UPDATED: October 2016
A Waldorf School Fantasy…
Before I gave birth the first time, I had visions of a nursery filled with toys that were exclusively produced in Europe (preferably by hand) with nary a Fisher-Price label in sight. I pictured blocks made of unfinished hunks of oak, sheepskins for “activity mats,” faceless woolen gnomes, chunky beeswax crayons, and perhaps a wooden rocking horse and a miniature red wagon for when my young Waldorfian reached his toddler years.
And a Playskool Reality…
Fast forward a year or so and our living room was brimming with beeping, flashing, talking plastic, most of which glistened with saliva from frequent visits to Felix’s curious mouth. While the majority of these eyesores were gifts, I’ll admit to buying more than a few battery-operated plastic diversions, generally with high hopes that they would entertain Felix long enough for me to pluck my eyebrows.
At this point, with Felix now 7 years old and Wolfie almost 3.5, I have admitted defeat in this battle–Legos, Transformers, Playmobile–there is more plastic in the boys’ room than there is air.
So while I’ve strayed pretty far from my prenatal principles in some ways, I did remain vigilant about the safety of those toys meant specifically for chewing: namely, teething toys. (I realize that some might call this a silly distinction. Even when he wasn’t cutting any teeth, Felix had a major oral fixation—an unsurprising fact considering I’m one of those people whose desk is littered with masticated pens, some of which may or may not be leaking more saliva than Sophie the Giraffe…but enough about me).
My Top Pick for Best Non-Toxic TeetherThe Hevea natural rubber teethers win here, since the panda teether was the only teether Wolfie ever liked!
The Importance of a Non-Toxic Teether
I’ve spent lots of time yanking cell phones, sponges, shoes, and chalk out of both my children’s mouths, so it was nice to have something I could encourage them to chew on when they were teething. While both of my boys’ teeth tended to come in without much drama, some of you probably have kids who experience real teething discomfort, and for you, safe teethers are a must.
- Teethers made in China. We have tons of Chinese-made stuff (85% of toys are produced there, so it’s hard to avoid), but painted Chinese teethers could contain lead, and plastic Chinese toys probably contain phthalates.
- Teethers made of PVC. Most of the teethers that can be chilled in the freezer are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic that is softened with phthalates.
- Plastic teethers of any kind. Even if they say BPA– and phthalate-free, plastic teethers may still be toxic–all plastic is probably hormone disrupting.
- Teething biscuits. I used to give these to Felix in an effort to chill him out in the car seat, but my pediatrician says they pose a choking hazard because they can snap in half in your baby’s mouth.
Instead of any of these above, you should look for teethers made of unpainted wood, 100% natural rubber, organic cotton, and silicone.
The Good Stuff
Camden Rose Non-Toxic Teether
For a really safe, non-toxic teether, get a U.S-made unfinished wooden teether. We like the Camden Rose wooden teether. You’ll pay a reasonable $10-$15, but you’ll probably have to find it online. Waldorf toy stores generally carry Camden Rose products. All rattles and teethers are made in the U.S. of unfinished maple or cherry wood, which can be polished with beeswax (available on the Camden Rose website). One major downside of these teethers: My kids weren’t that into chewing on them! Give them a Made-in-China plastic ducky that smells like baby powder and they would go to town on them, but apparently they didn’t dig maple or beeswax.
My Very Own Rattle
Another wooden teether we love is My Very Own Rattle (yes, it’s also a rattle), which has been made by hand in Vermont since 1979.
Unlike other wooden rattles, this one is made from one solid piece of wood (so does not contain any glue). There is no finish of any kind applied to the wood, just a unique, sanding and polishing process, so there is never a concern about what the baby is getting in his or her mouth beside pure, natural, non-toxic northern hardwood.
Sophie the Giraffe Non-Toxic Teether
If you have a baby, you probably already have Sophie the Giraffe, the ubiquitous and overpriced French squeaky toy that doubles as a non-toxic teether. You can find Sophie almost anywhere, where you’ll shell out almost $25 for her, leaving you surprised and disappointed if your little one doesn’t sit contentedly in the corner for the next week doing nothing but sucking on Sophie’s cute little face. I love that Sophie is old-school (she’s been around almost 50 years), rubber (painted with food-grade paint), and made in Europe instead of China. What I don’t love is that each of my boys had limited interest in her, for chewing or playing. Sophie is available everywhere, including Amazon. Sophie now has a bunch of friends made by the same manufacturer, Vulli. These are safe, too.
