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A good feeding regime for babies involves a strong cycle of preparing milk or formula in a clean and hygienic bottle, satisfying your child’s hunger, cleaning out the bottles, and going again the next time they need a feed. The cleaning part is the most annoying because of the effort that goes into sterilizing bottles and making sure there is always a clean and dry bottle ready for use. But, while you may be tempted to cut corners by rinsing out bottles instead, this isn’t a good idea.
Can I rinse and reuse baby bottles?
It is understandable if there is the temptation to just rinse out a baby bottle and refill it for the next feed. You are using the same formula or milk, so there is no risk of any contamination of ingredients, and the bottle isn’t being used by anyone else in the meantime. Rinsing out a bottle should allow you to get rid of most of the old formula before refilling the bottle in a few hours.
However, rinsing isn’t the same as cleaning. There is a good chance that some of the previous feed will remain in the bottle, even if it has been diluted by the water. This can lead to dangerous health risks, especially if this then mixes with the new feed when refilling the bottle. So, it is important to get into the habit of cleaning your baby bottles after every use.
What are the dangers of not washing baby bottles?
The problem of leaving baby bottles out unwashed is that they can harbor all kinds of bacteria and germs. Rinsing a baby bottle out will remove a lot of the old formula or milk, but some will remain in the water left behind. This could still be enough to create a health hazard. If you then refill the bottle with a new feed, your baby will ingest that contaminated water and old formula and potentially become sick. The longer you leave a bottle out between feeds, the higher the risk of contamination as the bacteria can multiply significantly.
There are many different viruses and illnesses that can occur when you leave baby bottles out without washing them properly. Viral Gastroenteritis is a big risk from unclean bottles and can be very dangerous for babies that can’t deal with the vomiting and diarrhea as a result. Some babies also end up with Rotavirus and even Hepatitis A.
The latter can be very dangerous to your child’s liver. There is also the risk that dangerous bacteria like E-coli and salmonella could end up on baby bottles if they are present in your kitchen. This is a good reason to be extra careful with disinfecting your kitchen when cleaning and preparing the feed.
There is also the fact that you don’t know who else has come into contact with the bottle if it is left on the counter of the kitchen. Another family member may pick it up and move it, potentially transferring any germs or bacteria on their hands onto the bottle at the same time.
This could be a big problem if that person is dealing with a cold, gastroenteritis, or some other similar condition. Bacteria or germs on their hands could get onto the bottle and pass onto the baby in the next feed. Anyone dealing with any kind of sickness shouldn’t go near a baby bottle at all. They can also undo the careful sterilization process by contaminating the bottle when preparing the next feed.
Here is a video from Intermountainmoms, if you wish to watch it!
Do you have to wash bottles before putting them in a dishwasher?
It is a good idea to at least rinse your baby bottle before putting them in the dishwasher. This pre-washing process can get rid of any leftover milk or formula that could start to go bad. You might think that the dishwashing cycle alone will be enough to clean out the bottles thoroughly, especially when doing so with safe dish soap and a hot enough temperature.
But, a dishwasher cycle doesn’t allow for the same sort of scrubbing action and intensive clean that you can get by hand. So, any bacteria-ridden old formula left to harden in the crevices may not come off as well without pre-rinsing or soaking. There is also the fact that there may be a lengthy period between using the bottle and setting up the machine at the end of the day.
Washing baby bottles in dishwasher with other dishes.
Another important consideration with washing baby bottles in the dishwasher is that there are other dishes in the cycle. These can add a mix of food waste, germs, oil, and more to the water in the dishwasher. So, is it better to wash baby bottles on their own cycle? The answer depends on the amount and the type of food waste.
There is a risk that oils could transfer over to the bottle so they don’t quite end up as clean as they could be. It is always a good idea to check over the bottle and its related parts to make sure they are up to your standards before using them again.
Also, remember that you will have a better experience washing the bottles at the top of the machine and if you keep all the small parts together in a mesh bag. That mesh should keep these delicate pieces together, reduce the risk of damage, and keep out the worst of the food waste.
Is it better to wash bottles by hand and focus on sterilization?
There are pros and cons to using a dishwasher for cleaning out baby bottles. They can be a more convenient way to clean lots of items at once with a good temperature and rinsing action for a good result. However, you are also left with a collection of bottles to clean at the end of the day, rather than a more efficient conveyor belt system of washing, drying, and using a bottle so there is always something ready to go. It all takes more effort but it is worth it. Hand washing also gives you the chance to switch between washing and sterilizing the bottles as needed.
How to clean baby bottles after each use?
If you decide that it is better to go for the hand-washing process over dishwashing, you need to create the best routine. First of all, you need to take the bottles apart so that you can clean everything properly. Detach the nipples and remove any inserts where possible. This makes it easier to rinse and clean each element so no dirt or bacteria is left behind. If just a few drops of formula leak into the thread for the screw-on nipple or get left in the vent, that could become a dangerous host for bacteria.
You also want to make sure you have the best possible dish soap and a good bottle scrubbing brush. An effective and safe soap will disinfect the bottle parts without leaving any dangerous chemicals or residue behind. The right brush will help you get into the hard-to-reach places.
Get into the habit of doing this after every feed and leaving the bottle to dry out. Also, make sure the rest of the family knows how to clean baby bottles correctly. They may be able to help out by washing up a bottle for you after a feed, but that is only helpful if done correctly.
Over-boiling baby bottles during sterilization.
Sterilization is just as important for health and safety. You don’t need to do this after every feed. But, it is still a good idea to create another routine for sterilizing your bottles in a deeper clean. The best way to do this is with a dedicated hygienic sterilization unit. These can take that deep cleaning up for further protection. Some mothers still use the boiling method, perhaps because this is what their own mothers did with their bottles.
However, there is no need for this when steam cleaning and regular scrubbing work so well. Boiling is time-consuming and you run the risk of damaging the different parts over time because of the high temperatures. Over-boiling could affect the structure of the bottle or cause damage to silicone parts that later results in an unpleasant texture or leaks.
Creating the best cleaning regime for your baby bottles.
In short, you are better off-putting in the work to create a good hand-washing regime where you clean after every feed. Cleaning bottles every time means you are less likely to see a build-up of dirt and germs and are assured a more hygienic feed every time. Hand-washing also lets you scrub the bottles effectively and make sure they are completely clean without the risks of washing them in the dishwasher with other dishes.
Small consistent cleaning efforts do pay off and make it more likely that you have something ready to use for the next feed. Also, you have a better chance of encouraging family members to help out with small consistent efforts to give you more of a break.