How Often Should You Sterilize Bottles and Pacifiers?

How Often Should You Sterilize Bottles and Pacifiers?

According to some pediatricians, sterilizing baby bottles and pacifiers is an outdated practice. However, it's really the only way to ensure that harmful bacteria isn't clinging to the surfaces of what goes in your baby's mouth. How often you sterilize these items depends on the type you use, among other factors.

Babies are particularly vulnerable to diseases and illnesses. One of the best ways to protect them is by keeping any and all items that enter baby's mouth clean and (hopefully) free of bacteria. There isn't much of a consensus from the AAP on how often to sterilize these items, so here are some general guidelines. Babies under twelve months are particularly vulnerable, so these practices are best to follow in your baby's first year of life.

Before First Use

One of the best times to sterilize bottles and their components is before the first use. Pacifiers, nipples, teething rings, and anything else that goes in your baby's mouth are manufactured with baby's safety in mind. However, it's best practice to sterilize these items to get rid of any potential chemical residues, along with bacteria that could exist on them. You don't know where these items have been, so sterilize them before use just to be safe.

In Daycare? Then Weekly.

Even if your child's daycare or care center is clean and well-kept, daycares are still a hotbed for germs and bacteria because they house many children at once. Those who have young babies in daycare should sterilize nipples, bottles, and pacifiers at least once each week to ensure the cleanliness of their items.

When You Feel It's Necessary

Mother knows best, and you know when things are getting particularly dirty. If a bottle has been sitting with old milk in it, or fell in the trash, or your child dropped their pacifier in the toilet, then sterilization is most likely appropriate. After your children fall ill, their bottles and pacifiers will also need a good cleaning and sterilization to avoid getting ill again. Pacifiers can be easily cleaned with designated wipes to clean them after each use, but should also be washed from time to time. As a general rule, sterilization every couple weeks or at least every month is also a good idea. If you don't know the last time you sterilized your bottles, it's probably time to do it again.

How to Sterilize

Sterilization is more than washing something with hot and soapy water. While cleaning with a designated scrub brush and hot, soapy water should be done after each use (especially with bottles), it doesn't quite cut it when it comes to sterilization. Here are some specific ways to sterilize your baby's items:
  • Boiling: submerge items in a pot of water and boil for five minutes. Dry completely on a clean rack.
  • Chemical cleansers: choose the proper dilution and read directions.
  • Steam: Follow manufacturer instructions and leave bottles in sterilizer until ready for use.

Make sure that you thoroughly cleanse your hands before touching sterilized items, and also clean the sterilization tools from time to time. While we're on the topic of keeping baby safe, make sure you only buy bottles and products that are BPA-free, since these chemicals present risks to young children.

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