Parents do so much to ensure the safety of their little ones. Once you’ve spent the time picking the safest bottle material for your baby – see our best baby bottles guide – it’s important to ensure you know how to properly clean and sterilise your baby’s bottles too.
Why sterilising is necessary
Cleaning and sterilising are very different processes: whilst cleaning removes foreign particles like formula, milk and dirt, sterilisation eliminates all forms of life.
Babies have under-developed immune systems, and so sterilising baby bottles and teats is important for protecting babies from bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens that can make babies sick. It is especially important for baby bottles because milk is a material which grows some of the nastiest pathogens.
How often to sterilise baby bottles
Baby bottles should be sterilised every time they’re used. It is best to sterilise bottles immediately before they are filled with milk, however if necessary, they can be sterilised in advance.
You need to clean the bottle before you sterilise it. The best way is to clean the bottle straight after your baby has finished feeding, and then sterilise before the bottle needs using again.
How to clean baby bottles after each use
After your baby has finished feeding, wash your hands with soapy water and dry with a clean towel. Carefully check the teats for any cracks – bacteria can grow in these cracks and so damaged teats should be thrown away and replaced. Wash the bottle in hot soapy water, using a bottle brush to scrub inside bottles and teats. Squirt water through the teats to clean the hole. Once clean, rinse the equipment with some fresh water and allow it to air dry.
This is important for getting rid of all the traces of milk or formula left inside the bottles but this method does not make your bottles completely germ-free. Once your bottles are clean, they are ready to be sterilised when they need using again.
How long to sterilise baby bottles
This really depends on which method you choose. If using a steam steriliser you must read the manufacture instructions. If boiling, the bottle should be submerged in boiling water for 10 minutes. Instructions for each of the methods can be found below.
How to sterilise baby bottles
There are a few different methods to sterilise baby bottles.
Boiling sterilises baby bottles using heat, raising the temperature high enough to kill any bacteria left over from washing. It is important to check that the bottles and teats are able to be boiled safely first, as some materials should not be soaked in boiling water.
With this method, the items should be completely submerged, with no air bubbles inside any of the bottles or teats, and the water should be brought to the boil for 10 minutes. The items should be left in the pot until ready to be filled or stored in a sterilised container in the fridge, but the bottles and teats must be used within 24 hours of boiling or else they will need sterilising again.
This method is great because it’s cheap and doesn’t require any specialised equipment, but may lead to faster degradation of the teat.
- STEAM (MICROWAVE OR ELECTRIC STERILISERS)
Steaming works much like boiling, raising the temperature high enough to kill bacteria, but may be a better option for materials like glass or rubber that cannot be soaked in boiling water. You can use microwave or electric steam sterilisers, and in both instances the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed carefully. Bottles and teats should be thoroughly cleaned before sterilising and placed with their openings facing down in the steriliser. If you are not using the bottles straight away check the instructions for how long they can be left in the steriliser.
This method is simple to use and does not degrade bottles and teats as quickly as the boiling or chemical methods do. However, some equipment is not suitable to be microwaves, such as anything metal. Caution should also be taken around steam, which can scald as badly as boiling water.
- USING A COLD WATER STERILISING SOLUTION
It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Leave feeding equipment in the sterilising solution for at least 30 minutes and change the sterilising solution every 24 hours. Make sure there are no air bubbles trapped in the bottles or teats when putting them in the sterilising solution. Your steriliser should have a floating cover or a plunger to keep all the equipment under the solution.
- Always wash your hands before feeding your baby or handling any of the feeding equipment
- Regularly inspect baby bottle teats for cracks or tears to avoid germ contamination
- Ensure the surfaces on which you prepare your bottles are clean
- Safely store and transport all formula and breast milk in a cooler, and do not reheat
- Do not leave hot liquids unattended or within reach of children
- Avoid heat sterilisation for any bottles or teats which contain BPA as it can cause the harmful BPA to leach more rapidly – check out our guide to the best baby bottles to compare our favourite plastic free options