Keeping your baby’s pacifiers, teethers, nipples, bottles, etc… clean is key to keeping your baby healthy and well.  Each parent has a different opinion as to what constitutes “clean”.  This opinion will largely drive your preferred method. That being said, here is a quick list of some of the more popular methods used to clean our baby’s “stuff”.

  • Soap and Water
  • Steam Sterilizer
  • Boiling
  • Dishwasher
  • Mom or Dad sucking on the Pacifier

Obviously, some of these are easier to implement than others.  Urgency plays a large factor in the approach taken.  The other factor is perceived effectiveness.  We will go over each and discuss the pros and cons we found on each, so you can decide for yourself.

Mom or Dad sucking on the Pacifier

There is no questioning the ease and simplicity of simply popping your baby’s pacifier into your mouth and sucking off any debris or germs that it may have collected.  There has been a study that suggests introducing your saliva to your baby could prevent the development of allergies such as asthma and eczema (AAP.org) http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/6/e1829.abstract .  I wouldn’t get too excited about this because though there are studies showing that saliva can help, many medical professionals warn against this method as this is also how you can spread viruses to your baby at a critical time when their immune systems have not fully developed. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/pacifiers/art-20048140

Pros: could possibly prevent some allergies – very easy to implement.

Cons: your baby could contract viruses and harmful bacteria from you – most medical professionals recommend you don’t take this approach.

Soap and Water

This is a close second in terms of ease to implement.  You can always pop into a bathroom, even when you are on the go.  Washing with soap and running water is a very effective way to get rid of most of the germs.  After all, it is what you do for yourself whenever your hands get dirty or you are about to put something in your mouth.  Washing with soap and water is typically considered more effective than antibacterial wipes.

Pros: very easy to implement – quick – effective

Cons: it may not get rid of all germs or bacteria

Steam Sterilizers

This method has similar effects to boiling.  It kills germs and bacteria by exposing them to high temperatures.  Note: you must still wash your baby’s pacifiers with soap and water before you put them in the sterilizer to remove the bulk of the germs.  The sterilizer will kill the rest (mostly).   Sterilizing is particularly useful if you don’t have reliable clean water.  There is a wide range of models available that cost $15 – $100.  The less expensive varieties are typically used with the aid of a microwave and require some additional steps in the sterilization process. The more expensive options are just load-and-click.

Pros: will kill any bacteria missed after washing with soap and water – easier than boiling – very important if you don’t have a reliable clean water source.

Cons: when it comes to pacifiers, the “virtually bacteria free” badge only lasts a moment.  Once the pacifier is removed from the sterilizer it will be as clean as your hands and your babies hands and/or anything else that touches it (which is a lot).

Boiling

Boiling is the best way to kill germs.  You can expose the germs to higher heat for long durations when boiling.  You don’t need to buy anything additional to implement this method of cleaning.  You do need to make sure, as with sterilizers, that your products are safe to boil.  Products exposed to this method of sterilization must be able to handle high temperatures without breaking down leaching chemicals.  Refer to your product packaging and/or the manufacturer’s website to confirm they have used third-party testing to confirm their product is safe to boil.

Pros: best way to kill bacteria – no upfront cost to implement – very important if you don’t have a reliable clean water source

Cons: when it comes to pacifiers, as with sterilization, the bacteria-free badge only lasts a moment.  Once the pacifier is removed from the sterilizer it will be as clean as your hands and your babies hands and/or anything else that touches it (which is a lot).  It is the most time-consuming method of cleaning your baby’s products. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/crying-colic/Pages/Pacifiers-Satisfying-Your-Babys-Needs.aspx .The extremely high temperatures may not be recommended for some products; therefore, causing more harm than good. In addition, it is extremely important that you ensure all water is drained from the pacifier after boiling and that it is completely cool before you give it to your baby.

Dishwasher

This is a very desirable method of cleaning your baby’s pacifiers and other products that go in their mouth.  It’s not quite as effective at killing bacteria as steam sterilization and boiling but is more thorough than washing it with soap and water or popping the pacifier in your mouth.  It is certainly a much easier approach to batch cleaning than all the other options.  Most people run their dishwasher every day. There are a few things to be mindful of.  It may or may not be as effective at cleaning if something in the dishwasher is obstructing the water flow.  This could prevent the detergent and water from hitting your pacifier, bottles, nipples or teethers.  You also must be cautious of the potential for detergent residue left on your baby’s pacifier, teether, nipples, bottles, etc….  If you use this approach it is advisable to rinse your baby’s products by hand afterwards.

Pros: you can clean a lot of items at once – it is usually effective (assuming there is nothing obstructing water flow).

Cons: you still need to rinse by hand after the wash cycle – its only practical to do once a day – must still check with your manufacturer to ensure your products can withstand higher temperatures and harsh detergents associated with dishwashers.  It is the longest cleaning process, in terms of time.

What to do?

Now that you know some of the more popular methods for cleaning products your babies put in their mouth, you can decide what will work best for you and your baby.   For every study or source that promotes something, there seems to be a study or source that states otherwise. You will likely use all of these methods sometime or another (except, perhaps, cleaning our baby’s pacifier by sucking on it).

WARNING 1 – Make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care.  Some products will explicitly state you should not boil, use sterilizers, or put in a dishwasher (or use top rack only).  If you aren’t sure, check the manufacturer’s website or the packaging for the product.

WARNING 2 – With any cleaning approach you use, thoroughly inspect all of your baby’s products for any signs of wear and tear prior to each use. If you see any signs, discard the product and replace it.