Even though you can’t protect your babies from absolutely everything, keeping their feeding equipment clean can definitely protect them from germs.
This is especially important during their first year because their developing immune systems aren’t strong enough to fight infections yet, so it’s vital to keep them healthy.
Unfortunately, milk is a great environment for bacteria to grow–that’s why it’s important to wash your twins’ bottles after every feeding. In some cases, an additional step might be needed: sterilization.
Years ago, when water supplies weren’t reliably clean, sterilization was non-negotiable, but today it’s not necessary to do it very often. As mentioned above, it’s an added step, and it can provide more protection from germs than traditional cleaning. That being said, there are some occasions in which sterilization may be more convenient.
When Is a Baby Bottle Sterilizer Truly Necessary?
If your babies are premature
Babies that are born prematurely have an especially vulnerable immune system, so it’s ideal to sterilize their bottles for prevention.
If your babies are younger than three months old
When a baby is younger than three months old, their immune system is still very weak and needs extra protection.
If you’re using a new bottle
Before using a new bottle for the first time, you should sterilize it at least once (in addition to washing it), since it was previously handled by other people during the manufacturing and packaging process.
If your babies have any health conditions
If one of your babies is sick, sterilize their bottle daily while they’re still recovering to prevent any lingering bacteria.
Additionally, if they have a health condition that weakens their immune systems, make sure to sterilize their bottle regularly as well.
If you’re using a borrowed bottle
There are moments when you might need to borrow a bottle from a family member or a friend–when you do, make sure to wash and sterilize it before using it.
Note: Although today, many people have access to clean drinking water, some people don’t–if this is your case, or if your water supply is compromised for a particular reason, you should sterilize your baby’s bottle daily for safety.
How Do You Sterilize Baby Bottles?
Simply put, sterilization is using a high temperature to kill bacteria–and when it comes to baby bottles there are different ways you can do it.
According to the CDC, the best methods overall are using boiling water, steam, or the dishwasher to ensure your baby’s bottles are squeaky-clean (and most importantly, safe!).
The Boiling Method
Boiling is a classic, reliable way to sterilize baby bottles. The process is simple:
- First, wash the feeding equipment you’re going to sterilize.
- Place all items and their parts in a large saucepan and cover them with water.
- Bring the water to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes.
- Let the items cool down, take them out, and let them air dry.
- Place them in a clean, lidded container, and store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours (that’s how long the equipment remains sterile).
The Steamer Sterilizer: A Simple and Effective Sterilizing Method
Steamer sterilizers are a great tool to sanitize your babies’ feeding equipment quickly and effectively–plus, they’re typically affordable. These automatic units work by heating water to its boiling point and then using the steam to disinfect the items.
Usually, you wash the bottles and other feeding equipment first, then place them in the sterilizer (making sure there’s enough room between each item for the steam to circulate), add water according to the instructions, and switch the sterilizer on. After you sterilize and dry the items, you can store them in a clean, lidded container in the fridge.
If you want the best of both worlds, we’ve got good news: there are 2-in-1 bottle sterilizers and dryers available on the market. In fact, some of them will even sterilize, dry, AND allow you to store your baby’s feeding equipment all in the same container. Moreover, if you’re looking for the best baby bottle warmer, you can also find 2-in-1 warmers and sterilizers.
Best Microwave Bottle Sterilizer
Microwave bottle sterilizers work very similarly to regular steam sterilizers, but they use the power of the microwave to create steam, and they can also be more affordable. You can try this one!
The Dishwasher as a Sterilizing Method
Who said the dishwasher is just for dishes? Because sterilizing baby bottles in it is actually a great hack! Just make sure to take some things into account:
Many dishwasher models have a “sterilizing” mode, which uses very hot water and steam, and leaves the contents completely sanitized. If yours doesn’t have this option, you can use a normal washing cycle–the key is to choose the high heat drying cycle after (tip: be careful when taking them out, since they’ll probably be very hot!).
Moreover, remember that dishwasher cycles may take a little more time–but if you’re not in a rush, it can definitely be a great baby milk bottle sanitizer.
Are You On-The-Go? Use Sterilizer Bags
If you’re looking for an on-the-go, affordable way to sterilize your baby’s bottles, sterilizer bags are for you. This method consists of reusable steam sterilizing bags that you place in the microwave for 90 seconds… and voilà! You’ve got a sanitized and ready-to-use bottle.
Sterilizer bags are proven to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria. They usually come in a pack, and each bag can be reused several times. They also typically include a check box or space on each bag to track the number of times you’ve used it.
This is one of those products that make traveling or busy, out-and-about days a lot easier! If you’re looking for other on-the-go products, the Genie Refill Diaper Bags or the ALVABABY Diaper Wet/Dry Bags are super helpful as well.
When you can’t sterilize baby bottles with other methods, the CDC says you can use chemical sterilization as a last resort. This refers to an antibacterial chemical solution that contains bleach diluted with water and comes in liquid or tablet form.
If you’re using this method, make sure to follow the instructions on the container carefully. Usually, the process consists of:
- Use a container that has enough space to hold your baby’s bottles and feeding equipment.
- Preparing the sterilizing solution using the recommended amount of water.
- Submerging all the items in the solution and leaving it in for the recommended amount of time.
Although, yes, chemical sterilization is safe, it’s not your ideal first option.
So, the Best Bottle Sterilizer Award Goes To…
In brief, there isn’t ONE correct answer–it all comes down to what suits your family’s lifestyle best.
If you’re not looking to actually buy a new product, the boiling method or the dishwasher method may be your best options. But if you are, steamer sterilizers are a great tool to have, and you can definitely find affordable options in the market. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an on-the-go or travel option, go for the sterilizer bags.
We know thinking about protecting your babies from anything that may affect their health can be stressful. Our best advice is to focus on what you can control, but trying not to overstress–and even though it comes with ups and downs, allow yourself to enjoy parenthood fully. You can even make bottle feeding fun by getting matching items for your little ones, like our Drinking Buddies bibs!