How Often Should I Replace Baby Bottle Nipples?

Dear Gran,

I’m bottle feeding my baby. My mom’s been driving me crazy, telling me bottles have to be sterilized after every use. She wants me to treat the nipples like they’re disposable, saying I should replace them every week. I keep telling her the experts say baby bottles can be washed in the dishwasher, but she acts horrified. I’m all for cleanliness, but isn’t the constant sterilization overkill? I’m determined to do what’s best for my baby, but I’m at my wits end from lack of sleep as it is. I’d love to tell my mother what you have to say.


Dear Frazzled Fran,

Congrats on the new little love! I understand the excitement and anxiety surrounding this precious life you’re now responsible for.

Assuming your dishwasher works and reaches the recommended high temperature, I’d have to say I agree with you – to a point. Baby bottles do require occasional sterilization, though, especially if your baby’s immune system is compromised from a doctor’s visit. You’ll want to give them a good soak in some boiling water anytime you buy new bottles, too.

Those experts who say baby bottle nipples should be replaced even every three months usually stand to make a profit from that advice, whether by sales or by advertising. What really matters is that your baby bottle gear is clean and in good repair. As long as baby is able to drink from the nipple without excess leakage or without undue strain, the nipple should be fine to keep using.

Of course, the type of nipple will determine its longevity. Clear nipples hold up longer and work more efficiently than those rubbery brown ones, even though they can sometimes tear when used as a teether by sore-gummed babies. I’ve never had good outcomes with the brown nipples, but my grandchildren have been using Dr. Brown’s bottles with clear nipples and those have lasted for over a year, especially if the baby hasn’t started teething.

When you squeeze the bottle nipple, if you see any tiny cracks, it’s time to replace the nipple. If you turn the securely closed bottle upside down and milk drips out, it’s also time to replace. If neither of these are true and everything’s been kept clean, you should be fine continuing to use the nipple.

While you’ll want to sterilize the bottles and nipples, you’re right to use the dishwasher for regular cleaning. Scrubbing with a rag or brush is a sure way to ruin a nipple. The dishwasher, if available, is much gentler.

Most important is that you don’t let a small thing like baby bottles build a wall between you and your mum. She cares for you just as you care for your child, and the more appreciation you give her, the more likely she’ll be to listen when your wishes differ from her instinct. I learned the hard way: listening to my mother doesn’t always mean agreeing, but it doesn’t have to end in a battle. Sometimes it’s best to nod, smile, and thank her concern than to alienate your mum when you need her support most.

I hope this helps! Enjoy that baby!

Gran Landers