Choose the method that fits your lifestyle and learn how to sterilize your baby’s bottles for their health and safety
Whether using electric steam, UV sterilizers or an old-fashioned dishwasher and pot of boiling water, the rules for washing bottles are the same: clean after use, wash with soap and water, rinse thoroughly, and dry completely. Disposable bottle liners, mixed formula and breast pumps may add or detract from cleaning times, but until bottle feedings are phased out, the straightforward routine is nothing if not tedious, particularly when repeated ad nauseam.
But when babies are born, their brand new digestive and immune systems are susceptible to attack from millions of daily bacteria. Perhaps even more so in light of the constant contact with diaper changes that parents engage in every day. The more common symptoms from gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and rotavirus are potentially dangerous for infants, which means that washing hands before making up a bottle, washing hands before cleaning a bottle, and washing hands before storing bottles are all explicitly recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While nipples are the most obvious source for cleaning, anywhere that milk or formula can remain trapped is a location where bacteria and other pathogens can thrive. Completely disassemble caps, nipples, sealing rings, valves, and pump accessories, thoroughly rinsing under running water before loading into a dishwasher-safe close-top basket or mesh laundry bag. Choose hot water or sanitation cycles to best kill germs but verify that bottles are dishwasher safe before taking the plunge.
For the first month or two, babies’ constant feeding and newborn susceptibilities require constant sterilization, but as time goes on, it’s acceptable to move to occasional thorough cleanings — especially prior to first use and whenever your baby has been sick, particularly if they have experienced thrush. Bottle-fed babies are vulnerable to the common yeast infection that initially presents as white film on the tongue, almost appearing like leftover formula. Over the following days, white patches often start to spread to the inner and outer cheeks and refuse to be wiped away with wet washcloths. Simply sterilizing nipples and pacifiers after every use will kill the overabundance of yeast when soap and water alone are not enough to do the job.
Inspect bottles after the dishwashing cycle for discoloration of the plastic that may arise from baked milk fats as a product of inadequate rinsing, hard water stains, or bottles intended for handwashing damaged by overly hot cycles.
Parents preferring to hand wash should wash hands prior to touching the bottles and disassemble all parts in contact with milk and formula. Hot, soapy water is enough to rid your baby’s bottles from most microorganisms. Bottle brushes are often more efficient and effective than other cleaning tools and can be just as easily cleaned in the dishwasher. Special dish soaps are unnecessary, although natural products avoid the use of dyes and fragrances that are sometimes considered harmful. Rinse each part of the bottle until all traces of soap have disappeared and place on a clean towel or “grass” drying rack (specially designed with flexible plastic “blades” to hold all bottle components in place). Assembling bottles with moisture creates an environment that fosters microbial growth.
Electric Steam or UV Sterilizing Method
If you’ve got countertop space, an electric steam sterilizer may be an easy solution for you. Simply place your bottles in the sterilizer, add water according to the device instructions and press “start.” UV Sterilizers are even more simple. Germs, bacteria, and viruses are eliminated using the power of ultraviolet light. Place your bottle in the sterilizer and simply press “start.”
The preferred method of our mothers and grandmothers was boiling, and if all else fails, it’s important to know how to do it right. When using this method, check with your bottle’s manufacturer to ensure the boiling-water method will not harm you bottles. This level of heat could lead to melted plastic bottles, cracks in glass bottles, and the quicker deterioration of nipples and pacifiers. In a large pot of water, weigh bottles floating on the surface with a spoon inside to ensure that they are submerged. Set the pot to boil and a timer for ten minutes. Remove the bottles and accessories after ten minutes using tongs and place a drying rack.
Sterilizing your baby’s bottles can give you peace of mind that you’re reducing their risk of illness and infection. While you don’t have to sterilize your bottles after every use after the early weeks, be sure to fit in an occasional cleaning, especially whenever your baby has been sick.
Fortunately, technology has created more efficient and equally effective choices to properly sterilize your bottles in any lifestyle, while more traditional methods remain just as effective to keep your baby safe.