Bottle Maintenance

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How do you get your bottle nipples clean?

Feb 2002

I am using Avent stage 1 nipples for bottled breast milk and hand wash them in scalding hot water with dish soap and really scrub them with a bottle scrub brush. Although they appear clean and scum free when I am done it never fails once they are dry they still have a film on the inside (the milk fat I guess). Do others have this problem? Is it safe to use them like that? Can someone recommend a better way of cleaning them? Thank you. new mom

I use Dawn liquid detergent and scalding hot water. I have found that this is the only detergent that succesfully removes all of the oil breastmilk leaves in bottles and nipples, but the water MUST be hot for it to work well. If anyone at home other than myself washes her bottles and nipples, I find that I always end up having to re-wash them because of the oily film. I soak them in the hot, soapy water for a few minutes to melt the oil down, then scrub, then rinse in scalding hot water. Everything comes out sparkly, just like in the commercials.

I am not familiar with the nipples you use, but keep in mind that rubber nipples and pacfiers visibly ''wear out'' and look and eventually feel dirty no matter how clean they actually are. I had to throw out some of my daughter's favorite pacifiers because they always seemed sticky - the rubber had been washed so much in hot water it was beginning to break down. I use silicone nipples, and they come clean everytime. Anonymous

I boil both nipples and bottles for a few minutes whenever they start to look yucky. Liz

I, too, used the Avent nipples and noticed a bit of residue after washing. One thing that helped with me was a nipple scrubber. It's similar to a bottle scrubber but much smaller, so you can scrub the nipples themselves. (The only problem with it was that you could poke through the nipple hole and tear it.) I found the nipple scrubber at the grocery store (I live in the South Bay), usually in a package with a bottle scrubber. I believe Gerber made it. However, I think a lot of what you're seeing is aesthetics and will not harm your baby. The most important thing when Baby is young is killing the bacteria, and if you're washing with soapy water and rinsing with hot water (or using a bottle cleaner or the dishwasher), you should be OK. Gwynne

Oh, I'm so glad those days are behind me (the breast pumping and bottle washing)! The only way I could get silicon Nuk nipples scum-free was to boil them after a complete washing and often that didn't work! I gave up and just used the ''cloudy'' ones, and it never seemed to harm my baby. I even called the company (Evenflo), and they said they'd never heard of that problem before but suggested a vinegar rinse (to no avail). Jenne

Sterilizing bottles: is it necessary?

May 2002

We are adopting an infant from Guatemala. Since I breastfed my first child, I have a question about using bottles: is it necessary to sterilize bottles after each use? Would it be sufficient to wash the bottle in hot soapy water, or use the dishwasher? I have seen bottle sterilizers (both for in and out of the microwave), and wonder if they are necessary or a waste of money. Thanks for any input that you can offer. Michelle

No, it is not necessary, according to our pediatrician and pretty much everyone else we've talked to. Do sterilize new bottles before the first time you use them (by boiling them in a pot of water). Nomi

Here's what BabyCenter says in an article called ''Bottle-feeding basics'' (
Do I need to sterilize the bottles? Before you first use new bottles, nipples, and rings, you should sterilize them by submerging them in a pot of boiling water for at least five minutes. Then allow them to dry on a clean towel. After that, a good cleaning in hot, soapy water, or a cycle through the dishwasher is sufficient. One caveat: If you have well water, repeated sterilization of the bottles may be best.
P.S. I work at BabyCenter (it's in San Francisco). All BabyCenter articles are checked by our medical advisory board. --Dana

I am now pumping for my second child. For my first I sterililzed the bottles and pumping stuff for six weeks, but I then noticed she was putting unsterlized clothes, teethers, etc., in her mouth, and just started running things through the dishwasher. For my second child, I sterlized everything just once, and then used the dishwasher. I don't think sterilization is necessary, unless there are some special health concerns. Even when I was pumping in the hospital (2nd baby was early, and couldn't breastfeed immediately), I was simply washing the equipment by hand, which the both NICU personnel and my doctors thought was just fine.

After an initial boil when the nipples/bottles/caps are brand new from the store, a dishwasher should be all that is necessary to sterilize and clean the equipment. For pumping and storing breastmilk, a dishwasher with a sterile cycle was a must for the bottles and ''pumping cones'' (ie, washing in hot, soapy water was not enough if milk was going to be in containers for more than 30 minutes even if refrigerated or frozen), and I often boiled everything once a week just to make sure -- when I boiled the pump tubing. KB

Both our kids are adopted and we have never sterilized bottles in the U.S. We did when traveling in Mexico with an infant, due to questionable water. In the U.S. soap and water or the dishwasher was always fine. Amy

All I've read indicates that it's usually not necessary to sterilize bottles. The practice of sterilizing bottles dates from the time in which water supplies were unreliable and could be contaminated. I do not as a matter of course sterilize either the bottles or the pump equipment that I use to express milk for my 6-weeks old daughter, and have not had any problems yet. This said, there are situations in which sterilizing bottles might be indicated, your best bet is to consult your new baby's Dr. anonymous

When I started working again, about a month ago, I was wondering if I should sterilize bottles for breast milk. I asked neighbors and my son's doctor. My neighbors said they always sterilized bottles by boiling them for 20 min. and said this was a bit of a pain. One of my neighbors was able to borrow a sterilizer and thought it was great. However, my son's doctor said that soap and water is good enough and so that is all that I have been doing. So far we've had no problems even with storing the breast milk in those bottles for up to 5 days. I think that with formula you wouldn't have a problem either. helen

you should sterilize bottles before their first usage. afterwards, it is usually sufficient to wash them as you would other dishware. suzie

Washing the bottles thoroughly and making sure they have a way to dry should be sufficient. We also became parents through adoption, and had no problems in months of bottle use. At first, I sterilized bottles and nipples once before using them for the first time, but after that, we just washed them by hand or in the dishwasher. I think that when we bought more bottles later I just washed them before use. You can get a plastic lidded basket that holds the caps and nipples to keep them from getting lost in the dishwasher. We also found a bottle drying rack helpful. Both items are inexpensive. By the way, we also found it unnecessary to boil the water first when making formula--our pediatrician told us that EBMUD water is clean enough so that we could use it from the tap. Again, no problems (we used bottled water or pre-made formula when camping and on trips). Happy adoption! Lisa

I don't think it is necessary to sterilize bottles after every use. Not to mention who has the time to do that. I sterilize my bottles initially and then wash them in hot soapy water after use, air dry. If it makes you feel better you could sterilze them once a week or once a month. Joelle

Tomato Stains on baby bottles

Feb 2002

Does anyone know how to restore nipples and other plastic/rubber bottle parts to their original color? I accidently washed the nipples in the dishwasher with a plate that had tomato-based food on it. The clear nipples turned light pink. Any suggestions are appreciated. alexis

If it's plastic, one thing that works for me with plastic tupperware-style containers is just to set it in direct sunlight for a few hours. Sounds crazy, but it works. It feels a little greasy afterwards, so I always wash it, but the stain fades surprisingly well. Karen

About the tomato stains - I get tomato stains out of clothes by washing normally and hanging them in the sun to dry (this works for baby poop stains, too). It might work on baby bottle nipples, too. Louise