Glass vs. Plastic Baby Bottles: Which Is Better?

As a parent of a formula-feeding baby, you’ve probably spent a fair share of your time buying, filling, washing, and storing bottles. You’ve paid careful attention to the formula your baby drinks, making sure that it contains the nutrients your baby needs to thrive. And though you’ve spent countless hours making formula, have you given enough thought to the bottles your baby drinks from? There are so many to choose from -- whether designed to work in tandem with breastfeeding, created to help with gas, and even ones that are squeezable. But which is better overall -- glass or plastic?

Fans of plastic bottles love that they’re lightweight and unbreakable. They’re also affordable and easy to find in stores, including grocery stores, pharmacies, baby supply stores, and elsewhere. Best of all, drop a plastic bottle in the middle of the night and you won’t have to worry about cleaning up shattered glass – with a plastic bottle, simply give it a quick wash and you’re back in business.

It seems like plastic bottles are the perfect solution to this common parenting question. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Plastic bottles don’t break and they’re cheap and lightweight. But they’re also made with petroleum products and contain carcinogenic substances. They’re not always dishwasher safe, and other sterilization methods can degrade the integrity of the plastic. In short, cheap and readily available doesn’t mean they’re the best feeding solution for your baby.

So, what’s the right choice: glass or plastic? Let’s dig deeper!

What to know about plastic baby bottles

Before you choose baby bottles made from plastic, learn if they’re safe for your baby.

  • Some older baby bottles might contain Bisphenol A, also called BPA, a type of industrial plastic first developed for use in the 1960s. BPA has been linked to problems with brain development and behavior in fetuses, babies, and children. The links are so strong that in 2013 the U.S. government banned BPA in infant formula packaging. Although baby bottles manufactured after 2013 no longer have BPA, older plastic bottles (and other food containers) might. Always look for products labeled as BPA-free. 
  • Are modern plastic baby bottles safe? Plastic baby bottles that don’t contain BPA are generally considered safe to use, although some research suggests that non-BPA plastic can leach chemicals into liquids. Experts suggest avoiding drinking liquids from plastic containers that have sat in the hot sun, for example, even if the plastic is non-BPA.
  • How do I know if a plastic baby bottle is BPA-free? If a plastic baby bottle was manufactured in the U.S. after 2013, it is BPA-free. If you’re unsure how old the plastic baby bottle is, throw it out and purchase new ones. Plastics that contain BPA are typically labeled “PC” or “7,” indicating polycarbonate plastic.
  • How do I clean plastic baby bottles? Given non-BPA plastic’s sensitivity to heat, handwashing plastic baby bottles is advisable. A bottle brush can help you clean tough-to-reach areas at the bottom of the bottle.

What to know about glass bottles

Using a glass baby bottle solves many of these problems. Plastic-free and dishwasher-safe, glass baby bottles are old fashioned, but effective. Effective, if you don't mind holding a heavier bottle and your baby is not the bottle throwing type. 

  • Are glass baby bottles safe? They can be. Many baby bottles made from glass are tempered so that they’re stronger and resist breaking or chipping if dropped. Many parents use a rubberized glass bottle cover to prevent breakage resulting from dropping.
  • Are glass baby bottles dishwasher-safe? Yes, they are! Glass bottles are much easier to clean and sterilize because they can tolerate the high heat of the dishwasher. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, break down in the dishwasher, potentially leaching chemicals into baby formula and other liquids.
  • Is it true that glass bottles reduce colic? Some brands, like Brown’s, claim that their glass baby bottles reduce fussiness caused by digestive issues such as gas and spitting up. Whether or not that’s true is unknown, but chances are it’s the design of the bottle and not the glass itself that’s the cause.  
  • Can I store formula in glass baby bottles? It is safe to store baby formula in glass bottles.

Should I choose glass or plastic baby bottles?

That depends on your priorities. Glass baby bottles are better for the environment, easily cleaned, and don’t contain toxins that could leech into your baby’s formula. Plastic bottles, when cared for properly, are also generally safe to use – assuming you leave them out of the dishwasher and don’t clean them using harsh abrasives that can wear down the lining. Plastic bottles are also lightweight and unbreakable, making them safer for the days when the baby can self-feed.

Ultimately, whether or not plastic or glass bottles are right for your family depends on your needs. If your baby is feeding himself and you’re willing to wash the bottles by hand, BPA-free plastic bottles are safe. If you’re willing to be the primary feeder (too scary to let the baby handle a glass bottle!) and prefer the convenience of dishwashing, glass bottles are probably the way to go.