Since babies don’t have fully developed immune systems, many parents obsess about cleaning their baby's items. But how often should you sterilize bottles, and what’s the best method for doing it? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about deep-cleaning baby bottles.
How Often to Sterilize Baby Bottles
Parents should clean their baby’s bottles immediately after every feeding to prevent a build-up of germs and bacteria. After washing your hands, thoroughly scrub bottle parts in warm, soapy water with a bottle brush, then let them air dry. Many pediatricians also feel that dishwashers (especially those with hot, sanitizing rinse cycles) will do a thorough job of getting the bottles and nipples clean. Just be sure to place bottles in the top rack of the dishwasher so they don't melt, and use a basket for small parts like the nipples.
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A deep clean—or sterilization—of baby bottles isn’t required after every use. However, you should sterilize bottle parts before using them for the first time, says Erika Landau, M.D., a pediatrician in New York City and coauthor of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year. You might also sterilize your supply of bottles every few weeks, just to be on the safe side, and especially after your baby's been sick or if you’re using second-hand bottles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sanitizing is important if your baby has a weakened immune system, was born prematurely, or is less than 3 months old. Older, healthy babies don’t benefit from daily sterilization, as long as you properly clean the bottle parts after every use. Today’s drinking water is clean and safe, which lessens the importance of regular sterilization.
3 Methods for Sterilizing Baby Bottles
Some parents buy a special electric bottle sterilizer, but they're not necessary. Instead, you can rely on boiling water, your microwave, or bleach to sanitize your bottles.
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1. Sterilize with Boiling Water
This is the safest, easiest method for sterilizing your baby bottles.
- Disassemble your bottle parts and place them in a large pot.
- Fill the pot with enough water to cover the parts. Make sure there aren’t air bubbles in the bottles.
- Bring the water to a boil, then keep it boiling for five minutes.
- Let the water cool and carefully remove the bottle parts.
- Place items on a clean drying mat or dish towel. Let air dry before using again.
2. Sterilize with the Microwave
If you purchase a microwave sterilizer, follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper use. Note that your microwave must be clean before using the sterilizer. You should also check that all bottle parts, especially nipples and rings, are microwave-safe.
3. Sterilize with Bleach
As a last-ditch effort (you don’t have access to a microwave or stove), you can turn to bleach, according to the CDC. Here’s what to do.
- Mix 2 teaspoons of unscented bleach in 16 cups (one gallon) of water.
- Completely submerge all of your baby bottle parts, making sure the solution gets into the nipple holes and there aren’t any air bubbles.
- Let the items sit for two minutes.
- Remove bottle parts from the solution. Don’t rinse them afterwards or you risk re-introducing germs; leftover bleach will disintegrate as the items dry.