How Often Should I Sterilize Bottles?

Keeping Bottles Safe and Clean for Your Baby

You worry about everything that goes into your baby’s mouth, but what about the tools and containers you use to feed your baby? Sterilizing bottles used to be a major concern because of unreliable water sources. These days, sterilizing isn’t as big of a concern, but some situations still call for a thorough cleaning.

How Often to Sterilize Bottles

Nipple teethers and milk bottles in steam sterilizer and dryer.

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If your baby is healthy, sterilizing bottles before the first use should be enough. That initial sterilization gets rid of any bacteria or contaminants that get on the bottle during production and shipping. If your baby was born prematurely or has a weakened immune system, sterilizing the bottles and nipples more often cuts down on germs that could be potentially dangerous.

Why don’t you need to sterilize more often? Most of today’s water sources are safe, so there’s not as much concern about contamination. Hot, soapy water or a cycle in the dishwasher is enough to remove most germs from bottles. Even if you sterilize your bottles frequently, they can be exposed to germs, dirt and other contaminants before you actually use them.

How to Sterilize Bottles

Sterilizing bottles typically requires high heat to kill any germs that are on the bottles. An easy option that doesn’t require any special equipment is to boil the bottles and nipples. Place them in a pan of water that’s deep enough to completely submerge the bottles and accessories. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer the bottles and accessories in the boiling water for 5 minutes.

Another option available in most homes is to give the bottles and their accessories a trip through the dishwasher on a high heat setting. Set the wash cycle to “hot,” and use a heated drying cycle. Some dishwashers have a specific setting for sanitizing.

If you want to sterilize bottles regularly, consider investing in a bottle sterilizer. It uses steam to kill germs in the bottles. You can find freestanding electric sterilizers and units that go into the microwave. Use the manufacturer’s instructions to place the individual parts into the sterilizer.

Other Ways to Clean Bottles

Nipple teethers and milk bottles in steam sterilizer and dryer.

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Cleaning bottles after every use is necessary to get rid of old milk or formula and germs. Take the bottle apart completely before washing. You can send the bottles through the dishwasher every time they need cleaning as long as they are dishwasher-safe. Another option is to hand-wash the dishes in a sink of hot, soapy water. Rinse the bottle parts thoroughly under clean water to get rid of the soap. Once the bottles are clean, store them in a clean, enclosed area until you’re ready to use them.

When to Replace Bottles

Over time, bottles and nipples break down or become damaged. How long they last depends on how often you use them and the durability of the parts. Bottles should be replaced if you notice any signs of damage, including cracking, chipping and breaking. Nipples may need to be replaced more often than the bottles.

Signs the nipples need to be replaced include:

  • Discoloration
  • Milk rushing out
  • Sticky texture
  • Swelling
  • Cracks or tears
  • Thinning