As parents, our highest priorities are keeping our children safe and healthy and sterilising baby bottles is one key way we can protect our little ones.
We’re all also aware of the added expenses that arise when we ‘start a family’. So, when we invest in tools, like baby bottles, that will help us care for our children, we want them to last a long time. That’s why it’s important to not only sterilise baby bottles, but to also choose the best sterilisation method for the bottles we have chosen.
In this article, we’ll examine the 4 top ways of sterilising baby bottles and help you choose a method that will also prolong the life of your bottles.
I’ve said that sterilising baby bottles is a key way of keeping babies safe but you may be wondering why it helps. Indeed, your mother and grandmother most likely used boiling water to sterilise baby bottles (if they used them) but nowadays, some doctors are saying that this is no longer necessary as our drinking water is so much safer. So, is it really necessary?
It is true that many parents and some pediatricians have become less concerned about sterilising baby bottles as well as the water that is used to make up baby formula. However, many are rethinking this reasoning due to contaminated city water supplies in some areas.
As such, sterilising baby bottles and teats is still widely regarded as important for protecting babies from bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens that can make babies sick. Sterilising your baby’s bottles may help protect Bub from illnesses such as thrush, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Babies need to be cared for in this way because their immune systems are under-developed. For instance, a 12-month-old still only has 15-17% of an adult level of the IgA immunoglobulin, which is important for fighting the bacteria that causes gastro.
Now, I can hear you thinking that sterilisation must be pointless once Bub starts putting everything in his/her mouth but this isn’t the case. You see, milk is a good material for growing some of the nastiest pathogens so unsterilised bottles have the potential to make your baby very sick.
Note that cleaning, disinfecting and sterilising are different processes. Cleaning removes foreign particles like formula, milk and dirt. Disinfecting destroys pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms and removes most organisms from the surface of an item. Only sterilisation eliminates all forms of life including ‘transmissible agents’ such as spores.
Baby bottles should be sterilised every time they’re used, ideally directly before they are filled with formula, expressed breast milk or any other liquid. You can, however, sterilise them a little in advance if required; the exact length of time depends on the sterilisation method.
The National Health Service (NHS) advises caregivers to sterilise all baby feeding equipment until Bub is at least 12 months old.
All your baby’s feeding equipment should be sterilised. This includes bottles and all their components (such as collars), teats, lids, seals and any travel containers (when you’re going to use them). If you express breast milk, you also need to sterilise the components of your breast pump (follow the manufacturer's directions about which components need to be sterilised and for advice on how to carry out the process). Pacifiers can be sterilised too.
To make this article easier to read I refer to sterilising bottles and teats throughout, but I use these terms to represent all of the above items.
There are two main ways to sterilise baby bottles and teats. You can either treat them with a disinfectant that is also capable of sterilising them or you can heat them. The top 4 methods are described below.
Note that most dishwashers do not get hot enough to sterilise baby feeding equipment thus I don’t discuss it in this article.
Boiling is the most basic method of sterilising using heat. To sterilise your baby bottles and teats by boiling them, follow these steps:
All Minbie products can be sterilised by boiling. I recommend using this method at least the first time you sterilise a Minbie bottle and teats.
Cold-sterilisation chemicals work by disinfecting bottle feeding equipment. There are a range of sterilising chemicals available. Some are ready-made liquids, others are dissolvable powders and some manufacturers sell effervescent tablets. The active agent varies but many products rely on sodium hypochlorite or sodium dichloroisocyanurate for their disinfectant properties. In order for these chemicals to disinfect and sterilise baby bottles and teats, the instructions on the product must be followed to the letter.
To sterilise using one of these products, follow these steps:
You should wash the container you use to sterilise your bottles with warm soapy water before filling it with each batch of fresh sterilisation solution. Don’t store cold-sterialisation liquid in a metal container otherwise, the chemicals will slowly eat away at the metal.
This sterilisation method can be used on Minbie teats and plastic bottles (and associated parts). You must not put glass Minbie bottles in cold-sterilisation chemicals.
Microwave sterilisation uses steam (heat) to sterilize baby bottles and teats. You’ll get the best results if you purchase a sterilisation unit that is designed to be used to sterilize baby bottles in a microwave.
To use these sterilisers, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Be especially careful that you use the correct power setting on your microwave. If you don’t, you may melt your baby bottles and teats. You should also ensure you position all bottles and teats with the openings facing downwards in the steriliser. If you’re not using the sterilised items immediately, you can store them in the sterilising unit provided you leave it sealed but consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how long you can do this for.
Never put your baby feeding equipment directly into the microwave to sterilise it; not only will it not effectively sterilise your bottles and teats, but it will likely damage them as well. You should also ensure you never microwave metal items inside a microwave steriliser.
This sterilisation method can be used on Minbie teats and bottles.
Electric sterilisers make sterilising baby bottles and teats very easy as they automate most of the process. Like microwave sterilisation, they use steam to kill microorganisms.
To use an electric steriliser, put your clean baby bottles and teats into the unit and then add clean water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then simply switch the unit on and it should automatically turn off when it’s done its job. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out how long sterilised items can be left in the unopened unit before they need to be re-sterilised.
This sterilisation method can be used on Minbie teats and bottles.
Sterilising baby bottles and teats is only effective if every component of the bottle (teats, collars, the bottle itself) as well as everything that comes into contact with the bottle (your hands and any bottle lids or seals that might be used to mix formula) are clean. So be sure to sterilise any utensils you might use to make up formula. And be sure to always wash your hands thoroughly before you touch sterilised bottles and teats.
You’ll find it easier to clean baby feeding equipment if you clean it in hot, soapy water immediately after a feed. Minbie bottles and teats are not dishwasher-safe. For bottles and teats that are dishwasher safe, you can usually only wash them in the top rack of the dishwasher.
You should rinse baby bottles and teats in clean water after washing them to remove any residual soap. You should also allow them to completely dry before storing them to prevent the growth of mold and other pathogens. Don’t rinse them after sterilisation as this may re-introduce pathogens.
Dispose of any bottles or teats that are cracked, chipped, torn or damaged in any way. This will help to prevent injuries and eliminate sneaky places that pathogens can hide within.
Do not put your Minbie baby bottles or teats in the oven. Don’t put other plastic bottles or teats in the oven.
If you have bottles or teats that contain BPA, it’s best to avoid sterilising with heat, especially using the boiling method (which exposes them to heat for the longest amount of time), as this may cause the potentially harmful BPA to leach more rapidly. All Minbie products are BPA-free.