How To Sterilize Baby Bottles?
Sterilizing baby-feeding items is probably every parent’s least favorite activity, and baby bottles definitely cause the biggest nightmare. And to make things worse, you probably have several - a plastic bottle which the baby seems to like one day and hates the following, a silicone bottle you got as a gift, and another one you bought because it supposedly has the perfect lid and teat, but somehow you ended up using all three.
No matter how many bottles your baby uses, all need to be frequently sterilized. Indeed, it seems there’s no running away from this monotonous task. And it’s for a good reason - after all, they find their way into your baby’s mouth on a daily basis, and as such they can be a potential source of many unwanted bacteria and germs.
Although we’re aware that cleaning baby bottles is much faster and less demanding than actually having to sterilize them, both cleaning and sterilizing hold different implications and importance whenever your baby’s health is concerned.
So, why do it?
Why Should You Sterilize Baby Bottles?
Sterilizing baby bottles is one of the most crucial steps you can take to keep your baby healthy and safe from germs. Yet, some pediatricians believe that sterilization of baby bottles has become an unnecessary task, as today most water supplies are clean and relatively reliable. Plus, once you sterilize the bottle, then hand it over to your baby to use it, it becomes yet again exposed to a wide range of germs in the environment, so the process of sterilization doesn’t add up.
However, many other pediatricians are still convinced that sterilizing baby bottles is a task that shouldn’t be neglected (especially for newborn babies until they reach age one). So sterilizing baby bottles doesn’t only protect babies from viruses, germs, and nasty parasites - it protects them from the consequences that occur as a result of them interacting with your baby. Namely, many of them might cause your baby to have diarrhea, episodes of vomiting, and even oral thrush.
And now you might think: “But my baby will start crawling and will start putting EVERYTHING it touches in their mouth! Doesn’t that make them equally exposed to bacteria and germs?!”. And that is true. However, bacteria and germs found in a baby bottle mixed with baby milk is much more dangerous than germs in your household, for example. This is so because milk is a very solid basis for growing pathogens that could make your baby quite sick in the long run.
If you want an overview of bottle sterilizers currently on the market, you can check out our list of the best baby sterilizers for 2020.
When Do You Need To Sterilize Baby Bottles?
First and foremost, make sure to sterilize baby bottles right after purchasing them. This is a must. Before filling them with breast milk, formula, water, or any other liquid for the first time, baby bottles have to undergo sterilization.
Additionally, if your baby has a weakened immune system or has been sick more than usual, it’s a good idea to sterilize the bottles on a much regular basis. The last thing you’d like to do is make your baby sick again by exposing them to bacteria or germs. Sterilizing your bottles will relieve you of unnecessary worries and anxieties surrounding your baby’s well-being. The same applies if your baby has been born prematurely.
In case you’re using borrowed baby bottles (or even second-hand bottles) for whichever reason, it’s crucial to sterilize them first! Using already used bottles increases the presence of various harmful bacteria and makes your baby even more exposed to them. And if you happen to have more children, you should do the same for bottles still kept in the house and used by older siblings.
Finally, if you don’t have access to fully clean water, or you’re vacationing with your baby, for instance, and aren’t sure about the water supplies in the place you’re currently at - by all means, sterilize your baby’s bottles. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Plus, if you want to prolong the life of your baby bottles and use them more efficiently, sterilizing them is one way to go.
What Bottle Components Do I Need To Sterilize?
All of them.
You need to sterilize all the components - the bottle lids, the teats, the collars, and of course, the actual bottle.
It goes without saying that it’s absolutely pointless to sterilize the bottle if you decide to leave the teat untouched or the collar, for example. Also, if you’re using a special container to keep your bottles, you should look after its cleanliness too. It might seem overwhelming to have to think of sterilizing everything, but doing sterilization half-way (sterilizing items selectively) isn’t going to bring you the expected results.
What Should I Do Before Sterilizing Baby Bottles?
It’s crucial to clean your baby bottles before sterilizing them. And the best time to clean your baby bottles is right after you’ve finished feeding your baby. That means removing any remaining dried milk from the bottle (and any other remaining milk particles in the teat as well).
One option would be to use a bottle brush (make sure you use the brush only for cleaning your baby’s bottles) with water and soap to thoroughly cleanse the bottle and its other components in the sink. However, try avoiding leaving the bottle in the sink, as the sink it’s yet another source of contamination.
Another option would be cleaning the bottles in the dishwasher, and if possible, run the dishwasher on a hot-water cycle. Contrary to popular belief, most dishwashers aren’t capable of getting hot enough to actually sterilize your baby-feeding equipment, so this counts as cleaning, and not sterilizing. However, if you opt for this option, you still have to remove all the baby bottle components, rinse them in water to remove any milk remains, and afterwards place them in the dishwasher.
