If you bottle-feed – out of necessity or simply as a lifestyle choice – you want to be sure that supplies used to feed your baby are cleaned properly and ready to provide the safest feeding environment.
During your baby’s first months, his/her immune system is not developed fully – though the baby is still protected by the antibodies he/she received from mom while in the womb. The human immune system is comprised of proteins, cells, organs, and tissues that work together to fight off germs and illness.
When harmful germs and bacteria enter your body, your immune system attacks the invader and fights off illness that can result from certain germs and bacteria. Since your baby’s immune system is developing over the first year of life, it is important to use only clean feeding utensils (bottle and nipples for infants) to keep bacteria and germs at bay.
Understanding how to properly clean baby bottles will help you protect your baby from illnesses that can be caused by exposure to bacteria or germs while his/her immune system is developing.
How to Clean Baby Bottles for the First Time
For many years, parents painstakingly sterilized baby’s bottles after each use. However, if you live in an area that has a clean water supply and/or you use a dishwasher with hot settings, you can skip the sterilization step altogether. However, if you do not have a dishwasher, you should sterilize before use.
If you want to be extremely careful (especially from birth – 3 months old), or if you have a child whose immune system is developing slower than normal, you may want to sterilize with each use.
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How to Clean New Baby Bottles
All-new baby bottles, nipples, rings, and caps should be sterilized before their first use. There are several methods of sterilizing – using a dishwasher at its hottest setting (or sterilization setting, if available); boiling water; steam; or bleach solution.
- Use the sanitizing setting if available.
- Place bottle supplies on the top shelf.
- If there is no sanitize setting, use a hot water cycle and heat drying cycle.
- Take bottles completely apart – separate bottle, nipple, and ring.
- Place all items in a large pot.
- Fill with water until all items are covered.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Let items boil for five minutes.
- Use clean tongs to remove items and place them on a clean drying surface.
Steam in Microwave Method
- Clean microwave thoroughly.
- Place bottle nipples, rings, and caps into a glass bowl and cover with water.
- Place bowl in the microwave.
- Microwave on high setting for 1 ½ minute.
- Use caution when removing from microwave. Bowl and contents will be very hot.
Bleach Solution Note: Use bleach solution if you cannot use the above methods.
- Prepare solution: 1 teaspoon bleach per 1-gallon water.
- Completely submerge bottles, rings, caps, and nipples in solution.
- Fill nipples with the solution and squeeze to clean nipple holes.
- Soak for 2 minutes.
- Remove from the solution – use clean tongs or remove with your clean hands.
- Place on a clean surface and allow to air dry.
How to Clean Baby Bottles Daily
You should never feed your baby using a dirty bottle. I know that may sound like something that should not have to say, but you would be surprised at the number of parents who simply rinse the baby’s bottle in preparation for the next feeding. A simple rinse DOES NOT properly get rid of germs.
Here are a few tips on how to clean plastic baby bottles and glass baby bottles:
- Wash bottles with soap and hot water immediately after use.
- If you use a dishwasher, rinse bottle thoroughly and place it on the top shelf.
- NEVER put bottles back into the refrigerator after a feeding – once and done is the perfect mantra for feeding baby.
- Do not leave leftover milk in the bottle until you wash dishes – especially if you use plastic bottles because they can stain and become discolored.
- Always use a bottle brush to clean the bottom of the bottle.
- Always use a nipple brush to thoroughly clean the nipples and rings.
- After washing, sterilize once a day or once a week (as per the above recommendations).
- Place bottles, nipples, rings, and caps on a clean surface to air dry – NEVER dry with a towel because it could contaminate the feeding supplies.
How to Clean Old Baby Bottles
If this is not your first baby and you saved supplies from your previous baby’s, you will need to know how to clean old baby bottles. However, before you clean old bottles, you should inspect them to be sure they are safe for the baby to use.
When to Throw Away Baby Bottles
- Discard torn or cracked nipples
- Discard torn or cracked rings.
- Discard torn or cracked bottle caps.
- Discard chipped glass bottles.
- Discard cracked plastic bottles.
If you have old bottles that are stained or have an unpleasant odor, you can try to clean them before throwing them away. Here are a few tips for cleaning discolored or stinky baby bottles.
How to Clean Discolored Baby Bottles
- Fill bottle with hot water.
- Add baking soda.
- Clean thoroughly with a bottle brush.
- Discard if you cannot remove stains.
How to Clean Stinky Baby Bottles
- Fill bottle with hot water.
- Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
- Soak overnight.
- Clean thoroughly with a bottle brush.
- Rinse well.
- Discard if the odor is still present.
Benefits of Clean Baby Bottles
There are many health benefits for the baby when you know how to clean baby milk bottles properly. Since your newborn’s immune system has not fully developed, it is extremely important to know how to clean newborn baby bottles.
You should take the same precautions when handling baby’s bottles and formula as you would when handling any type of food to prevent food-borne illnesses. ALWAYS wash hands thoroughly before preparing the baby’s formula and bottle.
Signs of food-borne illness in babies:
- Baby is not taking in normal amount of fluids.
- High fever for a prolonged amount of time.
- Diarrhea that contains blood.
- Vomiting – cannot keep anything down.
- Excessive fussiness.
Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty
The bottom line is, whether you are a new parent or an experienced parent, one of the most important things that you can learn is how to clean baby bottles properly. Infants and babies are at the mercy of their caretakers. Their development depends on interaction with their parents. Their health depends on parents being responsible for the things they can control.
Always be sure to prepare baby’s bottles on a clean surface. Once the prep area is cleaned, it is time for your hands to be cleaned. This should be the last step before handling anything used for preparing baby’s bottles.
Good hygiene is extremely important when it is your job to handle baby’s feeding supplies – food and dishes (in this case, bottles). Always, Always, Always wash your hands thoroughly BEFORE touching baby’s bottles or formula.
Steps for Washing Hands:
- Wet hands with warm, running water.
- Apply soap.
- Rub hands together – including between fingers.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds or longer.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Dry hands with a clean towel or drying cloth.
- Turn off faucet with towel/drying cloth to avoid re-contamination.
When caring for babies and small children, some things become extremely repetitive. This includes washing hands, immediately washing bottles after each use, and sterilizing bottles. It is important that you learn to perform these tasks properly so that you provide your little one with the most germ-free and bacteria-free environment as their immune systems develop.
Last, but definitely not least, once the technical part has been completed, keep in mind that feeding time is one of the best opportunities for bonding with your baby. Always hold the baby while feeding him/her. Do not prop the bottle in the baby’s mouth. Look baby in the eyes and talk to him/her or sing. Put away the electronics and use this opportunity to create a lasting relationship with your baby – a relationship that involves interaction and builds your little one’s trust in you.
Proper care and interactive feeding are one of the most important things you can do for your little one. Some things you can control, some things you can’t – but correct hygiene and care of baby’s feeding accessories are in your control. Happy feeding!
Read Our Guide On Best Baby Bottles
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