I know I went into great detail in my post about the microwave sterilizer, but I’m sort of a germ nut. So, here’s how my process sort of went for cleaning bottles and nipples:
1 1. First use a sponge brush on the bottles and nipples to clean them out.
2. Wash in dishwasher (use sterilize cycle, if possible).
3. Sterilize items in the microwave sterilizer.
4. When possible, allow items to dry inside of the microwave sterilizer or on the drying rack, rather than reintroducing germs by drying with a towel or paper towel.
The initial washing with the sponge brush was because breast milk separates when it sits (either at room temperature or in the fridge).
Ideally, you can mix all of this fatty thick layer back in with the breast milk before feeding it to a baby, but there are times when there are some milk fat hangers-on that stay on the side of the bottle. If they’ve been there all day (if, say, daycare didn’t get it out of there when they gave your child a bottle at 9 a.m., and it’s now 5 p.m. when you’re cleaning it), this doesn’t always rinse out all that well with just water – which is where the sponge brush comes in.
Originally we tried one of the really general, cheap sponge brushes that you can get – we used a Munchkin, runs about $3.80 at Target (LINK):
The problem with this is that it has bristles. Bristles work great on something like, say, a griddle – you can easily access all areas on a griddle with your hand, everything that is on there really requires a lot of elbow grease to remove, and it’s okay if you leave some residue, as it will wash off easily if you put it in the dishwasher (or wash it in the sink). A bottle isn’t really the same at all, in my opinion – even with my tiny little-kid-sized hands, I can’t get my hands all of the way into most bottles on the market, especially not while holding a rag or brush. The creamy milk fat that gets stuck in there is gunky and slimy enough that it always seemed to me like the individual bristles of a brush would get most of it, but not all (unless I sat there and spun it around for 5 minutes straight). I did not feel like it was a good idea to leave any of that residue inside of the bottle, because the sprayer jets in a dishwasher (see step 2) don’t usually spray at just the right angle to get inside of a bottle and clean the entire circumference.
So, I scrapped the brush with bristles. Since it was less than $4, I didn’t mind just keeping it as a backup, or to use on wine glasses (were we to ever drink or have people over who didn’t need to use sippy cups). I did some research, and found this brush by Born Free (LINK):
It’s a sponge wrapped around another sponge. Since there are no individual bristles, this just swept the inside of the bottle as if I were able to get my hands down in there to clean it by hand with a rag. Since it’s one contiguous piece, it grabs up all of the milk cream. Rinse the sponge between bottles, and you can easily and quickly clean out several bottles’ worth in just a few seconds.
If we had fed Pickle spaghetti sauce or something in her bottle, I think the bristle brush would have been more useful. But since the milk cream is so filmy and slick, the sponge brush was a much, much better purchase, in my opinion.