How to Sterilize Baby Bottles, Nipples and More

Tips to ensure your baby's new feeding equipment is properly sanitized

A mother kisses her bay while bottle feeding him.
A mom feeds her child from a bottle. Gary Houlder/Taxi/Getty Images

In the days before dishwashers and safe water supplies, learning how to sterilize baby bottles, nipples and pacifiers was essential in order to protect infants from illness or possibly even death. Today, unless you live in an area with well water or have a tainted water supply, it's only necessary to sterilize new bottles before the first use. And, perhaps, if your infant has a bout of sickness (cold or flu).

After that, a good cleaning in hot, soapy water is sufficient. You can also run them through the dishwasher, which kills more germs than washing by hand, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

If your health care provider recommends routine sterilization, don't be afraid to question why this practice is necessary. While some doctors may know that the water supply in your area is not up to par, others may be advising sterilization out of habit.

Health care providers have varying advice on this, but studies as far back as the '50s have indicated that there is no need for routine sterilization of bottles beyond hot soapy water or time in a dishwasher. In fact, it's been noted that constant sterilization via boiling can cause bottles to leach out bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to developmental problems in young children, quicker.

Methods to Sterilize Baby Bottles

There are plenty of options when it comes to how to sterilize baby bottles before the first use—from good old-fashioned boiling to electric and steam baby bottle steamers.

Just make sure your choose bottles that are free of BPA, a chemical linked to developmental problems in young children. When heated, plastics can leach BPA into your babies formula or milk.

  • Boiling water: Submerge bottles, nipples, caps and rings in a pot of clean boiling water for at least five minutes. Ideally, this pot should only be used for sterilization or, at the very least, cleaned thoroughly prior to adding the baby bottle.
  • Electric steamers: Available in many different shapes and sizes, electric bottle sterilizers use high temperature steam to kill any bacteria or germs on your baby's feeding equipment. And it's as easy as plugging it in, loading the equipment (with openings facing down) and pressing a button.
  • Microwave: You can purchase a microwave steam sterilizer or wash your bottles, fill them halfway with water and microwave for about a minute and a half; nipples and rings can be placed in water in a microwave safe bowl. Whichever method you use, you'll want to first make sure that your microwave is clean and free of any food residue.
  • Cold water: Adding a sterilizing tablet or solution to a container filled with tap water is another easy method. Wash equipment in warm, soapy water, rinse with cold water and submerge in container with lid for 15 minutes.

In the end, deciding how (and how often) to sanitize your baby's feeding equipment is entirely up to you. Talk to your pediatrician and choose the method that best fits your lifestyle and makes you most comfortable.

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