How To Sterilize Baby Bottles: (Sanitization 101)

Last Updated On: 

March 20, 2018

For all you mommies out there feeding your little precious ones from bottles and not by direct breastfeeding, sterilizing these bottles on a regular basis is a must on your to-do list.

baby bottles being sterilized in a plastic basin

After all, you are putting in all this effort to make sure your baby gets all the care in the world they need to develop, so it only makes sense to go the extra mile for them whenever you can and make sure that no harmful bacteria is making its way into their body through their bottles.

What Does The Process Of Bottle Sterilization Exactly Mean?

Because this isn’t biology class, we’ll keep this explanation simple.

Sterilizing your baby’s bottles means eliminating all harmful germs that might make their way into your baby’s body when they come in contact with these bottles.

Why Is It Important For Me To Sterilize My Baby’s Bottles?

1) Weak Immune System

A baby’s immune system is still developing and is nowhere near as capable as an adult’s immune system is to fight off infections and ilnesses.

A newborn’s immune system has yet to be exposed to the many different bacteria you and I come in contact with on a daily basis, so it still doesn’t know how to deal with them yet.

So, it’s your duty as a parent to ensure (as much as you’re realistically able to, of course) that your baby’s bottles are free from anything that their immune system might have a difficult time fending off.

For babies that were born prematurely, this becomes significantly more important than it already is, since premature babies have even weaker immune systems.

2) Rapid Growth Of Bacteria

It’s very easy for bacteria to grow inside your baby’s bottles. After all, it’s milk we’re talking about here, ladies and gentlemen.

3) Other Symptoms & Discomfort

Even if your baby’s immune system managed to fight off harmful bacteria and germs it got exposed to through a bottle, there are other side effects they may still feel and go through, such as vomiting and diarrhea, both of which can be very dangerous to a tiny baby.

How Can I Sterilize My Baby’s Bottles?

Don’t worry, sterilizing your baby’s bottles properly doesn’t have to be as complicated and time consuming as you might have been told about it.

Most of the times, you don’t need anything too fancy to get the job done and can do it from the comfort of your own kitchen using basic items that you already have laying around the house.

Also, you’ll almost always be done in less than 30 minutes at most – the entire process from beginning till end rarely takes more time than that.

The following list discusses the most popular methods (in detail) that you could put to use starting from today.

Note: Before applying any of these bottle sterilization methods, thoroughly wash your baby’s bottle first to remove any food particles and residue that may be present at the time. Washing should be done with hot water and the use of soap. Make use of a baby bottle brush to get rid of any dried milk that might be stuck inside the bottle itself or the nipple. Then let the bottle and equipment properly dry before having them sterilized.

1) Boiling

The high temperature you subject your baby’s bottles and their accessories to through boiling is enough to kill any harmful bacteria that may remain after washing.

Here’s how you can get this done.

– Before beginning, make sure that the manufacturer of your baby’s bottles specifically states that these bottles can be safely boiled. Not all baby bottles are designed to be sterilized through boiling. Some bottles made from plastic might melt, and some bottles even made from glass might break if the manufacturer has not specifically designed them to be able to handle such high temperatures.

– Get a large enough kitchen pan or pot that all the bottles you want to sterilize can fit in at one. This is going to differ from one person to another based on how many bottles you want to sterilize in one go, and how big (or small) each of these bottles is in size.

– Fill around 75% of the pot up with tap water and allow it to boil. It’s important that you don’t over-fill the pot beyond its capacity, because it will spill out. Just fill it enough so that the water covers all of the equipment inside. No bottles should remain floating on the surface, they should all be submerged in the water.

– Put the pot on the stove, close the lid on the pot properly and turn the burner on.

– Only leave the nipples of the bottles inside the boiling water for no longer than 30 seconds, before taking them out with the tongs.

– Keep the bottles and all other parts and accessories (besides the nipple) inside the boiling water for at least 5 minutes. If you leave these items inside the boiling water for less than 5 minutes, not enough time has passed for all the bacteria to have been eliminated. If your schedule permits you to leave them on for 10 minutes instead of five minutes, then that would be best for the sake of effectiveness.

– Take advantage of the time you’re spending waiting for the water to properly boil and take your baby’s bottles apart so that when the water’s temperature is high enough, all that’s left for you to do is throw all the separate parts inside altogether.

– Grab yourself a pair of tongs to help you safely put the bottles inside the warm, boiling water, push them down whenever necessary and take them out when done.

– After you take the bottles and all the other parts and accessories out of the boiling water by using a pair of tongs, place all of them on a clean towel and leave them out to dry.

