We all know that newborn babies do have a weaker immune system than us adults. Infants are more likely to get infections and also have a harder time getting rid of it in general.
Because of that, one of the most important things caregivers need to be aware of when caring for a newborn baby is how to protect children from bacteria and viruses.
Luckly, children don’t seem to be very affected from COVID but there are still plenty of viruses and bacteria that us as caregivers should be concerned about. And one way to keep germs away from our precious little things is as simple as to keep things clean.
Something that is especially important to keep clean are pacifiers and baby bottles. Pacifiers and baby bottles are in constant and direct contact with your baby’s mouth, making it very easy for virus or bacteria to enter the body.
Should pacifiers and baby bottles be sterilized?
To protect your child (and also yourself) from viruses and bacteria, it is good to keep all that is in your child’s vicinity germ-free. Of course, this should not be taken to an extreme point with an obsessive behavior of cleaning everything, in other words, don’t be a germ freak.
In order to properly get rid of all viruses and bacteria, you have to consider these two steps. One is cleaning, the other is sterilization. Cleaning something thoroughly with soap and warm water will get it almost 100% free of all germs. Sterilization is that final push. That step that will get you to a germ free environment and protect your baby from harmful viruses and bacteria.
Sterilization is almost a science in itself. There are many different methods you can use to achieve it. In healthcare, ultrasound is often used to sterilize equipment, but at home, cooking is usually preferred. Items that can be boiled can be sterilized by boiling for a few minutes. In that sense, sterilization is a bit more time consuming than a regular dishwashing, but what is really best?
Opinions usually differ on whether you really need to sterilize pacifiers and baby bottles or if it is just ok to wash them properly.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly states in their website that sanitization combined with regular washing will result in extra germ removal.
However, the CDC also states that if you do own a dishwasher with hot water (with a heating drying cycle) then an extra sanitizing step is not necessary!
To be on the safe side, the CDC recommendation is that caregivers should sterilize their feeding baby items once daily especially for babies younger than 3 months!
When should pacifiers and baby bottles be sterilized?
Based on the same recommendations we went through in the paragraph above, you should consider sanitizing your baby feeding items in the following cases:
- In case of illness. If the child is ill or many in the child’s vicinity are ill, hygiene is always extra important. Then it can be good to sterilize the bottles and pacifiers to protect both the baby and you around.
- New pacifiers and baby bottles. When you buy a new pacifier or baby bottle, it is often stated on the packaging that the pacifier or bottle must be sterilized before it is used. This is mainly to avoid bringing home bacteria and viruses from the store.
- If several children use the same bottle. In some cases, it happens that several children use the same bottle, ie if you have twins or for some other reason several small children at the same time. Then it can be good to keep the bottles apart between the children, or alternatively sterilize them from time to time to protect the children.
When to clean pacifiers and baby bottles?
According to the CDC, sterilization is not a must, but they still recommend that you keep pacifiers and baby bottles clean. When to clean the bottles then?
- After use. Each time a bottle has been used for milk or formula, the bottle should be washed. If this is not done, there is a risk that bacteria will start growing in the leftovers of the baby’s food. Pacifiers can also be cleaned after each use, although this can be difficult in practice. However, be sure to be extra careful in case of colds and other illness.
- If the bottle or pacifier was in a bag. If you have taken the pacifier or baby bottle out but not necessarily used, it can be good to wash it anyway. When the bottle or pacifier has been in a bag for some time, there is a risk that something may have ended up on it. At least a quick rinse under warm water is needed to be on the safe side.
How do you sterilize pacifiers and baby bottles?
Now that we know a little better about when to clean your bottles and pacifiers, it’s time to go through how to do it. Let’s start by going through how to sterilize pacifiers and baby bottles, i.e. how to ensure that all viruses and bacteria die safely.
Boil pacifiers and baby bottles
The most common and most beloved method of sterilizing baby things is by boiling them. It is an easy and accessible way to get the job done. All it takes is some time.
