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Clean Bottles and Pacifiers

The best news you'll likely hear all day: Unless you use well water, you don't have to sterilize bottles and pacifiers. Ever. Not before their first use. Not even for preemies. "It's an outdated practice held over from when we didn't have safe water supplies in this country," says Steven Shelov, M.D., editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics's book Caring for Your Baby and Young Child. What you need to know:

You still have to clean them. Wash bottles and pacis thoroughly either in the dishwasher (on the top rack) or by hand with soap and water before every use, including the first. Bacteria can grow in liquid left at the bottom of bottles.

Go BPA-free. Exposing bottles that contain bisphenol A -- a plastic additive that may be linked to health problems -- to heat (in a microwave or dishwasher) may cause them to leach more of this chemical into your baby's milk. To skip this risk, avoid BPA (many manufacturers no longer use it anyhow).

Wash your hands. The biggest threats to the purity of bottles are your germy fingers. That's why, in neonatal intensive care units, they don't sterilize bottles, but they do scrub up often.

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