How Often Should You Sterilize Bottles?

Sterilizing your baby's bottles is one of the easiest tasks involved in caring for an infant, especially with the help of modern dishwashers. It's also one of the oldest parenting practices. But with improvements made in public water supplies, it's not really necessary to sterilize bottles as often as you might think.

When to Sterilize

The only time baby bottles should absolutely be sterilized is before their first use. With any new product, you don’t know exactly what the bottle went through as it was handled, packaged, shipped and stored 1. After initial sterilization, it’s not necessary do it after each use, but modern dishwashers make it easy. According to BabyCenter, washing dirty bottles and their components with hot, soapy water is sufficient. Two methods effectively sterilize bottles: boiling and using a dishwasher.

Boiling to Sterilize

Many parents still use the method your mother probably used to sterilize your bottles: boiling water. Place opened bottles, nipples, collars and other equipment in a large pot and cover with water. Place the bottles on their side so they fill with water. Put the pot on the stove and boil for at least five minutes. Let the water return to room temperature before removing anything from it, and dry everything with a clean towel. You can also purchase special electric bottle sterilizers that work basically the same as boiling on the stove 1.

Sterilizing in the Dishwasher

A dishwasher with a water temperature of at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius) will adequately sterilize bottles and their components. Most modern dishwashers do operate at this temperature, and some have special sanitizing or sterilizing functions. At baby supply stores, you can purchase baskets for nipples and collars and other equipment to keep them from being blasted around the dishwasher. The good thing about using the dishwasher is that it’s an easy way to sterilize bottles each time they are used.

Opposing Views

Some doctors advise patients to sterilize bottles after each use; others don’t. According to some schools of thought, it’s not really necessary to sterilize bottles at all, because modern public water supplies are monitored and free of bacterial contamination. Before improvements were made to water supplies in the 1950s, many infants became sick because of contamination. Sterilization was such common practice by then that it was (and is) difficult for doctors to stop recommending it to their patients, and for grandmothers to stop advising it to their granddaughters. However, if you live in a rural community with well water, it’s best to sterilize your bottles after each use (and your water if you’re using it to mix formula).

Sterilizing Tips

For a newborn, you’ll need about six clean bottles daily, so sterilize at least that many at a time so you’ll have enough to get through the day. The same sterilization techniques should be used for pacifiers. Because they get dropped on the floor or buried in the bottom of the diaper bag so often, sterilize them at least twice a week.