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How to Sanitize Baby Bottles, the Best Techniques and Products

Baby bottles on dry rack

How to Sanitize Baby Bottles, the Best Techniques and Products

Whether you formula feed or breastfeed your baby, chances are that you will be faced with cleaning and sanitizing bottles and accessories. Cleaning bottles after every feeding is obvious, but how often you need to sanitize baby bottles completely depends on a few key factors.

When Sanitizing Bottles is Necessary

If your baby has been sick, sterilizing the bottles is important to prevent reinfecting the baby. It takes time, but it is necessary.

If your baby has any health issues or has a weakened immune system, you must sterilize their bottles.

If you don't have access to clean water and use well water, then you must sterilize once a day. Or if you are traveling and do not have access to clean water, you must sterilize the baby bottles daily.

If you are using second-hand or gently used bottles, always sterilize them before giving them to your baby to use them.

How Often to Sanitize Bottles

Clean baby bottles
Regular cleaning and sanitizing are important to keeping your baby healthy.

©Ann in the uk/Shutterstock.com

The CDC explains that you can sanitize bottles at least once throughout the day. If baby bottles aren’t sterilized, the baby can risk exposure to germs and bacteria, causing unpleasant side effects like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, food poisoning, Rotavirus, and Hepatitis A.

Before sterilizing, ensure you have all of your equipment ready, and always wash your hands before sterilizing baby bottles and feeding your baby.

7 Ways to Sanitize Baby Bottles

While those baby bottles on the counter may look clean, they can have bacteria and germs hiding in plain sight. So regularly sterilizing your bottles is part of the feeding process. There are seven ways to sterilize baby bottles, some require special equipment, and others just require a pan to boil water. Each family will have their own preference for which method is best for them. Taking into account factors like convenience, price, and space, you can choose the best method for your family.

1. Boil

Baby bottles in a pan of water
Boiling is an easy way to sanitize baby bottles.

©Warongdech Digital/Shutterstock.com

This is the easiest method, and you probably already have everything you need. Take apart the bottles and nipples, place them in a saucepan and cover them with water and bring to a boil. Make sure the bottles and all parts are completely submerged in the water. Boil for five minutes, then remove the bottle and nipples with clean tongs and place on a clean drying rack. This method works for plastic and glass bottles. If using this method regularly, check for damage to the bottles over time they may damage. Store the bottles and parts in a clean container with a lid in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

2. Steam 

Steam sterilizers are affordable and effective at sterilizing baby bottles. Place all of the bottles and parts in the steam sterilizer with room between the pieces. Follow the instructions for temperature and water levels. The steamer will heat the water, and the steam created sterilizes the bottles. When finished, let cool and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

3. Microwave

Most households have a microwave, and they are an excellent way to sterilize baby bottles. Before you start, you will need to clean the inside of the microwave. Over time the inside of the microwave can get dirty with food splatter, so always start with a throughout cleaned microwave. Place the bottle in the microwave half full of water. Place the other parts in a glass bowl filled with water. Microwave on high for two minutes, then let cool and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

4. Dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher that reaches high enough heat to sanitize, you can use your dishwasher. First, you need to check if yours has a sanitize cycle and NSF/ANSI Standard 184 Certification. You’ll need to check with the instruction manual or manufacturer's website to see if your dishwasher is certified for sanitizing. If so, you can use your dishwasher to sanitize baby bottles. Just put all of the parts and run a sanitizing cycle.

5. Bleach Solution

Start by filling a one-gallon container with water and two teaspoons of bleach. Place the bottles and parts in the solution for three minutes. Clean them with a baby bottle brush and run the solution through the nipples. Then, set them out to air dry.

6. Chemical Sterilization Tablets

Antibacterial chemical sterilization solutions are sold in tablets and liquid form. They must be prepared following the instructions on the package. Once prepared, soak the bottles and accessories for the specified amount of time. This is a good option if you are traveling and unable to access other sterilization methods.

7. Ultra Violet Sterilizer

Baby bottles in UV sterilizer
Ultraviolet sterilizers are an excellent option.

©Nor Gal/Shutterstock.com

Ultraviolet sterilizers are more expensive than some of the other options listed, but they are excellent at sterilizing and drying baby bottles, so you will always be prepared to feed your baby.

Things to Consider

Each method of sterilization has positives and negatives. Some methods are a better fit than others, depending on parents' lifestyles and preferences.

If using the steam or boil method, be careful not to burn yourself or your baby. Busy parents have a lot on their minds, and trying to multitask and sterilizing baby bottles with the baby in their arms is dangerous for both parent and baby. Use precaution steam can burn just like boiling water.

If using bleach or a chemical tablet, be sure to use the exact amount. Bleach can be fatal if ingested. Always ensure that bleach is labeled and use the correct dilution to keep your baby safe. Every parent should have the poison control number accessible in case of an emergency.

Most new baby bottles are BPA-free, but if you are using older bottles that contain BPA, you should use a no-heat method to sterilize because by heating BPA, the chemicals can leach into the baby’s milk.

When Can You Stop Sterilizing Baby Bottles

Once the baby has reached three months, their immune system is stronger, and it isn't necessary to sterilize the bottles. The CDC also recommends that you stop sterilizing baby bottles with cracks, splits, and foul odors. Nipples should be replaced regularly because they wear down after regular use.

Best Ways to Clean Baby Bottles

Baby bottles on drying rack
Always dry baby bottles before storing them.

©Nor Gal/Shutterstock.com

While you only need to sterilize baby bottles once a day when the baby is under three months, you still must clean the bottles and accessories after every feeding.

Cleaning by Hand

The easiest way to clean bottles is by hand with good dishwashing soap. The CDC recommends using a tub or container that is solely for the purpose of cleaning baby bottles. Keeping a special baby bottle brush and not placing bottles directly in the sink can help prevent cross-contamination.

Using the Dishwasher to Clean

Regular cleaning in the dishwasher is another option to ensure the baby bottles are cleaned properly. You do not need to have a sterilization setting for just cleaning. Instead, use the highest heat for washing and the heated drying cycle. Place all of the bottles and accessories in a dishwasher-safe basket to prevent the smaller pieces from getting lost inside the dishwasher.

When it comes to precious babies, safety is always first, and regularly sanitizing ad cleaning baby bottles will help keep your baby safe. 

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