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When you're stumbling out of bed at 3 a.m., the last thing you want to worry about is if your baby's bottle is clean.

I've been in the unfortunate situation of desperately needing to feed the baby in the middle of the night. Trust me, in the midst of tears and tantrums, you don’t want to reach into the cupboard and find that — horror of horrors — there are no clean bottles left.

If you’re new to parenting, you’ll want to make sure you always have a stockpile of clean bottles on hand. Here’s how to sterilize them.

Sterilizing Baby Bottles

You’re probably wondering, do we need to sterilize baby bottles anymore?

The answer is both yes and no. Sterilizing baby bottles used to be a bigger concern for doctors than it is now. Luckily, in the United States, sanitation and water quality have improved.

Parents also aren’t only relying on powdered formula, but using different options for feeding baby. For these reasons, you don’t need to sterilize bottles every day.

That being said, baby bottles are still a potential source of contamination. It's important to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep all feeding supplies clean.

Here are a few rules to follow.

1. Wash Hands

Always wash your hands before feeding your baby or getting a bottle ready. And don't forget to wash up after diaper changes.

2. Keep Nipples Clean

No, we're not talking about breast-feeding here. Baby bottle nipples are a major source of germ contamination. Regularly inspect nipples for cracks or tears. Dispose of any that are damaged.

To clean baby nipples, scrub them in hot, soapy water, then rinse. You can also boil the nipples for 5 minutes in water to sterilize them. But simple hot water and soap should be enough to get them clean.

3. Wash Supplies

Don’t forget to clean the top of the formula container. Just think how many hands have touched that thing! You’ll also want to regularly wipe down the area where you fix the bottles. Clean any spoons and the storage containers where you stash baby supplies.

4. Transport Safely

Safely storing and transporting formula and breast milk might be the most important thing you can do to reduce your baby's risk of drinking from a dirty bottle.

Make sure all formula and breast milk is properly stored, transported in a cooler, and disposed of safely. No reusing formula or refreezing that milk, people!

Products for Sterilizing Baby Bottles

UVI Cube

This nifty household sanitizer is the stuff of my germaphobic nurse dreams. It uses UV light to eliminate 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria. From remotes to toys, it takes care of sterilizing pretty much anything in your house. For bottles, it has two racks for holding up to seven baby bottles and tops.

Buy it here.

Evenflo Feeding Classic Glass Twist Bottles

With our fourth baby, I discovered glass baby bottles. With glass, I love not having to worry about harmful plastic chemicals in the baby's system. I also know if I sterilize them in the dishwasher, I don't have to worry about the plastic breaking down. And it's a lot easier to see missed spots on a glass bottle if I happen to hand-wash them.

Buy them on Amazon.

Your Dishwasher

If I have a bottle that’s in need of some heavy duty scrubbing, I run the "sterilizing" mode on my dishwasher. Most models have this option.

This cycle option uses very high heat and steam to sterilize the contents. It's a great option for sterilizing baby bottles if you're not in a hurry. Remember, sometimes the cycle takes a good hour or so.

If you don't have an actual sterilizing option on your dishwasher, just wash and then choose the high heat drying cycle. And be careful — the bottles will be very hot when you open the door.

Munchkin Steam Guard Microwave Sterilizer

When I had my first child, we lived in an apartment and didn’t have a dishwasher. I was thrilled when we were gifted with a microwave baby bottle sterilizer. I loved that thing because let's face it: Sometimes my hand-washing was a bit lackluster. I knew this would ensure that our bottles were clean enough.

Buy it on Amazon.