How to Sterilize Baby Bottles and Nipples

a baby drinking a bottle while being kissed on the forehead

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New parents often wonder about the best way to sterilize their baby's bottles, especially how often it needs to be done. Surprisingly, it probably doesn't need to be done as often as you might think. In most cases, once is enough—but this was not always the case.

In the days before dishwashers and reliably safe water, learning how to manually sterilize baby bottles, nipples, and pacifiers after every use was essential to protect bottle-fed infants from illness or possibly even death.

Unless you live in an area with well water or have a contaminated city water supply, it's only suggested to sterilize new bottles and nipples before the first use. Ready access to hot, soapy water and/or a dishwasher makes maintenance cleaning even easier.

However, if your baby is less than 3 months old or was born premature or with a weakened immune system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends sterilizing once a day.

That said, effective initial sterilization of baby feeding items is vital to ensure your child is drinking from safe and clean bottles. Read on to learn the basics of effective sterilization techniques.

After a bottle and nipple's first sterilization, a good cleaning in hot, soapy water is sufficient. If the bottles and nipples are labeled "dishwasher safe," you can also run them through the dishwasher.

The Best Sterilization Methods

There are plenty of options when it comes to sterilizing baby bottles and nipples before their first use—from good old-fashioned boiling to electric steam baby bottle sterilizers. Note that these same techniques can also be used for sippy cups and pacifiers.

  • Boiling Water. Submerge bottles, nipples, caps, and rings in a pot of clean boiling water for at least five minutes. Ideally, this pot should only be used for sterilization or, at the very least, cleaned thoroughly prior to adding the baby bottle.
  • Cold Water. Adding a sterilizing tablet or solution to a container filled with tap water is another easy method. Wash equipment with warm, soapy water, rinse with cold water and submerge in a container with lid for 15 minutes.
  • Electric Steamers. Available in many different shapes and sizes, electric bottle sterilizers use high-temperature steam to kill any bacteria or germs on your baby's feeding equipment. It's as easy as plugging it in, loading the equipment (with openings facing down), and pressing a button.
  • Microwave. You can also purchase a microwave steam sterilizer to wash your bottles. Fill them halfway with water and microwave for about about two minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave. Nipples and rings can be placed in water in a microwave-safe bowl. With either method, first, make sure that your microwave is clean and free of any food residue.

Some Doctors Prefer Routine Bottle Sterilization

Some doctors may still recommend routine sterilization of baby bottles and nipples. If your healthcare provider recommends this, don't be afraid to question why this practice is necessary.

Sterilization takes more time than regular cleaning so it's worth investigating why your doctor suggests it before committing to the practice.

While some doctors may know that the water supply in your area is not up to par, others may be advising sterilization out of habit. In most cases, unless there is a specific issue with your local water supply or a particular concern relating to your child's health such as a compromised immune system, health experts say that routine sterilization is unnecessary.

New Bottles Are Best

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration effectively banned the use of bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups after the chemical was linked to developmental problems in young children.

New bottles bought from reputable retailers should be BPA-free, but hand-me-down or used bottles may not be and should be avoided. When heated, these older plastic bottles can leach BPA into your baby's formula or milk.​

Aside from the first sterilization, there is no need for routine sterilization of bottles beyond hot soapy water or time in a dishwasher. In fact, if you're using older plastic bottles, constant sterilization via boiling can potentially cause BPA to leach into the liquid contents over time.

A Word From Verywell

In the end, deciding how (and how often) to sanitize your baby's feeding equipment is entirely up to you. The important thing to know is that in most cases, there is no need to routinely sterilize your baby bottles and nipples unless there is a medical reason or your baby is still a newborn (under 3 months).

If you have any lingering concerns, talk to your pediatrician about what method is right for your family, lifestyle, and comfort level.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to Sterilize and Warm Baby Bottles Safely.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to Clean, Sanitize, and Store Infant Feeding Items. Updated October 31, 2018.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to clean, sanitize, and store infant feeding items. Updated October 2018.

  4. Federal Register. Indirect food additives: Polymers. A rule by the Food and Drug Administration. Updated July 2012.

  5. Braun JM, Hauser R. Bisphenol A and children's healthCurr Opin Pediatr. 2011;23(2):233–239. doi:10.1097/MOP.0b013e3283445675

  6. Moghadam ZA, Mirlohi M, Pourzamani H, Malekpour A, Amininoor Z, Merasi MR. Exposure assessment of Bisphenol A intake from polymeric baby bottles in formula-fed infants aged less than one year. Toxicol Rep. 2015;2:1273-1280. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2015.09.002

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