Baby bottles are a necessity whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby. There are a lot of choices when it comes to design and function when buying baby bottles but one of the most important things to consider is durability. The good kinds of feeding bottles can cost up to $7 or more each. Ideally, the bottles should last until your baby is fully weaned off the bottle but lack of proper care can significantly reduce its lifetime.

Here are some tips to help make baby feeding bottles last longer:

1. Rinse right away. If you are not going to wash the bottle right after a feeding, at least rinse it with water to prevent accumulation of bacteria. Bacteria can develop in only a few hours, especially in warmer climates. Bacteria and spoiled milk may leave an odor to baby bottles which can linger permanently, particularly in plastic bottles.

2. Replace worn out bottles. There is no specific guideline as to how long baby bottles will last for. Some say nipples need to be changed every 3-4 months and bottles every 8 months or so. In reality, it’s up to the parent’s judgement. However, it’s important to check the condition of the baby bottle and its parts regularly. Damaged nipples and cloudy bottles absolutely need to be replaced.

3. Do not add holes on nipples. Bottle nipples are designed to suit different stages of a baby’s appetite. As your child moves from one stage to another, the amount of milk he needs increases. This requires the need for faster flowing nipples. Adding additional holes on slow flow nipples is not recommended because it can damage the nipple material and may cause choking due to small parts falling off or too much liquid flow.

4. Do not microwave bottles. Never use a microwave to heat your baby’s milk. It can cause scalding and may damage the feeding bottle. A microwave heats the core of the bottle, so it may not feel warm on the outside when you take it out of the oven but the liquid could be very hot after testing a few drips on the inside of your wrist. Too much heating can also result to cracked or cloudy bottles. Instead of heating the milk in a microwave, use a standard bottle warmer instead.

5. Wash gently. Some bottles are dishwasher safe, but even if they are, it’s still a good precaution to hand wash them for thorough cleaning. When washing the bottles, use a soft sponge or bottle brush with a mild antibacterial soap. Don’t use a hard scouring pad or a strong dish washing soap as these may facilitate the breakdown of chemicals particularly in plastic feeding bottles. Sterilize the bottles using an electric steam sterilizer or boil them for at least 2 minutes. Remember to use a bottle rack when boiling bottles to prevent the bottles from melting on the sides of the pot.

6. Dedicate bottles. Assign specific bottles for exclusive use with milk, juice and water. This will prevent them from accumulating a smell or left over flavor. Some juices leave a tinge of color or taste on the bottle that the evidence may still be left even after washing it. This can cause the baby to refuse a feeding because the milk or water tastes different. To prevent other bottles from meeting the same fate, dedicate particular bottles for every drink.

Proper care of baby bottles is not only important for aesthetic reasons, it can also be helpful in keeping your baby safe and sanitized. When baby bottles are well taken care of they may still be in good shape until your next child arrives.