I imagine somewhere on your to-do list, as you prepare for the arrival of your little one, is to learn how to properly clean those baby bottles. In the hospital, the nurses will give you a quick tutorial, but truthfully, you won’t remember much about your time there- you just gave birth and are functioning on minimal sleep. Nonetheless, cleaning bottles is an important part of those newborn days and you should be aware of how to properly do so. 

Your baby’s immune system is not yet strong enough to fight off germs like you or I can, so it is important to clean the bottles properly, both before the first use, as well as after each feeding. There are different brands of bottles on the market, so before your baby is born, I recommend taking some time to understand exactly how your choice of bottle works. Some bottles have more pieces than others, practice taking apart the bottle and putting it back together. Doing this will also give you a good idea of what exactly will need to be cleaned each time. 

When it comes to actually cleaning the bottles, you can choose to do this either in a dishwasher or by hand.

How To Clean Bottles in a Dishwasher

  • Take the bottle apart and separate all pieces. Rinse pieces under water. 
  • Place bottles and all parts in the dishwasher. Keep small pieces in a closed top basket or mesh bag to ensure nothing ends up in the dishwasher filter. 
  • Wash using hot water and heated drying cycle or sanitizing setting if possible. 
  • Remove items from the dishwasher and place on a clean dish towel or paper towel to finish air drying if necessary. Once completely dry, store bottles and all pieces in a place free from dirt and dust.

Before touching the clean bottles and parts, wash your hands with hot soapy water to prevent transferring unwanted germs

How To Clean Bottles By Hand

To clean bottles by hand you will need a separate wash basin or small container, that is only used for this purpose. The hospital may have one available to send home with you.

  • Take the bottle apart and separate all pieces. Rinse pieces under water, but do not set them in the sink at any point. 
  • Put all bottles and parts into the clean basin, add hot water and soap (dishwashing soap is fine). 
  • Using a clean bottle brush, clean the bottle completely. Be sure to allow the hot soapy water to move through the nipple as well. 
  • Rinse soapy bottle and all parts with water and allow to air dry on a clean dish towel or paper towel. 
  • Rinse both the wash basin and brush, then allow to air dry. Every few days wash these items either in the dishwasher or by hand.

How To Sanitize the Bottles and Parts

If you successfully washed your bottles and parts in the dishwasher using the sanitize setting, it is not necessary to further sanitize your items. If you opted to wash by hand or are looking for added protection, you can choose to sanitize your items using a method described below:

  • Boil: Place all parts in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Allow items to boil for 5 minutes, remove and set to air dry. 
  • Steam: Using a steam system (available from most baby bottle manufacturers) plug in and follow directions accordingly. 
  • Bleach: Prepare bleach solution (2 tablespoons of unscented bleach per 1 gallon of water) and put in a clean wash basin. Move the solution through the nipples and submerge all pieces. Let sit for 2 minutes. Remove with clean hands and set to air dry.

These steps are particularly important for the first 2-3 months of your little one’s life, as their immune systems are beginning to strengthen. Your pediatrician may also require you to continue with these steps for a longer period of time if your child has a weakened immune system or was born prematurely. Always consult with your pediatrician, but more detailed information can be found at CDC: How To Clean, Sanitize and Store Infant Feeding Items.

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