The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Baby Bottles

Chelsea Day

Babies need to be clean to stay healthy, so it's important to know how to clean a bottle properly.

Selecting Easy-to-Clean Baby Bottles

As a new parent, caring for baby bottles can be a challenging task in itself. Bottles are used to feed your baby and keep your baby healthy, so you’ll want a good understanding of how to care for baby bottles and what to look for when shopping for new ones.

Most baby bottles are made from plastic; some are made from glass. Plastic bottles are lightweight and inexpensive, but they can also harbor bacteria and are more likely to stain and retain odors. Glass bottles are heavier and more expensive, but they are also non-reactive and impervious to bacteria and odor. When shopping for new baby bottles, there are a few things you can look for to help you determine which ones are best for you.

First, consider whether your baby will use a bottle or a sippy cup. This may seem like a silly consideration in an article dedicated to helping new parents learn how to care for baby bottles, but a lot of babies actually breastfeed for so long that they can skip the bottle and go straight to a sippy. Sippies are much easier to clean, since they have fewer parts. Your pediatrician can probably tell you if your baby is ready for a sippy, but a good rule of thumb is that they can use a sippy starting between 6-9 months old.

If your baby isn’t old enough for a sippy yet, it’s a good idea to look for bottles that have as few components as possible to make the cleaning process easier. And as mentioned earlier, glass is easier to clean than plastic but can also be harder to handle on a day-to-day basis.

The Difference between Cleaning and Sanitizing Baby Bottles

It’s a common misconception that you can use cleaning products to sanitize baby bottles and other feeding accessories. That’s not true. Make sure you know the difference between cleaning and sanitizing baby bottles so you can get your newborn the safest bottle feeding experience possible.

Cleaning uses soap and water to physically remove the germs, whereas sanitizing kills all germs that may be present so that there is zero chance of passing something bad to the baby. Sanitizing used to be the go-to choice for parents with infants, but now with clean water standards it is generally recommended to sterilize only if you have a medically fragile baby. Nowadays, soap and water should be enough to properly clean bottles.

How to Clean Baby Bottles

The easiest way to clean baby bottles is by simply taking them apart and cleaning each component by hand, with dish soap and water. Some baby bottles are also top rack dishwasher-safe. Either way you go, you’ll want to make sure that you baby’s bottles are dried as quickly as possible to prevent mold from growing and harboring bacteria. A clean, dry towel laid out on the counter works best. Baby bottle drying racks can also be used, but it’s important to wash them as frequently as you wash your bottles.

How Often to Clean Baby Bottles

Bottles should be cleaned after each use, and any time they may have been contaminated by being placed in a dirty spot or being left alone long enough for dust or other contaminants to accumulate in them.

Cleaning Baby Bottle Brushes

Just like it’s best to use a clean towel or freshly-washed bottle drying rack to dry baby bottles, baby bottle brushes should also be cleaned as frequently as the bottles themselves. Leaving them lingering around the sink can cause them to harbor bacteria. There are tons of baby bottle options, ranging from silicone (which is easy to clean) to thin sponge-formations that are harder to clean. Fortunately, sponges can be sanitized with a quick spin in the microwave! As long as there is no metal in your baby bottle brush, you can microwave a dry sponge on high to kill germs.

Protocol for Handling Cleaned Baby Bottles

I like to store my cleaned baby bottles all put together, with the rings and nipples screwed onto the main bottle part, and all of it covered with the bottle cap. That way, there’s no way for the nipple and inner parts to become contaminated.

The Difference Between Formula Bottles and Breastmilk Bottles

Breastmilk is relatively thin. While is does occasionally get clumpy after sitting, it tends to wash out from bottles more easily than formula. With powdered formula, you’ll occasionally get chunks that like to stick up near the bottle rim, so it’s important to pay extra attention to that area. In either case, a vigorous hand-washing or a good dishwasher should take care of it.

Dish Soap Concerns

A lot of people are concerned about using dish soap on baby items because of potential chemical residue that could irritate baby’s tummy or even cause long-term damage. This can be mitigated by thorough rinsing. It’s also helpful to use earth-friendly dish soaps that have minimal or no harmful chemicals in them. I also like to soak my baby bottles in warm water and white vinegar for about 15 minutes to make sure they’re totally clean. This is a handy go-to that tons of moms have used. Vinegar’s even used in hospitals on baby items, since it’s edible AND known to kill germs.

Never Use Bleach on Baby Bottles

While it is an excellent sanitizer, bleach may degrade seals and cause baby bottles to leak. Vinegar is always a better choice when it comes to baby items.

And that’s how you take care of baby bottles! As long as you’re mindful of storage and handling after cleaning, and make sure that you use items that are already clean to help dry them, the actual process of cleaning baby bottles is relatively straightforward and simple. Make sure to select bottles that are as easy to clean as possible, and you’ll minimize your stress with a newborn baby.

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Helping parents live simple and satisfying lives. Our homeschooling family loves to learn, and in our spare time (hah!) we RV travel and flip houses.

Boise, ID

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