Babies chew on everything. At first, it’s kind of cute and you’ll let them chew on their toys, but those are just a gateway chew. Eventually, they are going to be trying to chew on darn right questionable objects and you’re going to have to stage a chew intervention. Our baby boy’s latest chew of choice is baby wipes, but are baby wipes safe to chew on?
Baby wipes are not safe to chew on because torn pieces could choke the baby. Many baby wipes also include chemicals that could be harmful if ingested. For these reasons, parents should not let babies play with wipes unattended.
Fortunately, there are many, many other things that babies can chew on instead of baby wipes and there are things you can do to help keep your baby from chewing on the wipes as well. Let’s talk more about the risks and what to do instead.
Baby wipe safety
As parents, we all know that our babies will be constantly exposed to risks and we can only do our best to help them avoid as many potential threats as possible. Unfortunately, choking is one of those things that can happen by accident, even when we are doing everything the right way and paying close attention. Sometimes even food or water can go down the wrong way, causing problems.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, choking is a serious issue for babies and there is a food-related choking death approximately every five days in the United States. Of non-food objects, latex balloons are the leading cause of choking death because of the ease at which they can go down a child’s throat and block the airway.
If you think about it, baby wipes aren’t that much different than latex balloons in that they can be rolled up and not take up much space, making them more easily swallowed. Once they are in the throat, they are hard to grab on to.
A quick search of the news will reveal several tragic instances of babies accidentally choking on baby wipes.
After looking into the situation, I’ve stopped letting my baby chew on wipes when we are changing him – even if it seems to distract him from squirming around.
Product labeling does not always warn that baby wipes are not safe to chew on
Curious, I took a look at the packaging of all of the different baby wipes I’ve researched and reviewed for my son to see if there were warnings associated with a choking risk.
Unfortunately, many packages didn’t include a warning at all and only one of them specifically called out a choking risk. The rest simply said not to leave the product in a baby bed, crib, or sleeping area. Presumably, this is to keep the baby from pulling a wipe out of the bag when left unattended or even suffocating on the packaging itself while they are sleeping.
Still, choking is about the only real danger that a baby wipe could pose to your baby so you would think the manufacturer would want to point that out to parents a little more clearly.
Baby wipes can also include dangerous chemicals
Aside from choking, baby wipes are probably not the best thing to let your baby chew on because they could contain ingredients that will make them sick or cause irritation to their throat and stomach. I’ve covered many of the common chemicals in baby wipes to avoid for various reasons and in most cases, this is based on exposure through the skin.
If your baby is actually chewing or sucking on a baby wipe, especially repeatedly over long periods of time, more of these chemicals could be making their way into the body than the manufacturer intended or anticipated during testing.
Briefly, here are a couple of bad ones to watch out for:
- Methylisothiazolinone (MI) – Named the ‘allergen of the year’ in 2013, MI has been shown to cause allergic reactions among users and an estimated 1.5% of populations tested in Europe were allergic to this chemical.
- Formaldehyde – Another ‘allergen of the year,’ this time in 2015, formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals can be found in many baby wipes. Around 5.8% of those tested in studies were found to have allergic reactions and it can cause other problems in the body.
- Fragrances – Because individual chemicals in fragrances don’t have to be disclosed under most circumstances, there can be a lot hiding behind this simple ingredient.
In addition to these chemicals, certain baby wipes might also contain alcohol which would not be good for them to put in their mouths. I actually just wrote an article recently about alcohol in baby wipes that you can check out here.
Why do babies want to chew on wipes in the first place?
If you have a baby then you already know that babies want to put everything in their mouth. They also mostly want to put things in their mouth that mommy and daddy yell at them for putting in their mouth.
I don’t know what it is, but babies just know what they are supposed to have and not have. I’m not sure if my son just likes the attention he gets when my wife and I yell at him to stop eating the remote, table, or whatever else he has in his mouth. He usually just looks up, smiles, and goes back to gnawing on it.
We first noticed that our boy would chew on his baby wipes while we were changing him. At his age (11 months) he is getting physically capable of avoiding a diaper change. He will arch his back, twist, turn and otherwise make it difficult for us to change him. Often, it’s a two-adult job. If we find ourselves on our own, we are inevitably scrambling to find something to hand him as a distraction while we furiously wipe and slap on a fresh diaper. He would take a wipe out of the pack on his own or just grab the backup wipe that I usually pull ahead of time in case it’s a two-wiper.
We always have wipes on hand that don’t have bad chemicals in the solution, but one day I saw half the wipe in his mouth and I made the decision to shut that down right then and there.
How to stop baby from chewing on wipes
We’ve found that the best way to stop our baby from chewing on baby wipes is just to not let him get his hands on them, especially during a change. Here are a few other tips:
- Keep the wipes packed away in a diaper bag, stored in a drawer, or otherwise out of sight and reach of the baby.
- Only pull one wipe out at a time when changing the diaper and put the package behind you while changing.
- Have a small toy, teething ring, or other objects that is safe for your baby to put in her mouth handy BEFORE you start changing.
- Consider putting the wipes in a totally different container (like a hard clamshell or warmer) so that the baby can’t grab on to the packaging or loses interest when it doesn’t make noise.
What are some alternatives to baby wipes that are safe for a baby to chew on?
Fortunately, there are tons of products on the market that are specifically meant for being put inside a baby’s mouth. As long as it’s too big to swallow and doesn’t contain plastics with harmful chemicals, you can really choose anything you’d like. Here are a few options:
- The baby banana infant training toothbrush and teether – Some of our good friends bought this for their baby and she absolutely loves it! Plus, it’s good training for when your baby really does have teeth and needs to start getting used to the toothbrush. It’s BPA, latex, and phthalate-free and made from 100% food-grade silicone. It’s also dishwasher and freezer safe!
- Atom rattle and teether grasping baby toy – Items from Manhattan Toy are always interesting and fun. They come in crazy designs that are sure to entertain your little one during changes!
- HABA Kringelring wooden baby rattle – If you want to try something different than plastic or silicone, and extra German, try this wooden teething toy. It uses water-based, solvent-free lacquers for coloring and it’s extremely durable. The HABA brand is known for its safety record with children’s toys.
How many baby wipes should I expect to go through in a month? Somewhere between 400-800 wipes, depending on how often your baby poops and how many wipes you use. We get by with 2-3 per poop and 1 per pee diaper! I have a resource on how much you should expect to pay for wipes in a year here.
Can I use baby wipes on my face and hands? Yes! I actually tackled that question recently for my wife – feel free to read the whole article here.