After you’re done cleaning your baby bottles and their other components, place them in a dry area (possibly a clean dishwasher basket or a dry, clean cloth) and let them air dry.
After they’ve dried, you’re ready to proceed with sterilization.
Ways to Sterilize Baby Bottles
This is definitely the cheapest and the simplest way to sterilize your baby’s bottles because you don’t need any additional equipment to do so. However, keep in mind that this sterilization method might cause teats to degrade faster than they should.
In general, all you need is water and a pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the bottles and the other components such as teats (you can place all of them together, there’s no need to do it separately with each!). Make sure the water covers the bottles and the air bubbles are gone. Afterwards, put the pot on the stove, and wait for the water to boil (you usually have to wait for five minutes).
Afterwards, don’t forget to turn the stove off, and wait for the items to cool off so that you can take them off and let them air dry. Another option is to use clean tongs (be careful so that you don’t burn yourself) and take them out.
Steam Sterilization - Electric Steam
They say that if you ever try an electric sterilizer you’ll never go back to another bottle sterilization method. Electric sterilizers ease the whole sterilizing process because they automate most of it and use steam to kill microorganisms and bacteria.
However, keep in mind they might be rather costly and occupy more space than you might anticipate at first. Yet, this method doesn’t make bottles degrade as quickly as boiling does. Plus, they might come in handy even when your baby outgrows the bottle - you could sterilize toys, pacifiers, teething rings, and even nose bulbs! That way you won’t feel as if you were pouring money down the drain.
All you have to do is to clean the bottles and the other components, place them into the unit, and add water based on the user instruction manual. Then, switch on the sterilizer and when it’s done it will switch itself off. It’s really that simple.
Steam Sterilization - Microwave Steam
Using your microwave’s steam power to sterilize your baby’s bottles can prove to be much more handy than you might initially think. This is a very easy and practical approach to baby bottle sterilization.
First of all, make sure your microwave is clean. Prepare your bottle components, but never put them straight into the microwave because you might damage them. Purchase a sterilization unit that can be placed inside a microwave instead. Or you might even opt for a microwave baby bottle sterilizer - they can be bulky, but are very practical and provide a much thorough cleansing than you can do manually. If you purchase a microwave baby sterilizer always read the instructions first.
However, if you do end up using just your microwave, after placing the bottles (fill them about halfway with water) microwave on high for one or two minutes depending on your microwave power settings. You can even use the microwave’s timer. After the timer goes off, remove the bottle equipment from the microwave using oven mitts. Let the bottles and the rest of the items air dry.
If you’re pressed for time and can’t boil water to sterilize the baby bottles and you don’t have a steam sterilizer, an option would be to use bleach to sterilize them. Here’s how to do it: take one teaspoon of unscented bleach and mix it with sixteen cups of hot, clean water. Place the bottles and the other components in this bleach solution (make sure there are no air bubbles at the bottles’ bottom). Try soaking the bottles for five minutes. Afterwards, remove the bottles with clean tongs. Don’t worry about the remaining bleach - it will break down fairly quickly while the items air dry and it’s completely harmless for your baby, but you can also rinse with boiled water.
If you’re away from home and are on the lookout for a fast sterilizing solution, the best way is to buy sterilizing tablets. And if you have any doubts, know that using chlorine-based sterilizing tables is going to be as effective as other sterilization methods.
After purchasing the sterilizing tablets make sure you read the instructions carefully, as every brand has its own way of doing it. Usually, you’ll have to first clean the bottles, prepare a solution using the tablets, and then put the bottle and its other components in the solution (use a dedicated sterilization container) for some period of time.
Useful Tips To Consider When Sterilizing Baby Bottles
- Before you start cleaning and/or sterilizing your baby’s bottles, make sure your own hands are clean. The same applies after the sterilization - don’t touch the sterilized bottle and its parts if you haven’t washed your hands first.
- Baby bottle sterilization makes sense only if you sterilize all bottle parts.
- If you sometimes feel lazy to sterilize the bottles and you think cleaning them is enough, remember that babies don’t have a fully developed immune system such as yours - bacteria or microbes that your body is capable of fighting off effectively might be harmful to your baby.
- Treat bottle sterilization as a mandatory task. After a while, it will become part of your daily routine and you’ll object less and less to doing it.
- Make sure everybody’s safe while you’re sterilizing the bottles - you wouldn’t like your baby (or your other children if you have more) near a boiling water if that’s how you decide to sterilize your bottles, for example.
To conclude: baby bottle sterilization is an activity you can’t skip no matter how much you might want to. Today, there are more sterilizing options than ever, and most of them are fast and easy so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Finally, as babies can’t make decisions on their own and even look after themselves, it’s your task as a parent to care for their health and overall well-being the best that you can.