics and pregnancy

Hazards around the home

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Spots of mold growth
  • Pesticides on vegetables and fruits or outdoors
  • Carbon monoxide from stoves and appliances
  • Lead from old pipes, old paint and certain toys

Frequently Asked Questions

Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?

Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.

If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.

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