You have decided to bottle-feed, have picked the right formula, and chosen the bottles you like. Now you have questions about how to sterilize baby bottles.
But is sterilizing baby bottles necessary?
Your little baby’s immune system is not strong enough to deal with germs and harmful bacteria.
This makes it easy for them to get sick.
Baby bottles get germs from being handled with unsanitized hands and coming into contact with milk, baby’s saliva, and dirty surfaces.
Sterilization kills these bacteria and germs and keeps your baby safe from becoming ill.
It’s said that once you wash baby bottles and sterilize them before first use, you don’t have to sterilize them regularly.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that sterilizing baby bottles is most crucial if your baby is younger than 3 months, has a weak immune system, or was born prematurely.
You should also sterilize second-hand baby bottles used by your older kids, or if you borrowed them before using them for the first time.
You may have heard that if you have access to clean water, sterilizing baby bottles is not important. As long as you sterilize the bottles before first use.
But how can you always be sure that the water is indeed safe? What if there is contamination at some point?
Ultimately, it remains your decision how often to sterilize your baby’s bottles.
You know your circumstances and will decide if regular sterilization is needed.
Honestly, I’d rather take precautions and sterilize my baby’s bottles daily, just to be safe.
So, if like me, you want to err on the side of caution, here is the lowdown on methods to sterilize your bottles, the pros, and cons of each method, how often to sterilize, and when to stop sterilizing baby bottles.
Sterilizing Baby Bottles At Home
Before we get to the methods of sterilization, we need to be certain that we know how to wash baby bottles the right way.
You can wash the bottles manually, making use of a bottle brush.
You can also wash them using a dishwasher, provided they are suitable to be washed in a dishwasher. Check the manufacturer’s label.
Once your baby has started using the bottles, make sure that you remove all the milk residue when washing, before sterilizing them.
Follow these steps when washing baby bottles by hand:
- Disassemble the bottles and remove the nipples from the teat rings
- Pour out any leftover milk and rinse the bottles and the nipples with cold water
- Fill a container dedicated specifically for washing baby’s feeding equipment with hot soapy water
- Place the bottles and nipples in the container and wash/scrub with a brush reserved only for washing baby bottles and feeding utensils
- Ensure you clean the teats thoroughly, making certain that you wash the inside of the teats
- Once done, rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove all the soap.
- Assemble the nipples before you start sterilizing. You want to avoid handling them with your hands after sterilizing (because then that defeats the whole purpose!)
If possible, rinse out leftover milk immediately after a feed to prevent build-up.
You can even wash the bottle then if you have the time (I know how hard it is to do this because there is just so much going on!)
Once you are done with cleaning, you can sterilize the bottles.
Keep in mind that sterilization is one of the few steps you should take to keep your baby safe while bottle-feeding.
You should also avoid making these bottle-feeding-safety-mistakes to protect your little one from bacteria and viruses that can make them sick.
Sterilizing Baby Bottles In Boiling Water
This is the traditional method that our dear grandmothers used.
Manufacturers often recommend this method for sterilizing your baby’s bottles for the very first time before use.
Make sure the pot you use is reserved especially for sterilizing baby bottles.
Don’t use the same pot you used for that scrumptious beef stew the day before. Unless you make sure it’s been thoroughly cleaned and is suitable for sterilizing.
After washing your baby’s bottles and nipples, immerse them in a pot of boiling water, upside down. Make sure there are no bubbles in the bottles and boil for about 5 – 10 minutes.
Wait until the water is cool enough before you remove the bottles. Otherwise use a tong to remove them.
Don’t rinse the bottles or dry them with a cloth as you will risk contaminating them.
Your baby’s bottles are now ready to be used straight from the pot.
- The easiest method
- You don’t need any extra equipment, you can just use your pots, as long as you clean thoroughly before using.
- High chances of burning the bottles or damaging the nipples
- Risk of burning yourself when handling the bottles
When using this method, make sure the bottles and nipples are suitable for sterilizing with boiling water. Check the manufacturer’s label.
Keep your baby away from hot bottles and hot water.
Accidents happen. Do not make the mistake of assuming your baby will not reach the hot pot.
How To Sterilize Baby Bottles In The Microwave
This method uses steam to kill bacteria that may be in your baby’s bottles. It’s a method I use often.
You make use of a microwave steam sterilizer made especially for sterilizing baby bottles.
Pour about a cup of water inside the unit. Place the bottles upside down inside the unit together with the nipples.
Put the unit in the microwave and set it to sterilize for 5 – 7 minutes. The time will often be specified by the manufacturer of the sterilizing unit.
After sterilization, remove the bottles, close them and store them in a sterilized unit.
Again, no need to rinse the bottles as you will be contaminating them.
I usually just close them tightly to avoid anything going inside.
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- Convenient and quick
- No need to worry about washing the pot, the unit is reserved specially for sterilizing
- Not cost-effective. Although not very expensive, you still have to spend money and purchase the unit
- Again, risk of burning is present when removing the bottles if you don’t let them cool first
- The microwave sterilizer can be reused for future children
Be careful of placing baby bottles directly into the microwave to sterilize them.
