You might have read in the news that bottle fed babies swallow millions of microplastics a day (Guardian 19.10.20). As a new parent the last thing you need is a scare story. Especially a scare story about feeding. And most especially if bottle feeding wasn’t what you originally planned for you and your newborn.
So, in this article you’ll find straightforward facts about microplastics and bottle feeding. And we offer 3 simple, sensible ways to help you as a new parent or caregiver minimise your bottle fed baby’s ingestion of microplastics.
This article is relevant whether you’re feeding your baby exclusively on formula feeds, or combining breastfeeding with bottle feeds of expressed breastmilk.
Why are bottle fed babies swallowing plastics?
1) 82% of baby bottles across the world are made of polypropylene (Guardian 19.10.20) or, as we commonly call it, ‘plastic’. Researchers recently discovered that exposing plastic baby bottles to high temperatures during sterilisation causes the release of micro- and nano- particles of plastics.
As the Guardian reports:
“The team followed international sterilisation guidelines to make baby formula in 10 different feeding bottles. This involves sterilising with 95C (203F) water, then shaking the formula powder with 70C water in the bottle. Both the hot water and shaking steps produced a lot of microplastics, which are far smaller than the width of a human hair. Nanoplastics are so small they are very hard to count, but the scientists estimated trillions were produced per litre of fluid.”
2) Tap water itself is contaminated with microplastics. A study in 2017 found that 72% of tap water samples contained microplastics (Guardian, 06.09.17). So when you wash, rinse and sterilise with tap water, microplastics are introduced.
This has led some parents to Google whether it’s okay to use bottled water to make infant formula feeds. The answer is a definitive no. As the NHS warns, “bottled water is not recommended for making up feeds, as it’s not sterile and may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate”.
Side note: microplastics are found in over 90% of bottled waters, globally (The Telegraph 15.03.18). So bottled water is even more contaminated with plastics than tap water!
Should I still sterilise my baby’s plastic bottle feeding equipment?
YES! It’s absolutely vital to follow recommended guidelines for sterilising baby feeding equipment and for making up formula feeds.
This news about bottle fed babies swallowing plastics is NOT reason to stop sterilising equipment or making feeds at the correct temperature.
Keep reading for suggestions about how you can safely minimise your baby’s exposure to plastics whilst still following NHS safety guidelines.
What effect do plastics have on my baby’s health?
Science is only just beginning to grasp the scale of the plastics problem. As yet, there is not enough research to understand the impact of swallowing plastic fibres, microplastics and nanoplastics.
“Scientists say there is an “urgent need” to assess the issue, particularly for infants” (Guardian 19.10.20).
We are also aware that it’s not just about the plastics themselves. It’s also the bacteria and chemicals that are attracted to the plastics and travel with them through the body.
The good news is that some of the micro- and nanoplastics probably pass through your baby’s digestive system and come out as poo.
And the further good news is that you can dramatically reduce your bottle fed baby’s exposure to microplastics in safe, simple ways. Read on…
3 ways to reduce the amount of plastics your bottle fed baby swallows.
1. Switch to glass. You can sterilise glass baby bottles at high temperatures without any worries about plastics shedding. They’re readily available from trusted brands such MAM and Tommee Tippee in shops including John Lewis and Argos. Bear in mind that they’re more expensive and heavier for your baby to hold.
2. Switch to pure water. Remember we said earlier in this article that 72% of UK tap water samples contained plastic fibres? Well, PureH2O water purifiers use an innovative reverse osmosis process to remove microplastics (as well as disease-causing organisms, pesticides, fertilisers, heavy metals, hormone and drug residues). The result is pure water that is safe for the whole family to drink. You can use pure water to make up baby formula feeds, as well as using it to wash, rinse and sterilise feeding equipment.
3. Switch to cold-water sterilisation if you don’t want to switch to glass bottles. Although high-temp sterilising (steam or boiling) is the internationally recommended gold standard, the NHS also explains that you can use a cold water sterilising solution to sterilise feeding equipment. However, microplastics in tap water are unaffected by sterilising solution. So if that is a concern, getting a reverse osmosis water purifier is definitely the way to go.
Using plastic baby bottles combined with high-temperature sterilisation methods causes millions of pieces of micro- and nanoplastics to shed. That means babies who bottle feed swallow these plastic particles. Further exposure to plastics happens through using tap water to make formula feeds, and to wash, rinse and sterilise baby feeding equipment.
The ideal way to protect your baby from plastics is to switch to glass bottles and get a reverse osmosis tap water purifier installed at home. If you’re not quite ready for that yet, consider switching to the cold-water sterilising method as outlined by the NHS.
Once you start introducing solids to your little one’s diet, you can use glass food storage containers instead of plastic ones. They’re usually supplied with clip-on lids so they’re really convenient for freezing food and reheating in the microwave or the oven (remove lids if reheating in the oven).
We’re here to help.
We hope you’ve found this blog post informative. If you have any questions about our reverse osmosis home water purifiers, or would like to order a purifier for you home, call us on 01483 617000. We’re available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Carrington, D ‘Bottled fed babies swallow millions of microplastics a day, study finds’ Guardian 19.10.20 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/19/bottle-fed-babies-swallow-millions-microplastics-day-study accessed 29.01.21
Carrington, D ‘Plastics fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals’ Guardian 06.09.17 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals accessed 29.01.21
Walter, S ‘Plastic found in most bottled water, triggering World Health Organisation review’ The Telegraph, 15.03.18 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/14/plastic-now-pervasive-finding-way-bottled-water-investigation/ accessed 16.03.18
Information & support
NHS breastfeeding & bottle feeding advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/
NCT infant feeding support line. Call 0300 330 0700 (choose option 1) or visit https://www.nct.org.uk/baby-toddler/feeding/early-days/support-breastfeeding-or-bottle-feeding-our-infant-feeding-line
The Green Parent: pure water for children https://www.pureh2o.co.uk/the-green-parent-pure-water-for-children/
More than half of children are dehydrated https://www.pureh2o.co.uk/more-than-half-of-children-are-dehydrated/