As parents, we are concerned about the health of our child and of course, keeping him healthy depends on providing an environment that protects and nurtures both physical and emotional needs. In this light, we are concerned with things like nutrition, physical activities, cognitive stimulus and emotional nurturing.

Interestingly, many parents believe that babies should be kept in sterile environments and doing otherwise is not conducive to their wellbeing. Normally, these are well-intentioned first-time parents who have yet to learn that children eat sand, suck their toes after playing in the mud, will share a pacifier with another child, and welcome an enthusiastic face lick from a dog.

For children to develop their full immunity they need a non-sterile environment replete with good germs and these are found in every aspect of a child’s life. Children are surprisingly resilient and with each month booth their immunity. Of course, they can get very ill from a dirty bottle but the likelihood is limited unless you have done something extreme like a dripped raw egg on the nipple or left it in a garbage bin.

Bottle feeding: if we closely examine this aspect of childcare, we will all agree that bottles should be cleaned and thoroughly dried immediately after each use (note that bacteria thrives in leftover water or milk). However, doctors increasingly agree that sterilizing bottles and nipples is not necessary on a daily basis.

How Often to Sterilize Bottles / Nipples

  • Your water source is questionable and potentially carries bacteria
  • After purchase and before first usage(boil for at least 5 minutes)
  • If your child has been ill because of bacteria
  • You notice buildup in either the bottle or the nipple

In terms of how long you should sterilize, this is an interesting debate that is quite polemic. Some pediatricians suggest that you sterilize until 6 months but the majority in the West suggests that it is no longer mandatory

It is important to remember that as soon as we touch the bottle after it has been sterilized it no longer remains sterile. Nevertheless, there are two basic ways to sterilize bottles:

Sterilization Methods for Bottles / Nipples

  • Soaking them in a big pot of boiling water (Note: Do not over soak the nipples because they can later disintegrate in a baby’s mouth) and the standard three-step method can be easily illustrated with the following steps:
  • Boil water in your teapot
  • Whilst the teapot boils At the same time, place a large pot on the stovetop with a little bit of water on the bottom and turn it on high (Note: Try to avoid using this pot for anything other than sterilizing bottles)
  • Add the boiled water from the teakettle into the large pot and then add the bottles (Note: they should be first hand washed)
  • Remove with tongs and leave to dry completely
  • Special sterilization machines (Authors note: I find these to be expensive contraptions that are about as ridiculous as baby wipe warmers or potty hand mitts)
  • Place them in the microwave (Authors note: Please read about microwave use before considering this option; I do no use the microwave for any of my child’s products)
  • Fill the bottles halfway with water and set into the clean microwave
  • Place nipples in a glass bowl and ensure water level covers them
  • Microwave on high for 1.5 minutes

There are a number of sterilization options to choose from but you will make this decision based on questions such as whether you want a chemical free option, a less expensive option, whether you have a lot of counter space or if you travel frequently. The question remains: if you choose not to sterilize bottles after each use, how can you ensure your baby bottles are truly clean?

How to Properly Clean Bottles

  • Wash them out first with a baby bottle cleaning brush; there are a plethora of options
  • Place them in the dishwasher (the bottles on the top shelf and the nipples in a basket) and choose a hot/rinse cycle
  • Soak them in a large bucket filled with hot soapy water
  • Hand wash them with hot water and soap (For the last two options, I had a wonderful baby bottle drying rack which saved time and stress.

In terms of feeding your baby and ensuring a safe environment, there are a few other things to consider.

The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year MaintenanceFirst, emphasize general cleanliness and remember to not only wash your hands but the table where you will prepare the bottle and the general area.

Second, pay attention to the types of bottles that you are purchasing. A bottle should always be BPA free as well as BPS and BPF free because, when heated, these nasty chemicals can leach into the milk, resulting in potentially dangerous developmental repercussions. For this reason, many parents choose glass bottles. Other parents, who prefer to avoid the tedious effort associated with bottle washing and/or sterilization, opt for bottles with liners, but this is a significantly more expensive option that is not environmentally friendly.

Remembering all the parenting rules can be challenging. As your head swirls and twirls with questions such as – Which bottle do I buy? How often do I need to replace my bottles? What kind of formula is the best? – do take a moment to breathe and enjoy your baby as you progress together on this parenting journey.

I remember my mother always told me to listen to my instinct, acknowledging that a mother’s instinct is most certainly an incredible asset in helping you make the right choices.

Now, if you need a bit more reassurance and even a manual of sorts, I found this book (see the cover above) to be extremely helpful with my baby.