– Prior to handling any of the equipment you just sterilized, make sure you thoroughly washed your hands first.

– Re-assemble your baby’s bottles after everything has properly dried up and place them in the fridge in a clean container.

– Feed your baby from the sterilized bottles before a period of 24 hours has passed, or else you’ll have to re-boil them all over again.

When frequently boiling your baby’s bottles, you’ll have to constantly check the nipples for potential damage. All this constant high temperature can eventually make the nipples crack or break, and cracked nipples in bottles are a safe haven for harmful germs and bacteria.

2) Chemicals

There are many disinfectant solutions you could use, either in liquid or tablet form, that you can dilute with water and sterilize your baby’s bottles that way.

Even though these solutions work because of the chemicals they contain, you don’t need to worry about your baby being harmed by getting exposed to these chemicals, since they are baby safe.

How one solution should be prepared may differ from how another solution should be prepared, so carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the most effective (and safe) results.

Place all the feeding equipment you want to sterilize in the chemical solution, make sure they’re properly submerged in water and leave them there for as much as the manufacturer’s instructions state you do.

Most of the times, this won’t be more than 25 to 30 minutes, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions first and go with what’s stated there.

During this entire process, no air bubbles should form in the solution, or else the sterilization process won’t be as effective.

After removing the equipment from the solution, allow them enough time to drain and dry off before using them again.

It’s important to note that you should never use the same solution twice, and should make a fresh solution for every sterilization sessions, especially if 24 hours has passed since you created the first solution.

After you throw away the solution you’ve just used, carefully and thoroughly clean the sterilization container you used with warm and soapy water before preparing a new solution.

3) Electric Steam

You can sterilize your baby’s bottles through high temperatures from the steam of electric sterilizers that are adequate enough to eliminate harmful bacteria.

All you’ll need to do is:

  • Make enough space on the counter top in your kitchen for an electric steam sterilizer.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions about placing the bottles inside, adding as much water as needed (and as specified), and then let the machine do its thing!

With most electric steam sterilizer machines, you’ll have to place the bottles and nipples upside down so that the steam reaches all the crucial places it needs to reach to eliminate harmful bacteria and germs.

4) Microwave

Even though not as popular a method as boiling is, using the microwave to sterilize a baby’s bottles is still a very viable option for many parents.

Here’s how you can do this:

– First things first, thoroughly clean the inside of the microwave before you begin.

– Fill each of the bottles with water halfway through. Filling them more than halfway through would be overkill.

– Get a glass bowl, place all the other baby bottle parts and accessories such as nipples and rings inside, and fill the bowl with just enough water to cover these items.

– Let the microwave do its thing at a high enough temperature for around 2 minutes.

– After the 2 minutes are up, give your baby’s bottles (as well as other parts and accessories) enough time to cool down before taking them out of the microwave. You’ll risk burning yourself if you take them out too fast.

5) UV Sterilizers

Ultraviolet light is notorious for its ability to kill harmful germs and bacteria, which is why using a UV sterilizer might be a good choice for many parents.

The process is as simple and straightforward as using an electric steam sterilizer discussed above.

6) Dishwasher

Some dishwashers can produce high enough temperatures to kill harmful germs and bacteria present in your baby’s bottles, bottle parts and accessories.

Not all dishwashers have the capability of producing high enough temperatures for sterilization purposes, though, so being able to use this method will depend on what dishwasher you have at home and what its specifications are.

7) Diluted Bleach

You could soak your baby’s bottles, parts and accessories in a diluted bleach solution.

Be very careful not to use undiluted bleach, though, because any undiluted bleach that remains in a bottle and makes its way into your baby’s body could prove to be fatal.

A good rule of thumb to follow when preparing the solution is that you’ll need to add two teaspoons of diluted bleach for every gallon of water that you use.

Leave the bottles, nipples, and other parts and accessories in the solution and let them soak for a good few minutes (3 minutes usually gets the job done pretty well).

Which Method Is The Absolute Best?

While you might be asking yourself which of these baby bottle sterilization methods is the absolute best and which one you’re better off trying, they all really lead to the same end result.

At the end of the day, which method you should go with depends on what you’re more comfortable doing and whether the means you have accessible to you at the time allow you to implement a certain method or not.

How Frequently Should I Sterilize My Baby’s Bottles?

Experts advise that you don’t give your baby the same bottle to drink from twice before having sterilized it in between.

This is absolutely crucial for you to adhere to, especially during the first 12 months of your baby’s life since that’s when their immune system is at its weakest.

