What Are the Dangers of Not Sterilizing Baby Bottles?

You probably know you should keep your baby's bottles clean, but they should also be sterilized regularly.

Without proper sterilization, the bottles can pose risks to your little one. The sterilizing process is quick and simple so it's easy to protect your baby from the hazards that unclean bottles can pose.


Unclean baby bottles can cause gastroenteritis, according to Roger Webber, author of "Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Control: A Global Perspective." Viral gastroenteritis is an infection in the intestines that causes diarrhea, cramping and vomiting. Your baby can catch the virus if an infected person touches her bottle or if an infected person coughs or sneezes on the nipple of the bottle.

Viral gastroenteritis doesn't have an effective treatment and it can be fatal for infants, according to MayoClinic.com. Sanitizing your baby's bottles is one way to decrease her risk of becoming infected.


Close-up of a baby's bottle

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Your baby's bottle can grow harmful bacteria that can cause certain types of illness. Food poisoning is one possibility with an unclean bottle, according to Fightbac.org, an organization dedicated to combating food-borne illnesses. If you prepare your baby's bottle with dirty hands or in a dirty area of your kitchen, it increases the risk of food-borne illnesses.

Leaving a bottle with breast milk or formula sitting for several hours can also cause harmful bacteria to grow in the bottle. If you just rinse the bottle out without sanitizing it, the bacteria isn't eliminated and the new bottle can make your baby sick.


An unclean baby bottle can harbor germs that will make your baby sick.

According to Fightbac.org, baby bottles that aren't properly sterilized can be contaminated with hepatitis A or rotavirus.

In fact, these germs can live on a surface for several weeks, which significantly increases the risk that your baby will get sick. Because hepatitis A can be a harmful liver disorder and rotavirus can cause diarrhea and dehydration, it's essential that your baby's bottles are sterilized properly.

Proper Sterilization Methods

Close-up of a baby's bottle

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Start by cleaning your baby's bottles with warm water and soap. Remove any traces of milk or formula because the leftovers encourage bacteria to grow, according to Ann Peters, author of "Babycare: Everything You Need to Know." Boil the bottles, nipples and other parts in boiling water for five minutes. Also, you can use a microwave sterilizing kit or a stove top steam sterilizer designed specifically to clean baby bottles, Peters notes. You can also use your dishwasher as long as it has a sterilization setting, which ensures that the water gets hot enough to kill germs and bacteria.