Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Non toxic Suckers: How to Choose a non-toxic pacifier and teether

I will admit it, I am one of those moms that truly believes that God’s gift to mothers was the pacifier.   I was exhausted, hardly sleeping with a very cranky baby.  I did not want to give him a pacifier as I did not want to ‘confuse him’ (I was breast feeding) nor hook him on something that would cause a greater headache later on.  One especially hard day,  my mom gave him a pacifier and ..... shhhhhhhhh..... silence.   My son was soothed.  He was calm and quiet. He was just one of those babies that needed to be sucking on something and this little sucker (pun intended!) did the trick.   Yes, it can be a pain to get your child unhooked after they are hooked (I don’t even want to think about that, but will have to some day soon), but in my eyes with all the good pacifiers do (namely:   give us moms peace and quiet) they really can do no harm.   Or can they?

Every child and every parent is different, but if your child does use a pacifier, the fact that our babies are sucking on this foreign object for hours at a time makes it extra important to make sure that what they are sucking on will not harm them.

Here are some easy steps to follow when choosing a pacifier model for your baby...... 

  1.  BPA free:  The good news is that today most pacifiers in the United States do not contain BPA (to read more about BPA and why we want to avoid it read   ).  However when you buy a pacifier make sure that it specifies that it is BPA free
  2. Choose latex free pacifiers
  3. Choose  models that specify they are PVC and Phthalate

Which did I use for my son?
The Gumdrop Pacifier (the one I was given at the hospital) is made out of medical grade silicone. It is PVC, Phthalate, paraben and BPA free.   However, its skeleton is made of polycarbonate. So watch out for any wear and replace it if it’s thinning out.  I was quite vigilant and would replace immediately at the first sign of wear. Since the pacifier comes in many sizes,  it is quite comfortable at all stages. (buy the one without fragrance!)

Which one will I eventually use for my next baby? Hevea or
Natursutten Natural Rubber Pacifiers are made from pure, natural rubber from the tree Hevea brasiliensi. It has no artificial color, no chemicals softener; it’s parabens, PVC, phtalates and BPA (bisphenol-A) free. It is recommended that you replace these every couple of weeks so could be a more pricier option that others.

Choosing a Non-Toxic Teether

And while we are on this topic, might as well give some guides to choosing safe teethers.
  1. Always look for BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free.  If this is not specified on the package call the company.  Just because a company sells one item that is free of these chemicals does not mean everything they sell is free of the same chemicals!
  2. If you child likes them, try using teethers made of ‘natural’ materials like wood or organic cotton.   Some new brands are making teethers from corn starch bioplastic
  3. Silicon is a safe option

My son loved biting and sucking on a small wet towel (I would put it in the freezer for a bit and give it to him)

Green Sprout: Green Sprouts offers BPA, PVC, phthalate and nitrosamine-free pacifiers in assorted colors. The company also sells cornstarch ring teethers and hand teethers in various colors, which are also free of BPA, PVC, phthalates and nitrosamines.  (Nitrosamines, and its compounds, are known carcinogens that, according to a Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) report, “have been extensively tested in 40 different animal species and caused cancer in everyone of them, both after respiratory and oral exposure”.)

Natursutten:   Their apple and fish teethers are made of ethylene vinyl acetate and are filled with sterilized water. They are free of BPA, phthalates and PVC. Made in the EU.

Rock Love Peace teethers are hand made in the USA of FSC certified cherry wood in the shapes of hearts, stars and peace signs finished with all natural beeswax.
Camden Rose teethers are made from maple wood and hand finished with non-toxic beeswax

My Problem with Vulli's Sophie la Giraffe
Vulli, a French toy company, offers several teethers that are hand made in the French Alps with natural rubber and non-toxic food-grade paint. Sophie the Giraffe and the Chan Pie Gnon mushroom-shaped teethers are BPA, PVC and phthalate-free. Vulli also makes non-latex teethers that are free of BPA, PVC and phthalates.

This past December, 2 well known French newspapers (Le Monde and Que Choisir  ) printed a report  claiming that Sophie la Giraffe had tested positive for potentially cancer causing nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a known possible carcinogen that are illegal in baby bottles and pacifiers in Europe.  Vulli, the company that has made Sophie the Giraffe for fifty years, quickly released a statement saying their toy was safe.  There is a level of nitrosamines allowed and considered safe in TOYS in both Europe and in the US, and Sophie’s levels fall below this number.  

The article in Que Choisir, acknowledges that the levels of nitrosamines detected in Sophie meet the current EU toy safety standards, but points out that should the Giraffe fall under the regulation for 'teats and soothers', the teether would be taken off the market (it is considered a toy and thus the acceptable levels of nitrosamines are higher)

The manufacturer, Vulli,  continues to refute the allegations, insisting that Sophie has been safe for 50 years, and “will continue to be so for generations to come”. They are promising further legal action should anyone continue to “release information that is unfounded and unwarranted in any way that is harmful to Vulli.”  The regulatory bodies in Europe and the Us seem to agree and Sophie is still as popular as ever.

Even so, it leaves me feeling uneasy when I think back to how much  my son (and most kids I know) love this toys, and the countless hours he chewed on it and I let him chew on it positive it was a safe alternative.   Unlike other toys, I would encourage him to put Sophie in his mouth... and he did so more than the ‘teats’ that the EU regulates more stringently.  I guess a seed of doubt has been placed in my head and I just can’t shake it off.... so I probably wont be buying this as a gift any time soon! 


  1. Have you tried the ecopiggies? http://www.amazon.com/Ecopiggy-Orthodontic-Natural-Pacifier-0-6m/dp/B003LW4J6A/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1398729000&sr=1-1&keywords=ecopiggies

  2. Natural rubber is latex. Bit of a conflict...

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I have a pretty bad latex allergy so I'm trying to find a good, non-toxic pacifier before baby girl gets here. Any suggestions for non-latex ones? I really appreciate the article!