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How to sterilise baby bottles

When you have had your first baby, there are lots of new processes that you need to carry out in order to keep them safe whilst feeding and keep all of the equipment hygienic. One of those things is your baby’s bottles – but it can be difficult to know how to sterilise baby bottles. Your baby will use these multiple times a day – making them one of the most important things to keep as clean as possible. As your little one is developing, it’s really important that they are not exposed to any harmful bacteria. At this young age, they will struggle to fight off illnesses as easily as adults do.

You may be wondering what the process is to sterilise your baby’s bottles and how often you should be doing it. There’s no need to worry anymore – we’ve got all of your questions covered in our handy blog. 

What does sterilisation mean?

Sterilising an object means making it completely free from bacteria or other living microorganisms. Bacteria can come from anywhere and forms very easily. Your feeding equipment, especially bottles, travel around with you every day and therefore are exposed to more bacteria than other things. If your baby is exposed to any of these bacteria that could potentially make them sick, it may be hard for them to fight it off. 

how to sterilise baby bottles

Why do I need to sterilise baby bottles and feeding equipment?

Sterilising is a process carried out in order to protect your baby from harmful bacteria. One of the most common illnesses that sterilising protects your baby from is vomiting and diarrhea. Whilst adults’ immune systems are able to handle this and get rid of the illness, it can be more difficult for a baby as their immune system is not fully developed yet. It’s not just bottles that you need to sterilise, it’s important to sterilise all equipment that’s used for feeding. This includes equipment used for storing, collecting, and feeding. 

It’s much easier for harmful bacteria to form in milk than some other liquids. This is because it’s the ideal breeding ground for it. Therefore, every time your bottles or feeding equipment is used, it must be fully sterilised before being used again.

how to sterilise baby bottles

Should baby bottles and equipment be washed before sterilising them?

Although sterilisation will remove harmful bacteria, it’s still best to wash them before you do this. Washing the baby bottles and equipment ensures that the top layer has been cleaned and allows sterilisation to penetrate the deeper surfaces and remove any harmful bacteria that you cannot see. After you have expressed milk or fed your little one, you should place the items used in warm, soapy water as soon as possible. This ensures that there is no time for harmful bacteria to begin forming.

If equipment is just left after you have used it, it will give it more of a chance to develop some nasty bacteria. This is more likely too if you leave it in a warm area or where the sun is shining. The warmth creates a perfect environment for bacteria to form. Although you will be sterilising the equipment and bottles, it’s better to avoid an increase in bacteria if you can.

Once the bottles and equipment are in the warm, soapy water, wash them using a sponge or scrubbing brush to remove any left-over milk and to clean the outer layer. Some parents also choose to place the bottles and teats in the dishwasher to clean them. You should make sure that these items are positioned facing down otherwise they can fill with dirty water and will need washing again afterward. 

We advise that you handwash baby bottles and feeding equipment as it means you will be able to reach every part with a sponge or brush. After you have washed the items, whether this is in the dishwasher or sink, you should run them under cold water before sterilising. This ensures that any soap suds have been washed off fully and to prepare the items for sterilisation.

You should never choose to only wash your baby feeding equipment before using it again. Just using warm, soapy water does not remove all harmful bacteria and can make your little one sick. Make sure you never skip the sterilisation process, even if it does seem like a pain to do.

You should continue sterilising your baby’s bottles and feeding equipment until they are at least 12 months old. By this time, their immune system should be developed enough to fight any bacteria that they come into contact with. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop sterilising there and then if you feel that you would like to continue with it, there is nothing stopping you. 

how to sterilise baby bottles

What are the different ways of sterilisation?

When it comes to sterilisation, there’s no one method that is more effective than the other. However, there are a few different ways in which you can choose from. It all comes down to the method that is best suited for you and fits into your schedule. Depending on which method you choose to go with, it can have an effect on how often you need to sterilise baby bottles and equipment. It’s also a good idea to take into consideration the space you have to sterilise equipment. If you only have a small space to work with, you may need to change your method.

Cold water sterilisation

This method of sterilisation involves using chemical tablets to make up a sterilising solution – you can also buy the solution ready-made if you want to. The process involves submerging the bottles and equipment in cold water for 30 minutes before placing them into the solution. Once they are in, you can leave them in there for up to 24 hours – just make sure you check the time specified on the packaging. Some parents don’t like the idea of using chemicals to sterilise baby bottles, but we can assure you that they are fully safe for you and your baby. They are an effective way of dissolving any bacteria and keeping your little one safe. This method allows you to sterilise in large bathes, here’s how you do it:

  1. Make sure you have a clean, water-tight container ready to go. This is what you will use to sterilise the equipment so make sure it has been washed down before using. 
  • Make up the sterilisation solution. This is usually very similar across different brands. However, it’s important to read the instructions to make sure it is made up correctly and is safe for your baby. It’s best to buy a solution that is very well known and popular with parents. You will then feel assured that you are using something completely safe and tested.
  • Place the items you would like to sterilise into the container with the solution. Have a look around the container and check to see if there are any big air bubbles. If there are, move the items around to pop these air bubbles until you are satisfied that there are none or at least very tiny ones. It’s important that the items are fully submerged for the entire time – use a lid or plate to hold them down for the duration.
  • Leave the items in the sterilisation solution for the time specified on the packaging. Different brands can vary but are usually very similar. You should also check how often you should change the solution too.
  • You should remove the items you want to use immediately before you use them for your baby. Rinse them in cooled boiled water from a kettle. It’s important that you don’t use tap water for this. Boiled water will kill any bacteria and won’t contaminate the bottles again. 
how to sterilise baby bottles

Steam sterilisers

Steam sterilisers can be a convenient option when you’re traveling or if you don’t have to sterilise very often. This option isn’t best if you’re looking to sterilise a lot of items in one go. You can buy different types of steam sterilisers. Some of them can be used in the microwave whereas others simply connect up to the mains. They are super handy to have, even if you don’t use them lots. 

