Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to Wash and Prep Bottles for Multiples

Over the past year, I've come across several moms who were trying to figure out the best way to get through all of the bottles that need to be washed and filled everyday. I know. It's a daunting, tedious task. Especially when there is no end in sight.

When the kids first came home, they were going through 7 bottles each per day. Unfortunately, we had to use (and still do) the Dr. Browns bottles because the kids had such issues with reflux and aspiration. They are awesome bottles, but they also have the most parts.

Per feeding it was: 
4 bottles
4 stems
4 vents
4 rings
4 nipples

That's 20 parts per feeding! Multiply that by 7, and we were at 140 bottle parts to wash per day. Yikes!

While it's true that we are slowly but surely coming to the end of our bottle days (hopefully within the next month or so!), I did want to make sure that I wrote this down for other moms who are looking for the streamlined version of bottle washing and prepping.

And for those of you who were just you go!

The Bottle Washing/Prepping Station
Dirty bottles go in on the left hand side of the sink and emerge with formula to the right of the crockpot.

Section 1: The Washing

Sink filled with used bottles.

First, take the bottles apart and separate each piece. Then rinse the bottles and throw those in the top rack of the dishwasher. The bottle parts all go in a big pot (in direct proportion to the number of multiples that you have). We use this giant stock pot that we borrowed from my parents when the babies came home.

See the water leftover from the last round of washing? We leave the water in the pot between washings for the pieces to soak. To wash the bottles, first drain all of the soaking water out.

Then add in dish washing liquid and the hottest tap water you can get.

Swish it all around with your hand.

And rinse each piece under hot water.

Everything goes to the right of the sink on a clean towel to drain. You can use one of those bottle drying racks, but we would need 3 of them to get everything on there. I just set them on the towel since we go through them so fast.
Tip: Switch out the towel on a fairly regular basis. It can get kinda gross from being water logged so much! I wipe down my counter with a Clorox wipe every time I change the towel to keep bacteria at bay.

Wait a second! Where is the part where you boil water or use the little bags by Medela to sanitize everything?

That is an excellent question.

I understand that typically people do sanitize everything between bottle feedings. But typically people only have one baby at a time. Here's how I see it: My kids all roll around on the same floor, chew on the same toys, sit on each other's heads (as much as I try to keep that from happening), and all use the nearest burp cloth that is handy when there is a spit up without regard to who used it last. Germs are definitely shared at our house which is why we try so hard to keep the germs that are coming into the house at bay. So we do the dunk and swish method to keep up with all of the bottles and once in a long while I run them through boiling water for good measure. Probably not the most sterile way to go about it, but sometimes we have to adjust for reality.

Section 2: The Prepping

Directly to the right of the draining towel is our bottle prepping area. We keep a crockpot on "warm" all day to use for mass bottle warming. Pop the bottles in there about 15 minutes before feeding time, and you are good to go! We also keep daily medications and vitamins for the kids here along with their tubs of multigrain and rice cereal. We also keep Abby's miralax here. Poor thing!

A nice group of clean bottles and a mixing pitcher ready to be used! Since we are down to three bottle feedings a day, I'm only filling 12 bottles. Obviously, if you are doing more, make more! Keep in mind that powdered formula is good for 24 hours after being mixed and plan accordingly.

Another view of the bottle prepping station. Notice that the extra towel is there to keep the mixing mess to a minimum. Just shake it over the sink after making bottles to dispose of any spilled powder.

12 filled bottles ready to go in the refrigerator! The hardest part about this is making sure you have the correct bottle for the correct baby at the correct time. I fill all of one baby's bottles before moving on to the next. Then I line them up on the counter in order, or put them away in the refrigerator as they are made.

We designated the top shelf of our refrigerator for bottles and extra formula for cereal. Below each bottle, I taped the name of the baby who gets that row. I did this way back when they first came home so that helpers would know exactly which one belonged to each baby. Grab one from each row, pop in the crockpot 15 minutes before feeding (times may vary by crockpot), assemble the vent, stem, ring, and nipple along with any thickeners, extra formula for calories, or vitamins, and you are good to go!