When boiling pacifiers to sterilize them, you simply put them in a big pot with boiling water and leave them there for about 5 minutes. The size of the pot does not matter much, but make sure you have plenty of space for both the pacifiers and bottles and the water, of course. It is a fairly straightforward process, but there are some things to keep in mind.
The first is to make sure that the bottles and pacifiers can be boiled. This is often stated on the packaging or on the item itself. Most pacifiers and baby bottles sold today can be boiled without a problem – but it is best to be on the safe side by double checking.
The second most important thing is to remember not to leave the pacifiers on the stove. There are several horror stories about houses that have burned down due to forgotten pacifiers on the stove😱. If the water boils away (which happens faster than you think) then there is a risk that the pacifiers start to boil dry catch fire. If you keep an eye on the stove and not “just run down to the laundry room while the water is boiling”, you can reduce the risk of this type of accident.
Sanitize in the microwave
To make the whole thing even easier you can also sterilize pacifiers in the microwave. In theory, it would also work with whole bottles, but since they are often larger, it becomes difficult in practice.
When sterilizing pacifiers in the micron, it is often easiest to do in a sterilization box. Many pacifiers that you buy come with a box, but in some cases you have to buy one on the side.
Sterilizing pacifiers in the microwave works in the same way as cooking them on the stove. The box is filled with water, the micron makes the water boil and bacteria + viruses die.
Some pacifiers brands sell their pacifiers together with sterilizing boxes, check out MAM , for example. On their website you can read how to use the boxes. However, there are some pacifiers that should not be sterilized in microwaves, if this is the case, it should be stated either on the pacifier itself or its packaging.
Another alternative is a product that Philips has developed in the form of bags that are used in the microwave. In just 90 seconds in the microwave, 99.9% of harmful bacteria are killed. The bags can be used for bottles, pacifiers and parts for a breast pump. Each package contains 5 bags that can be used 20 times each. BUY THEM HERE
If you do not have a sterilization box or bag, you can fill a glass or jar with water and put the pacifier in there to run in the micron, but then it can be good to leave it a little longer to be completely on the safe side.
Smart gadgets for sterilizing pacifiers and baby bottles
If you do not want to boil or microwave the pacifiers and baby bottles, there are more options. Today there are electric and UV sterilizers to buy that you can sterilize both bottles and pacifiers in.
Electric sterilizers for bottles and pacifiers
With the help of steam, you can sterilize bottles and pacifiers, which is what the electric sterilizers available on the market do. These types of machines are both safe and easy to use.
Philips has an electric sterilizer that can sterilize up to 6 of their own Avent bottles at the same time. You can also put pacifiers and other baby accessories in the machine and get them sterile in 6 minutes. The sterilizer is available for purchase HERE.
UV Light Sanitizer for baby bottles
The reason why we all have to wear sun cream when we go to the beach is to protect ourselves from UV light. UV light is a type of light that has slightly more energy than the light we can actually see and therefore can be harmful for humans.
But that is the thing. UV light is not only harmful for humans. It is harmful for all life forms, including viruses and bacteria. So, some smart people put a UV light source safely shielded and protected in a box so we can use it as an efficient high tech sterilizer.
There are some very popular options on Amazon and if you are like me and also love some baby tech, make sure you check it out here.
Clean pacifiers and baby bottles
What do you do when it is not time to sterilize bottles and pacifiers but still want to keep them clean? Well, washing dishes and cleaning then work just as well.
The baby’s pacifier should preferably be cleaned before each use. The easiest way to do this is to rinse the pacifier with lukewarm water. If soap or detergent is used, there is a risk of giving the pacifier a bad taste, which is not pleasant for the child. A simple rinse works great. Make sure you wash your hands at the same time. Instead, be sure to sterilize the pacifier if the baby is sick, but otherwise the cleaning works just as well.