Steam sterilisers vary in price. Whilst some are cheap to pick up, bigger and more well-known brands will cost slightly more. However, it isn’t something you need to have – but is great if you find you’re struggling with the sterilisation process.

A steam steriliser is very easy to use, just follow the steps below:

  1. Always follow the instructions on the steam steriliser you purchase. Depending on what you buy, instructions may vary, and you want to make sure that you carry out the process safely and properly. Also, check to see how long it will take to sterilise items. This will help you organise your schedule.
  2. When you place the bottles and teats into the steriliser, make sure they are facing down. This will ensure they are sterilised properly, and every inch of the item will be fully cleaned.
  • Although it’s not essential, we would still recommend rinsing the bottles and teats after they come out of the steriliser with cooled boiled water. This will just ensure they are fully ready for use. 

Boiling water

This method is probably the easiest way of sterilising if you don’t want to use a machine or chemicals to do it for you. This process only uses boiling water to sterilise your equipment. Some parents find this way of sterilising much easier to do in the earlier stages of their baby’s development as they may not need to sterilise as often. 

Boiling water also means that you can choose to sterilise in big bathes or just do a couple of items at a time. This really does give you the option to go wherever you want with it. Whether you’re at home or staying with family or friends, this process can be carried out. 

Using boiling water is also much quicker than other methods. If you find that you need a bottle but have none sterilised, this option is great to make sure you have one as soon as possible! Find out how you can sterilise your baby bottles using boiling water below:

  1. Heat up a saucepan of water and bring it to a boil. The size of the saucepan depends on how many items you would like to sterilise at once. Be careful not to overfill the saucepan as this may result in overflowing and potentially burning yourself.
  • Gather the items you would like to sterilise and submerge them into the boiling water. Use a clean utensil to help push them into the water to avoid any injuries. To keep them under the water, you can use a saucepan lid to ensure they are fully sterilised. 
  • Leave the items in the water for at least 10 minutes. You can leave them in for longer, but we wouldn’t recommend too long as this may cause damage to the bottles. 
  • Remove your items and use immediately to ensure you are making the most out of sterilisation. 

You should note that if you only use this method of sterilisation for your bottles and equipment, you may find that you need to replace them more often. Heat can cause damage to materials over time. You may find that this option is only best for you when you’re in a hurry.

how to sterilise baby bottles

What do I do after sterilising bottles and equipment?

As we have mentioned, you can leave your bottles to sterilise until you need to use them. However, if you’re planning on going out and about, how can you ensure that your bottle stays sterilised before use? Once you take them out of the steriliser, you need to put the teats and lids on immediately to ensure so bacteria get inside of the bottle or onto the teat. Once the lid is firmly on, the inside of the bottle will be safe to use when you need it. 

However, we don’t advise that you leave a bottle like this for more than a day. If you’re planning on going out, use bottles that have finished sterilising that day and make sure that when you come home, they are washed and put back into the steriliser for when you need them next. 

If you are at home and are using your bottles immediately after the sterilisation process, clean down the area that will be used to prepare the bottle and make sure your hands are clean. 

You should not leave bottles out for a long period of time after they have been sterilised as it doesn’t take much for bacteria to begin forming. Stay on the safe side and always have your bottles prepared and ready to go in the steriliser.

What should I do with leftover milk - formula and breastmilk?

Your baby won’t always finish their bottle and it’s very important to know whether they can still have this at another time. We have got your answers for both formula milk and expressed breastmilk:

  • Formula milk – Formula milk is not sterile and is essential that it is made up to the instructions on the packaging. When made up correctly, any microorganisms will be eradicated. If your baby hasn’t finished their bottle and leaves enough for them to have again, you should not use this. Formula milk can start growing bacteria at a fast rate once it has been left in the bottle for a period of time. Instead of taking a big risk, throw it away and sterilise your bottle.
  • Expressed breastmilk – Breastmilk is very different from formula and contains ingredients that limit the growth of bacteria. However, this doesn’t mean it’s safe to use over and over again. You will need to store the milk correctly to make sure there is no dangerous bacteria growth that could hurt your little one. If your baby leaves some breastmilk in the bottle, you should throw this away after 1 hour. After this amount of time, the breastmilk can start forming harmful bacteria. Follow the same process with washing and sterilising your bottle before using it again.

Overall, sterilising your baby’s bottles is essential to keep them healthy and away from any harmful bacteria. It may feel difficult at first to get into a routine, but after some time, it will become natural. Find the option and process that is easiest for you to make life easier. 

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