And what about the mold? I’m neither surprised nor worried that parents have found mold inside of Sophie. Here’s why.
Under the Nile Non-Toxic Teether
Under the Nile produces beautiful clothing, linens, and toys, all GOTS-certified. Made of and filled with organic Egyptian cotton, their teething carrot is dyed with vegetable or metal-free dyes. (Lots of dyes are loaded with heavy metals–like copper and chrome–which can cause various health problems when they accumulate, especially in tiny, developing bodies). Under the Nile is committed to fair trade, and their teething carrot is reasonably priced. Chewing on cloth doesn’t seem all that appealing to me, but I have seen babies who love these. You can buy this teething carrot in our store and in baby boutiques around the country.
SweeTooth Non-Toxic Teether
I gave my nephew, Lincoln, this non-toxic teether after the company sent me a sample for review–he loved it! The co-founder of the company, Adam, is clearly committed to the safety of his products, insisting on manufacturing in the United States with only class 6 silicone. The top part of this teether is medical grade silicone, which is technically implantable in the human body, and the bottom is food grade silicone, which means it’s safe for oral contact. Both varieties are FDA approved as well as CE Mark approved (which is the European, Australian, and Canadian version of the FDA). For every batch of silicone Adam receives, he also gets a Certificate of Analysis confirming that its physical properties meet the standards. The ice cream and cone components of the toy are bonded together during the molding process, so no glues or chemical adhesives are ever used in production.
For now, you’ll need to buy the SweeTooth non-toxic teether on the company’s website, where you’ll pay $15 for one.
Hevea Non-Toxic Teether
Wolfie loved the Hevea panda teether that my mom got for him on his first Christmas. This 100% natural rubber teether was the only one of all of the above that got a lot of use in our house. Other companies make similar natural rubber teethers–including Calmies and CaaOcho. Natursutten also makes a safe
rubber teether—but avoid their “Chill It” variety, which is made of EVA (see “The Sneaky Stuff” tab).
You’ll pay around $15 for one of these Hevea pandas, and we offer them in our store!
Other companies making safe silicone teethers include Lifefactory and ZoLi. There are also of course the popular silicone teething necklaces.
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Pat Maginnis says
Please help with baby bottle information ! Which breast milk collection bags, storage bottles, and feeding bottles are safe? I have some glass ones but what about the medela,latch, avent , dr. Brown brands? They all say PBA free but are still plastic ? Help Please
Maia James says
Hi Pat and I am really sorry for the delay! Unfortunately, there really is no good option in terms of breast milk collection bags. For bottles, anything glass, stainless steel, or silicone is better than anything plastic!
We use mason jars with the reusable white lids!
Would you consider the Kiinde breast milk storage pouches a “better” disposable type of collection bag? Their website says the pouch is made of low-density polyethylene (#4), and that they are BPA-free, pthalate-free, and PVC-free.
Maia James says
Yes, low density polyethylene appears to be a safer, non-leaching plastic option.
Just an update for you! The Honest Company’s teether is actually made in China (“Designed in California. Responsibly made in China.”)
I love the Camden Rose teethers for my twin girls as well as Italian-made NATURSUTTEN teether toys.
Maia James says
Thanks for the update and so sorry for my delayed response. I only now saw these comments! You are right about Natursutten–it is Good Stuff and should be added to this list.
I wonder if the Comotomo silicone teether is ok. I gave it as a gift to two friends’ babies. It’s made in Korea I believe.
Maia James says
Yes I believe that one is okay:).
I founds some useful information on your website and thank you for it. However, a couple things I notice about it as a whole bother me. First, you all are not experts, according to your bios, thus your well worded, probably legally advised disclosure. That was smart. However, I followed up on some of the products that you categorize as “bad” or “sneaky stuff”, through the USDA and other websites about certain ingredients, and find you are not wholly accurate in many of your statements. Despite all your research, there is a lot that you seem to assume about some products, you feel are all-out bad and sneaky for using certain ingredients you think will likely lead to killing off the human race. I know a lot of people who are quite healthy, and old, who have used the bad stuff you advise against for a long, long time. Granted there is some bad stuff out there, just not as scary – or as much as you claim. So you should not run down things other people have had no problem buying and using for years, in such a way like you know better because, again, why? I think you took up this form of blogging just to make money, and that is by no means bad, it is great, go for it. But do it right, just like you don’t use “bad stuff” products, don’t have “bad ads” which I see you leaning on, like the cheap and easy blogs – simply for ways of generating easy “passive income”. It really discredits what you are trying to say. Linking to Amazon, is okay, but it is such a racket now, that I don’t want to be a part of it anymore, there are other ways to shop online I would rather use. But what bugs me about your website, is that you give out all this advice but don’t answer anyone’s questions. Some nice people ask you reasonable and simple questions, and briefly, like in October, yet you never reply to them. I know a woman with an excellent blog who sells a product she makes, and who refuses to put cheap links in her sidebar as you are now doing, and she replies to all questions, except and wisely, ones that are not appropriate. Now she is smart, and has no education, but her blog is much more professional. I’m learning from her so much and from blogs like your about “what not to do”. Lastly, organic products have such HIGH PRICES, especially the ones you promote, like Lotus futon mattresses. I have one so I know how much they cost: expensive. New parents, your blog is not really for, unless they work on Wall Street.