It may be quick and easy, but there’s no way of being sure the bottles have been sterilized thoroughly.
You also risk damaging the bottles and nipples.
Sterilizing Baby Bottles In A Chemical Solution
The method makes use of chemicals to sterilize the bottles.
Completely submerge the bottles and nipples in the water, and wait for a specified time, usually 30 minutes.
Once the specified time has passed, you can take out the bottles and feed your baby.
Be extra careful when removing the bottles and avoid touching the inside or contaminating the solution.
Sometimes you can leave the bottles submerged for 24 hours, then you’ll have to change the solution.
- No heat involved, so there is no risk of burning
- Suitable to use when you are traveling with your baby, with no access to a microwave or a heat source. All you need is a container and water for mixing the solution!
- You only mix the solution once. The same solution can be used to sterilize bottles throughout the day, as long as 24 hours have not elapsed since mixing.
- Mixing instructions must be correctly followed for effective sterilization
- You have to wait for 30 minutes before the bottles are ready for use
- There is room for human error (sterilization may not be effective if the solution is not mixed correctly)
Sterilizing Using An Electric Sterilizer
Similar to a microwave sterilizer, an electric sterilizing unit is designed specifically for sterilizing baby bottles and feeding equipment.
It also makes use of steam to kill bacteria and germs.
Just place the bottles and nipples in the unit, add water (amount specified by the manufacturer), switch on, and let the unit do its work.
The unit will switch off when it has finished sterilizing, and you can remove the bottles and use them.
You may also leave the bottles inside, as long as the unit is airtight. Find out from the manufacturer’s label for how long you can leave them in there.
- Quick and easy to use
- Less room for human error
- Can also be reused if you have another baby
- The most expensive method of sterilization as the unit can be pricey
- Risk of burning yourself is present
Sterilizing Using An UV Sterilizer
UV sterilizers use ultraviolet rays to kill bacteria in baby bottles.
They have an added advantage in that they can sterilize more than just baby bottles. You can also sanitize baby toys, dishes, and even your own items like jewelry and cellphones.
Most UV sterilizers can be utilized as storage for the bottles after the sterilization cycle is complete without having to worry about mold.
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- Easy to operate
- Versatile i.e. sterilizes phones, watches, utensils, and more
- No chance of mold developing on the bottles as no water is used
- Longer cycle
- More expensive than other sterilizers
All the above methods will remove harmful bacteria from your little one’s bottles provided you correctly follow the instructions.
Always remember to handle sterilized bottles with clean hands.
How Often To Sterilize Baby Bottles?
Sterilize your baby’s bottles at least once a day, according to the CDC.
Usually, if you have about 6 – 8 bottles, you will only need to sterilize them once and use them throughout the day.
If you only have a few bottles, e.g. 4 bottles, then you’ll obviously sterilize them more than once if your baby reuses them throughout the day.
How Long Do Empty Bottles Stay Sterile?
Sterilized bottles usually stay sterile for 24 hours.
Sometimes the method of sterilization will guide you as to how long the bottles will stay sterile.
For example, if you have sterilized your baby’s bottles in a solution, the solution stops being effective after 24 hours.
It only makes sense that the bottles won’t be sterile beyond that 24 hours.
If using an electric sterilizer, it may be specified in the directions of use as to how long the sterilized bottles will stay sterile.
Where To Store Sterilized Baby Bottles
You can have a special container that you can use to store your baby’s bottles after sterilizing them.
If you are not going to close the bottles tightly, make sure this container is also sterilized, to avoid contamination.
You can also leave the bottles in a microwave sterilizing unit, provided the manufacturer says this is OK. The same goes for the electrical sterilizer.
If using the solution method, you can keep the bottles in there for 24 hours, only removing a bottle at a time for feeding.
Another option is to close the bottles tightly and keep them in a dedicated space for preparing feeds. Make sure nothing comes into contact with the inside of the bottles or the nipples.
For How Long Do You Have To Sterilize Baby Bottles?
Washing and sterilizing is definitely a job on its own!
You will definitely want to know when to stop sterilizing baby bottles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can stop sterilizing the bottles once your baby is older than 3 months as their immune system is stronger then.
Just make sure you clean the bottles thoroughly after each use.
Personally, I sterilize baby bottles until my baby turns 1-year.
For my own peace of mind.
Sterilizing baby bottles before first use is crucial. The bottles may be contaminated with chemicals or other harmful substances.
Although there are guidelines that say there is no need to sterilize baby bottles if your baby is older than 3 months, they are just guidelines.
If you feel you need to sterilize your baby’s bottles beyond 3 months, go with your gut.
Whichever sterilization method you choose to use, make sure you correctly follow the instructions and avoid touching the bottles or nipples inside.
Only handle sterilized bottles with clean hands.
Make sure the bottles you use are suitable for the sterilization method you have chosen. Read the manufacturer’s label.
Only use BPA-free bottles.
Learning how to sterilize baby bottles can go a long way in helping you keep your baby safe and protecting them from getting sick.
Which sterilization method do you use or prefer? What makes you prefer it?
Drop me a comment!