Why Do I Have to Sterilise my Baby's Bottles?
Sterilising is the process of sanitising your baby's bottles and other feeding equipment such as teats and retaining rings, so that they are safe for your baby to use. It's important to do this because babies are very vulnerable to illnesses, due to their immune system not yet being fully developed. Parasites, bacteria and germs will collect on your baby's bottles unless you sterilise them.
How to Sterilise:
Wash before sterilising
Before sterilising your baby's bottles, wash them well in hot, soapy water using a bottle brush. Rinse the bottles well in cold, running water. You also need to wash and sterilise the teat, lid, and retaining rings. Make sure that all traces of milk have come off, as sterilising won't remove these. Try to clean your baby's bottles as soon as possible after you've used them. This will give germs less time to breed and make it easier to get dried milk off the bottle and teats.
Steam and microwave sterilising
There are two types of steam sterilisers: electric and microwave steamers. Electric steamers take 8-12 minutes to sterilise equipment and usually hold 6 bottles. You can also put dummies, teats and other feeding equipment in electric and microwavable sterilisers. Bottles and teats need to be placed upside down in electric sterilisers, with teats placed upright so the steam can get inside them. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure you are using the equipment properly. The instructions will also advise you how long equipment will stay sterilised, when not in use, before it needs to be sterilised again.
Microwave steamers take around 3-8 minutes. If you keep them in the steamer with the lid on, they should stay sterile for 3 hours, but check the manufacturer's instructions. You can also sterilise bottles in the microwave on their own, as long as they are microwave safe. Never put sealed bottles in the microwave as pressure will build up inside the bottle.
You can sterilise your baby's bottles by boiling them for ten minutes in a clean saucepan, making sure the bottles and teats stay under water. Once you have finished boiling them, put the teat and lid on the bottle and store them. Let the bottles and teats cool down before you feed your baby with them. This is the cheapest method of sterilising, but boiling does wear out teats faster than other methods, so you'll need to replace them more often. Boiling pans of water can is also a hazard in the house if you have other children, so never leave pans unattended. Check regularly for wear and tear of teats, and replace when you notice discoloration, thinning of the teat, tears, stickiness or swelling. Teats should be replaced every 2/3 months even if you don't see any visible signs of deterioration.
Cold water sterilising
This method is of sterilising requires you to dissolve a sterilising tablet, or solution, into cold water and place your bottles and teats in the water for at least 30 minutes. Make sure they are fully submerged and don't have any trapped air bubbles. Sterilising solution should be changed every 24 hours. Make sure the container you sterilise the bottles in is clean. Put a lid over it to keep the bottles from popping up out of the water.
Can I use the Dishwasher to Sterilise Bottles?
You can sterilise your bottles in the dishwasher, but only if you put it on a very hot wash, at least 80 degrees Celsius. Any colder than this and the germs won't be killed. If you do use your dishwasher for bottles, you still need to wash them out before putting them in the dishwasher, with a bottle brush and hot soapy water. Take care to remove any dried milk curds, especially on the teat and retaining ring where they often collect.
How Long Should I Keep Sterilising My Baby's Feeding Equipment?
You should keep sterilising your baby's feeding equipment until he is a year old. After this, washing bottles well using a clean bottle brush with very hot, soapy water will suffice. You can also put them in the dishwasher, providing they are dishwasher safe after you've washed them manually.
I don't sterilise toys, why bottles?
It might seem a bit pointless washing and sterilising all your baby's feeding equipment, only to have your baby put anything and everything into her mouth! It's important to sterilise bottles, rather than toys however, as bacteria collects and multiplies wherever liquid is. Milk, especially, harbours very nasty bacteria if not sterilised properly. Even water beakers should be sterilised until your baby is a year old, as mould can grow on beakers if not thoroughly washed.
Toys don't have to be sterilised, but give them a wash with soap and hot water every now and then to keep them clean. You don't need to clean toys every time your baby uses them, and they will be dropped on the floor within minutes anyway! Just keep your house generally clean and give toys a wash when you think they need it. If they are dishwasher safe they can be put through the dishwasher, and soft toys can go in the washing machine to freshen them up and get rid of dust mites.