Maia James says
You are right that we’ve been delayed in responding to our readers on some of these pages…the notifications of new comments have not been coming through and I just now am seeing all these comments! So getting back to everyone now.
Most of this stuff really is not that pricey. My husband and I make maybe slightly over 100k together and have never had an issue affording any of the things suggested so you don’t need to work on Wall Street. That statement of yours is beyond ridiculous. I’d rather spend the money up front for a good product rather than spend very little money on a not so great product. You get what you pay for. This site merely makes suggestions and talks about their own experiences. No one says you have to do everything exactly like they did. Also, who doesn’t shop on Amazon? With Amazon prime, I’m sure most people but apparently not yourself would rather order online rather than search for 10 hours in a store for one item.
To be fair organic stuff in general does tend to be pricier but as you said “you get what you pay” for. ideally more upfront means better quality so you’ll save money in the long run on replacements, like with the organic mattresses for example. I don’t think Lyn considered this when she posted, and she’s also not considering Maia is not in charge of setting organic pricing, except in her own store of course. it really is a shame organic products cost more because everybody should have access to healthy things but there are a lot of factors at play there, that even I don’t understand because I don’t really know anything about economics.
furthermore, it really gets on my nerves when people do the whole ” it doesn’t affect me or so and so so it must be safe” thing. if you don’t feel something’s affecting you that’s great but other people deserve to know if something could be harmful to their bodies so they can choose to limit their exposure if they want.
I wanted to add that I do think that this blog offers a lot of great options in a variety of price ranges. I actually found my new shampoo here-Hugo Naturals. it’s just a little over $10 (ebay)and after experimenting with it a bit ( I dilute it with water to avoid residue) I think we have a keeper. 🙂
Simon Xiong says
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We located in Shenzhen city, China, mainly doing baby products, now we are working with big buyer in the world such as Nuby, Chewbeads, Sili…
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Could you give us a chance to wotk with you?
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What about Nuby Chewbies Silicone Teether and
Nuby Step 1 Silicone Teether
Bumkins Silicone Teether ?
All silicone teethers are basically okay, but I feel better about the wood, cotton, etc. options listed above. Thanks!
You listed infantino as bad stuff.
Does it include th infantino rubber teethers?
Just wondering if they got to your list because of the paint they use or they just didn’t have rubber teethers back than when you wrote it and only their other than rubber ones are of a concern?
Maia James says
They didn’t make rubber teethers back then! I’ll have to look into them when we update this guide!
Dan Zhang says
Hello, we are manufactrer for natural Rubber teether.all the goods can stand in test of EN71-1,2,3 FDA and ASTM. our paint material is water color, so it is very safe for babies.
If you would like to know our company, pls visit to http://www.dgbanby.com ,my emaill is email@example.com, any question pls contact me, thanks in advance!
So are any rubber teethers okay?
Maia James says
The short answer is yes, but you’d be best to look for American-made (rather than rubber from China).
the article about the nalgene is from 2008. do you have any recent findings?
REI sells nalgenes I doubt they still would if there were current issues.
Nalgene still doesn’t offer much info other than that their bottles are BPA free. I can’t find anywhere that they address BPS or other plasticizers.
What baby bottles would you recommend that are BPA, BPS & BPF free?
Maia James says
Anything that’s glass or stainless steel is great. My personal favorite it this one:
Thanks, not looking to use glass for the obvious reason that they break easily if dropped. Wondering what your thoughts are on Avent Natural bottles, BornFree Breeze, Comotomo bottles and newly designed Thinkbaby bottles that also claim to not only be BPA free but also BPS free.
