The Saturday Question: Did You Sterilize Your Baby Bottles?

I’ve heard rumors of parents hunched over boiling cauldrons of water, sterilizing everything from bottles to rattles. I’ve also listened to working moms who pump at work complain about the fifteen minutes they spend each day sterilizing their equipment. Now I have to ask: Is this necessary? If you have a dishwasher, you can use that to sterilize your gear. But is hand washing really so bad? I worked part time during my daughter’s first year and used a manual pump that I just rinsed out afterwards. We had a bottle, which we hand-washed along with everything else. Is sterilizing essential to your baby’s health–or is it just a waste of time and energy?


  1. I think one thing to consider is that dishwashing can cause chemicals to leak from your bottles.

  2. Going Green Mama, it’s true that any type of washing or sterilizing will cause chemicals to leach from certain plastic bottles. However, if you use glass bottles, that won’t be an issue.

  3. i breastfed my baby, and didn’t use bottles a ton, but i did buy a microwavable sterilizer that would steam them sterile in about 2 minutes.

    of course, that was before i realized that her bottles, pacificers, and some toys were made with bpa, and heating them that hot (or dishwashing) was certainly causing leaching. i just couldn’t win!

    but, if your stuff is bpa-free, the microwave sterilizer is quick and simple. but honestly, sometimes i forget to wash my baby’s hands before she eats (with her fingers) and she seems to be doing ok!

    moms have enough to stress about, and sterilizing isn’t the most important thing on my list.

  4. Well I breastfed my children and they refused to take a bottle, I did try pumping so I sterilized the parts for that in boiling water but they never drank the milk. I think I would sterilize if I used bottles but would probably opt for glass or stainless steel bottles, if I wanted to use plastic I’d use one of the greener brands and maybe just a quick immerse.

  5. With baby no. 1 I sterilised till 6 months – but we lived in China and SARS, SWine flu etc were around so it was sensible to. Baby no. 2 never took a bottle. I used sterilising tablets.. not sure if that stops BPA leaching but it definitely uses less electricity!

  6. I don’t know, do you sterilize your breasts? I think that if it is going between only you and your baby, your only concern is bacteria which are the same sorts of bacteria that you have to be careful of in food which get killed by soap and water. If your baby is taking breastmilk, then she gets your immunity. So yeah, I think if taking the time to sterilize might inhibit the breastfeeding and make you less likely to stick with it, then the sterilizing is not worth it.

  7. I breastfeed but she gets bottled of pumped stuff while I’m at work. I sterilize sometimes…I have the microwavable sterilizing bags and use those to do all the bottle and pump pieces every few weeks. I can’t do the tubing in there though, so that usually goes a little longer. We don’t have a dishwasher, and if I had to boil everything it wouldn’t get down very often.

    A little bit of dirt never hurt anyone.

  8. I pump and feed my son bottled breastmilk. I, like one of your other readers, have the microwave sterilizer. It’s wonderful. I rinse my pump parts and stick them in the fridge and use them throughout the day. Then once a day, I pop them in the microwave to sterilize them. It’s much easier than handwashing, and I don’t waste all the water from the dishwasher because it only requires 7 ounces of water. If it wasn’t for the microwave sterilizer, I wouldn’t sterilize my bottles. I don’t do it for the sterilization factor- I do it for the ease factor. I think people are too paranoid about germs these days. My son is four months old and hasn’t caught any illness except impetigo (which is clearly not from his bottles). Knock on wood!

  9. I used to wash them in the dishwasher and then do an extra rinse and hold, so they were boiling hot. Raised two kids-now 17 & 19 no major illnesses or problems.

    it is a problem, in that the heat from the dishwasher as well as the microwave does cause leaching of the chemicals from the plastic. But if the baby gets sick from the germy bottles and pump parts? Then there will be antibiotics to consider. IDK which is worse.

  10. Anelewolf says

    I did some research before having my baby, and what I read mostly is that you don’t really need to sterilize the bottles anymore, I read various articles that it was used when the water systems where new and water wasn’t properly treated, so that had a lot of weird germs. In the baby books I didn’t find also anywere it said you must sterilize the bottles. So I only sterilize in the microwave the breastpump stuff, but the bottles only before the first use. My baby is almost 3 months old, he has breastmilk from a hand washed bottle ocassionally and he’s doing great.

  11. The only thing I bothered to sterilize was my breast pump stuff. I used the Milton method rather than boiling. (
    Both kids were breastfed but I pumped now and again to save some for mixing with their baby food, and to relieve engorgement.
    Lydia did have some formula in a bottle once she was weaned at 2yr 3month but by that time I didn’t think it worth sterilizing and just washing it all up in the normal detergent hot water.

    It’s my personal opinion based on no scientific basis whatsoever, that once a child is 1yr or so, that sterilizing is getting OTT. Some exposure to bugs is a good thing. I don’t mean be irresponsible about it, but washing up with very hot water and soap should be sufficient.

  12. Only time I boiled to sterilize anything was the first use. From then on, hand wash with hot soapy water. And he lived to tell! Bottles, soothers, now sippies.

  13. Sometimes I sterilize; sometimes I don’t. I do pump occasionally and can see both sides of the sterilize/don’t sterilize argument. So instead of making a decision (ugh, *another* decision), I do both! No rhyme or reason to it, whatever suits me. And he’s just fine.

  14. I’ve boiled my bottles and pacifiers before the first use, but that’s it. I don’t know if my pump parts were ever sterilized because the lactation consultant brought them to me in the hospital when my baby wouldn’t breastfeed. At work, I have to hand wash my pump parts in a bathroom (gross!) and my little guy is completely healthy. So, while I do stress about cleanliness, I don’t worry about things being sterile….like others have said, a little dirt won’t hurt!

  15. Jennifer Lovitt says

    I don’t think its necessary to sterilize when you are talking about breastfeeding. I always put the pump parts in the fridge after each use and just washed them by hand or in the dishwasher once every day or two. But I only pumped when he was a little babe and wasn’t wanting to nurse. Once he got the hang of things, I was pumping a little so my husband to bottle feed sometimes, but I eventually found that to be more trouble than it was worth.

    But its perfectly fine if you are pumping at work to bring a big ziplock bag and put the everything in there still assembled, minus the bottle (Which of course is lidded and put in the fridge as well) and reuse it without sterilizing in between, assuming you have a fridge at work and feel comfortable putting it in there. No need to wash at all, since the fridge keeps the small drops of milk on there fresh 🙂

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