Now that I've confessed to my general confusion about what bottles to use in the age of plastic, let's talk about easier stuff- like keeping them under control.
1- Get a bottle count
"Knowing is half the battle," thus spoke GI Joe. A bottle count is the first step in knowing a bottle is busy congealing under the driver's seat, skulking among the condiments, or threatening to leak into your bag. When we washed the bottles, we'd check to see all were present. If one was missing, we would send out a search party. Our top three AWOL locations: 1- Diaper bag; 2- Hidden in the fridge; and 3- Somewhere in the car.
2- Wash by hand (or machine, but we don't have any tips for that)
Okay, this may be too much for most people, but a friend's high-power dishwasher took the incremental markings off her children's bottles and the designs off the sippy cups. Our dishwasher doesn't even take the food off the plates with regularity, but it makes us look like we have a better dishwasher when I hand wash the bottles. Actually, the detergent used in hand washing is gentler than the dishwasher powder (many of which contain chlorine in some form) and (in the case of my dishwasher) the wash is more thorough when hand washed.
Washing by hand also saves water- hot water- the conservation of which lowers your energy bill.
2A- Use a second inner tub to wash in. My stainless steel sink chills the hot water in a heartbeat, so I use a smaller plastic tub in the basin to wash in. This has been particularly helpful with bottles that have small parts (like Dr. Brown's) or clear parts (clear bottle nipples and sippy cup valves, straws, and disks). If you lose one in the wash water, you'll see it when you dump the tub into the sink. It's a safeguard that's kept us from losing essential parts into the in-sink disposal.
2B- Bottle brushes are well worth the expense. We have a great Munchkin bottle brush with a suction cup bottom to help it stand and a smaller nipple brush (I cringe at the searches Google will now direct to this site) on board. This one is great for the tall bottles, but doesn't do as well when the neck has lots of crevices and ledges. The Avent bottle brush is great for clearing those bottles.
2C- I found it easiest to wash by component types so I didn't have to keep changing brushes all the time. Ordering them from largest to smallest components also makes it easier to fit everything on the drying rack (handy if you have the counter space). Bottles, lids, necks, rings, inner parts (Dr. Brown's), nipples.
2D- Group the components by brand and type. That way if I was holding an Avent bottle, I knew where to look for the appropriate parts and they weren't buried under other parts for other brands. No sorting required when a hungry baby is screaming like a hyena.
3- Assemble clean bottles and store somewhere accessible
Assemble the clean, dry parts and put them somewhere you can find them readily. For storage, we put a huge trifle bowl on top of the fridge. The clear glass let us easily survey how many clean bottles we had left without even standing on tip-toe.
Just a short comment on hand washing. It is a good recommendation to cook your bottles occasionally to make sure to disinfect the bottles. Since the handwashing is done in a lower temperature there is a slight risk of bacteria surviving. This is especially important when it comes to newborns.
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