Washing the bottle(s) out with water alone in between two feeds is not enough to prevent possible bacteria growth.

Some experts argue that the only time washing a baby bottle is enough and there’s no need for sterilization is when you immediately wash the bottle right after your baby finishes feeding from it.

Waiting for a couple of hours after your baby finishes feeding from the bottle to give it a wash won’t be enough anymore, you’ll have to do either give it a good, thorough wash right on the spot or sterilize it later.

I just find that doing that each and every single time gets too tedious and repetitive sooner than later.

Also, if your baby has recently been sick, sterilizing their bottles is a must. Not sterilizing a sick baby’s bottles is one of the reasons why recurring infections such as Thrush happen.

Is It Just The Bottles We’re Talking About Here?

No, all other bottle accessories and equipment that your child uses should also be sterilized in addition to the actual bottles themselves, such as nipples, lids and covers.

If you didn’t already know, bacteria loves to grow in the nipple of a baby bottle.

So, if it’s something that usually goes in your baby’s mouth or you use it to feed your baby with, it should also be sterilized.

That also means that putting your baby’s pacifiers in the mix is a good idea as well.

Doing It All At Once

First off, if you mainly feed your baby from bottles, it’s best to have around 12 bottles at your disposal at any given time, even more if need be.

Why? It just makes your life that much easier when it comes time to sterilize.

Sterilizing 12 or 24 bottles that you put together in one pan or pot all at once is much easier (and less frequent) than having to sterilize only a handful of bottles that you have at your disposal.

Does It Matter If They’re Feeding Formula Or Breast Milk?

Regardless of which type of milk you’re filling your baby’s bottles up with and having them feed from, whether that be formula milk or expressed breast milk, the bottle sterilization process is the exact same, and you’ll still need to have them sterilized before each use.

What About Brand New Baby Bottles?

Even if you’ve just purchased a brand new baby bottle (or a few of them) that have never ever been used before, you’ll still have to sterilize them before you can have your baby drink from any of them.

Just take a minute to think about everything these bottles have gone through to make it to your doorstep, from chemicals they were exposed to when still in the factory, to everyone who’s touched them with their dirty hands during wrapping and shipping, and so on.

Used Baby Bottles

If you’ve borrowed any baby bottles from someone you know that’s doing you a favor, or whether you’re renting them for the time-being to save on money expenditure, sterilization is a must before you can have your baby feed from these bottles.

The same holds true when having your baby drink from bottles that their older sibling used to drink from back when they were the same age.

No Clean Water Supply

If you don’t have easy access to clean municipal drinking water where you live, be that because you get water from a well or you’re temporarily traveling to another country where the water quality is poor, sterilizing your baby’s bottles after each feeding session is a must.

When Should I Stop Sterilizing My Baby’s Bottles?

Experts advise that after the first year of a baby’s life, the importance of sterilization gradually decreases as they grow older.

However, this doesn’t mean that you absolutely must stop sterilizing your baby’s bottles and other feeding accessories after their 1 year of age mark – the decision is entirely up to you!

Many parents continue sterilizing their baby’s bottles until they no longer feed from them and slowly transition into sippy cups and – eventually – solid food.

Important Safety Notes To Keep In Mind

The following is a list of important safety notes for you to keep in mind to avoid harming yourself or your baby when sanitizing their bottles.

1) Don’t Burn Yourself

It’s quite easy for you (or me, or anyone else for that matter) to burn yourself when sterilizing your baby’s bottles with either boiling water or steam.

You’ll be dealing with exceptionally high temperatures here, so avoid any skin contact that might cause harm.

Also, do not have your baby anywhere near the boiling water or steam at any given point in time during this process, as they could get burned as well.

2) No Bleach

Many mothers consider sterilizing their baby’s bottles with bleach, but this isn’t the best of ideas – by far.

If you insist on sterilizing with a bleach solution, the least you can do is make sure that it’s diluted bleach.

If any undiluted bleach remains on the bottle after sterilization is complete and your baby ingests them, this could possibly kill them.

3) Bottle Compatibility

Before going ahead and choosing any of the sterilization methods discussed above, first make sure that these bottles can be sterilized the way you’re planning to.

Some bottles are much better off being boiled, others steamed, etc ..

4) BPA

Bottles that have BPA in them should not be exposed to heat whatsoever.

When exposed to heat, these chemicals can easily make their way into the milk and – as a result – into your baby’s body.

The only baby bottles you should ever expose to heat during sterilization are BPA-free bottles.

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