Do all of this a few times and it becomes second nature. I'm pretty sure that Sean and I can do it in our sleep now. We often tag team the bottle prepping with one of us filling the pitcher and measuring out the powdered formula and the other pouring the bottles.

I would love to hear how our method works for you if you try it! Please leave a comment if you do give it a whirl...or swish! :)


In other news, we are down to our last three days of the Top 25 Moms of Multiples Blog Contest!

Don't forget that you can vote once every 24 hours until the contest ends on Wednesday at 3pm central time. Right now we are in second place, and we would love your vote! And thanks for putting up with the reminders for the last couple of weeks. It's been quite the race!


  1. Oh, my GOODNESS!!! We are at 28 weeks 1 day with Amber expecting quads! We certainly have our work cut our for us.

    GREAT post and thank you SO much for the info.
    YOU are nearly finished and SHE is just about to start!

    1. That is so awesome that Amber has made it to 28 weeks, 1 day! She has officially made it 2 days longer than we did! Many prayers are being sent her way for a very long pregnancy! :-)

      So glad you liked the post, and hopefully it's helpful as you help Amber set up her own system in a couple of months!

  2. WOW! With twins I just rinsed out with hot water and that was it... this would have been great to know even for just our two babies!

    I'm curious... do all 4 babies sleep through the night?

    1. for the most part everyone has been sleeping through the night since last August. every now and then one will wake up (normally Abby). When one is teething, it can keep them up through the night, but normally the kids enjoy their sleep. We try to keep them pretty active during the day. This helps quite a bit.

    2. Yes, they do sleep through the night most of the time. They started doing that about 2 1/2 months after they came they were about 5 1/2 months old. We tend to hit rough patches every so often with teething or night terrors, but right now we are in a good patch and so grateful for that! :)

  3. I only have one little guy, and we only rinsed with hot water (after soaking in soapy water)....with no ill effects that I have seen! :) Your system is impressive! You moms of multiples amaze me.

    1. Thanks for your comment! We just do our best to stay organized and certainly have borrowed bits and pieces of advice from multiple parents that have gone before us!

  4. Yeah in my 14 years of babysitting and nannying everyone i knew just either hand washed in hot water or threw them in the dishwasher - I thought boiling was a thing of the past. ;-)

    Awesome system!!!

    1. Thanks, Didi! Between nannying and babysitting, I'm sure you've washed your fair share of bottles! :)

  5. That is a lot of work and I DEF. do not do all of that. For my twins, I sterilize the bottle, wash them and that is it. To prep, I boil water in a huge pan and put in a huge jug and when needed, I pour the amount in their bottles, the required scoop, shake and then go. I use to have bottle ready to go but then I thought I was wasting time. To take the bottles out of the fridge, warm them and then put them in the bottles was not working. Now, I just warm the bottles if I see the water is too cold and then serve. Much easier for me.

    1. So glad you found a method that works for you! Those shortcuts are a must for multiples mamas!

      I know that every family is different and so are the needs of the kids. For our kids, we had to add thickeners and extra calories, etc. Every single bottle was different, and with quads, I needed to be able to do the majority of the bottle prep when I had a backup person around. Our method is simply one that has worked for us over the past year. And I'm sure that it can even be improved on further!

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. That is a great system. I wish I'd seen it when I was using those bottles. We just had one for each baby and then washed the bottles after each use (labeled with a sharpy and masking tape on the bottom and sides of the cup). You have it down to a science! Thank you for sharing and linking to Multiples Monday on Capri + 3.

    : 0 ) Theresa

    1. Sounds like you method is a great way to keep the overwhelming number of bottles needed to a minimum! And aren't sharpies the best things ever?!?! I have them all over the house. :)

  7. Found you by linking up with Capri +3 (though I missed linking myself up this week). I did the exact same thing with my triplets. LOVED that pitcher. We had one of those white tubs we threw dirty bottles in & just washed one big load each day. Oh.... I don't miss those days! Well, not that part of it anyways ;)

    1. It's kinda just a matter of survival! But there are so many wonderful things about these days too. :)


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