Maia James says
Of these, only Comotomo is a good option in my opinion. The rest are just plastic, BPA/BPS free or not.
The philips avent glass bottles are very difficult to break!! I tried. I threw it onto concrete multiple times with a lot of force and it wouldn’t break.
Check out “ThinkBaby” bottles.. I just discovered them, great stuff.. I think? lol
what do you think of Chicco Pacifier orthodontic soft 100% silicone, made in Italy, BPA and Latex free.
Maia James says
Good stuff 🙂
Thank you so much for the reply ?
Do you think the beeswax is safe? I’ve seen a lot of different wooden teethers online and on etsy treated with beeswax. Is that safe considering that the pediatrician says to stay clear of honey for the first year of baby’s life? Isn’t beeswax and honey in close proximity? Just wondering if this safe before I purchase a wooden teether.
Thank you so much!
Hi there, First off I want to thank you for all you do to help make things safer for our growing little ones. I have question regarding Sophia the giraffe I purchased her today but, I know she is on the good stuff list. However, I have found some concern about her regarding Nitrosatables and Nitrosamines. Now I am hesitant to give her to my LO. Is she safe?
Maia James says
Yes, I consider Sophie safe. Here’s good info on why: http://www.safbaby.com/the-truth-about-sophie-the-giraffe-and-the-recall-rumors/
Thank you! I have read that article. I wanted to triple check before giving her to my LO! Thanks again!
Very useful discussion here! For pacifiers and teethers my strong preference is medical grade silicone, second choice would be food grade silicone. As much as I like European panda bear teether (made in Malaysia if I am not mistaken). With silicone being naturally anti-microbial there is no downside unless you heat it and do so regularly, which you should not do anyway – no need to sterilize pacifiers or teethers (unless you are a first time parent and don’t know any better)…
Rubber may not be the absolute best option – I would try to avoid it especially that it loses to silicone. Here is just one article that includes rubber discussion:
Hi is natursutten pacifier good? How often do you need to change them?
Have you looked into silicone bead necklaces, such as the colorful verity sold at popular baby stores. They are very cute and claim to be bpa free. But what arnt they free of? And how do I find out the truth?
Maia James says
I’m not really into these, even though studies do suggest silicone to be inert. I’m just not 100% convinced we won’t eventually find out that it’s not entirely nontoxic, so I’d rather have my kid chewing on something else if we are talking about a daily habit. If it’s on occasion, I’d be fine with these.
Do rubber teethers need to say 100% natural rubber? How do you feel about the Infantino “squeeze & teeth” natural rubber teether? It doesn’t say 100% natural rubber and is made in china. I also received “Go GaGa Squeeze & Teethe Elephant – Kiki” as a gift and am curious about it as well. Thanks!
Maia James says
Thanks! Unfortunately, I have not yet reviewed these brands. I would say you want to see that it’s natural rubber, and anything made in China is a bit of a red flag, although there are exceptions to that…
I thought that this Sophie giraffe teether with the four legs was recalled due to the legs possibly breaking off posing as a choking hazard . I heard this about a year ago. Have they fixed this issue?
I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the information that you post. It’s provides a great deal of direction in my research of non-toxic items for my baby, whom incidentally we also call Wolfie….short for Wolfgang. 🙂
Great tips! It’s surprisingly difficult to find a teether that is not only BPA/PVC/Phthalate free but ALSO made in the USA. Plus made out of natural, untreated wood? Bonus.
What about the Nuby Teething Bibs and the Fruity Chews. We got a package at either BJs or Sams, but it doesn’t give any ingredients at all (except for “all cotton” on the bib. It’s made in China. The bib has a teething corner. The package says BPA Free. I hesitate to believe the BPA Free now since there has been a recent announcement of research that teethers still leach out toxins.
Maia James says
Yeah, I think the cotton part of those is fine but wouldn’t trust the plastic.
It’s my understanding that cotton is the most sprayed (pesticides) crop in the world, so is not a good thing to chew on, unless it’s undyed organic cotton that has been washed in only water or non toxic soap.
Is washing silicone teething toys in the dishwasher bad? You mentioned that they’re safe as long as they aren’t heated. All of mine are supposedly dishwasher safe.
Maia James says
I would personally not heat them if possible.