Basically, the bottle should be washed after each time it is used! One thing we try to do always at home is to wash it right after our baby girl is done eating. This way we won’t need to halfass wash the bottle in a moment of crisis, like when the baby is really hungry.
When it is time to wash the bottle, it can be done either by hand or in the dishwasher(provided the bottle can machine washable, see packaging). Regardless of how you choose to wash the bottle, it is good to first rinse it out with cold water. It will help to start removing the rest of breastmilk / formula even before you apply the detergent.
After rinsing the bottle, you should properly wash it either in a dishwasher or by hand with hot water. If you want to wash by hand, it can be good to use a bottle brush to help clean it more thoroughly (see picture above). Be sure to wash all the edges of the bottle, such as the threads where the pacifier is screwed on.
Some people choose to always wash the pacifier by hand, and the bottle itself in the machine. It is easier to make sure that you really get to all edges and corners if you wash by hand, and some pacifiers can not even withstand the dishwasher. Make sure to read about if you may wash your bottle in the dishwasher checking its packaging.
After you are done washing it let it air dry. It is better than wiping it with some old dish towel that may itself contain lots of bacteria!
Remove limescale in baby bottle
When it comes to cleaning bottles, be on the lookout for limescale. If you have high levels of lime in the water – which is common if you have your own well or live in an area with a lot of lime, limescale deposits can form on bottles and pacifiers.
Breast milk is also calcium-rich and sometimes leaves deposits that do not simply go away in the dishwasher.
The deposits appear as white traces after the bottle has been in contact with water. The deposits are not dangerous, but it does not look very nice and it is best to avoid them.
How do you get rid of limescale deposits in the baby bottle?
If it is difficult to wash away deposits that are too tight, vinegar can help. By boiling the bottle / pacifier in vinegar and water, you can get rid of the deposits, otherwise you can leave the bottle with a mixture of vinegar + water for a while and then wash the bottle as usual. To avoid the deposits, you can boil you baby items every now and then with a little vinegar in the water.
Can limescale in baby bottles be avoided?
Wiping your recently washed baby bottles instead of letting them dry will prevent limescale deposits from forming. However, as we said before, it is better to let them dry naturally to avoid contact with infected dish towels.
So, yes! Air drying is best to avoid bacteria. But if you still want to actively dry it make sure to use a fresh towel that you use exclusively for your baby items or use disposable napkins. You should therefore absolutely not wipe the bottle with the usual kitchen towel you have for everything in the kitchen and for other dishes.
The conclusion here is that: if you have the opportunity to let things air dry, it is best, but if you want to get rid of the deposits, then you should separate some exclusive fresh dish towels to use on your baby bottles.
Keep bottles and pacifiers clean and protect your baby
With these tips on how to keep bottles and pacifiers clean, I hope we have helped you to know exactly what you need to do to keep your baby safe from germs. We all want the very best for our children, and cleaning and sanitizing their items properly are definitely a part of it.
To conclude this post, I thought I would discuss a few more things you can do to reduce the risk of infection in babies:
- Wash your hands. You might have heard it one thousand times during the pandemics, but washing your hands is incredibly important. Before you handle your baby items, prepare their food, play with them, etc., you can never wash your hands too often. With this simple gesture you are doing a lot to keep your loved ones from germs and bacteria.
- Wash clothes after contact with other people. Especially in these times, it can be good to make sure to change clothes more often. Not just for your baby but for yourself. That applies especially when you and your partner come home from work, or for any prolonged time outside.
- Let the baby take part in your immune system. We talk a lot about protecting babies by keeping good hygiene and reducing contact with other people, but there is another way to protect babies. Newborns have a weak immune system, but they do inherit a bit of it from their moms. Even at birth, some of the mother’s bacterial flora is given to the baby, but you can continue with it at home as well. By having close skin-to-skin contact, you can train your loved one’s immune system in a safe way!