I started using an Appeteethers one for my little guy.. hoping its okay! (also use a wood one but he prefers the softer silicone appeteether one)
What pacifier would you recommend other than the natural rubber ones (Natusutten and Hevea)? My son needs something to sooth himself while going to sleep but HATES the taste of rubber. Would you recommend silicone ones? Any particular brands? Your help would be so appreciated!!! I just found your website and am really thankful for all the research you do!
Maia James says
My kids never took pacifiers, so I can’t offer much in terms of what your son might like best. From a safety perspective, anything silicone is fine:). I like that these ones are 100% silicone: http://amzn.to/2hLjbhs
Robin J. says
Nuk makes a 100% silicone pacifier, similar to Avent but orthodontic/nipple shaped as opposed to round like Avent. My son would not take the Avent one but loved the Nuk ones.
Thoughts on Sophie growing mold inside?
Maia James says
I’m not worried about it. This might make you feel better: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/health/sophie-giraffe-mold-parenting/index.html
Thank you for all of your research and advice Maia! As a new mom, your work has been invaluable to our little family:) We have some of the teethers you recommend but I was also wondering about the below (I started thinking about glue with wooden items, stainless steel and silicone teethers that at first glance seem fine but are made in china). Hoping you have time to respond!
-Clear finish standard bell rattle: A single sleigh bell is caged by 5 dowels – has all hardwood construction and a plant based natural finish. Made in VT by Maple Landmark.
-Kleynimals – stainless steel baby keys that are an eco-friendly, non-toxic, American made toy
-Grimm’s brand in general
-silicone teethers (looking for something that has a gum massager but am a little iffy on any I’ve found, i.e. Mayapple Baby Teethers, ZoLi gum massagers)
thank you in advance!!
Maia James says
The short answer is that all of the ones you mentioned are fine:)
Sarah Murphy says
I found your website very helpful! Thank you very much. These are important topics and keep our little ones safe. Thank you!!!
Your site is spreading false information:
1) “FDA Approved” verbiage is strictly forbidden by the FDA, and your repeated use of this terminology is misleading and completely false.
2) Any plastic that is flexible has phthalates in it. Your water bottle has phthalates in it. Your broad use of the term “phthalates” is also misleading. By saying ‘phthalate free’ it is only in reference to phthalates that have been deemed harmful according to regulations. There are materials referred to as ‘non-phthalate PVC’ which have similar physical properties, but without ‘harmful’ phthalates.
Just because something is made in China does not mean that it is ‘unsafe’ or harmful. By saying they ‘probably contain phthalates’ you are spreading misinformation. Any reputable brand would never import a product that violates federal standards for lead, phthalates, or other federally-regulated chemicals. Ya, I wouldn’t let my child teeth on a $1 plastic item from the dollar store, but if bought from a reputable brand, there isn’t such risk.
3) CE is NOT the international version of FDA, although some qualifications in the EU are required for medical devices under the assessment to attain CE marking/certification.
John Goss says
Yes, this is a good time to clear up the whole FDA issue.
If you look at the following link to the FDA website you’ll see their version of the “FDA Approved” discussion. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm047470.htm
My reading of it tells me that the FDA does approve and disprove of a wide variety of products. For instance, the FDA does not approve of any cigarettes, but the “FDA approves color additives in any FDA-regulated products.”
Generally speaking, the FDA reviews products once they are for sale. From their website…”FDA does not approve infant formulas before they can be marketed. But manufacturers of infant formula are subject to FDA’s regulatory oversight.”
Like any large organization, the FDA and it’s workings are complex and subject to outside influences and errors.
As for products “Made in China”… You say that “reputable brands” would never import bad stuff. I guess it depends on what you call a “reputable brand.” I could argue that there are lots of reputable brands that indeed sell harmful products. Harmful products are not limited to disreputable brands.
We do our best to present useful information. We are not always right and we correct things as needed.
Hi there…what is your opinion on CaaOcho brand toys? My daughter loves chewing on these.
Hi! You listed the Sweetooth baby teether as good stuff. I purchased one for my baby and am concerned about the fragrance. On their website, they say they use a “scent extract,” but I’m concerned about the scent, as I’m careful of fragrances in general, and it doesn’t seem to be a natural or essential oil scent. Can you speak to this?
nice post i will shared it
Which if any would you recommend for chilling in the freezer and then offering?
Hello! With the sweet tooth ice cream Cone teether I see its lightly scented” any idea how? Is that of concern? Thank You!
Amy Smith says
Thanks for the ultimate Safe Teether Guide. Many doubts got cleared with this guide.
Just bought the sweet tooth. Also concerned about the scent.