4 Top ways to sterilize baby bottles to keep your little one safe and prolong the life of your bottles

Baby care

4 Top ways to sterilize baby bottles to keep your little one safe and prolong the life of your bottles

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4 Top ways to sterilize baby bottles to keep your little one safe and prolong the life of your bottles

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As parents, our highest priorities are keeping our children safe and healthy and sterilizing 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 sterilize baby bottles, but to also choose the best sterilization method for the bottles we have chosen.

 

In this article, we’ll examine the 4 top ways of sterilizing baby bottles and help you choose a method that will also prolong the life of your bottles.

Why sterilization is important

I’ve said that sterilizing 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 sterilize 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 sterilizing 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, sterilizing 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. Sterilizing your baby’s bottles may help protect Bub from illnesses such as thrush, vomiting and diarrhea.

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 sterilization 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 unsterilized bottles have the potential to make your baby very sick.

Note that cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing 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 sterilization eliminates all forms of life including ‘transmissible agents’ such as spores.

When to sterilize baby bottles

Baby bottles should be sterilized every time they’re used, ideally directly before they are filled with formula, expressed breast milk or any other liquid. You can, however, sterilize them a little in advance if required; the exact length of time depends on the sterilization method.

The National Health Service (NHS) advises caregivers to sterilize all baby feeding equipment until Bub is at least 12 months old.

What you need to sterilize

All your baby’s feeding equipment should be sterilized. 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 sterilize the components of your breast pump (follow the manufacturer's directions about which components need to be sterilized and for advice on how to carry out the process). Pacifiers can be sterilized too.

To make this article easier to read I refer to sterilizing bottles and teats throughout, but I use these terms to represent all of the above items.

Sterilization methods

There are two main ways to sterilize baby bottles and teats. You can either treat them with a disinfectant that is also capable of sterilizing them or you can heat them. The top 4 methods are described below.

Note that most dishwashers do not get hot enough to sterilize baby feeding equipment thus I don’t discuss it in this article.

Boiling

Boiling is the most basic method of sterilizing using heat. To sterilize your baby bottles and teats by boiling them, follow these steps:

  1. Check that your bottles, teats and anything else you wish to sterilize are all able to be boiled safely.
  2. Put all the items you need to sterilize into a large pot.
  3. Fill the pot with water until all the items are completely submerged. You also need to make sure there aren’t any air bubbles inside any of the bottles or teats.
  4. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  5. Boil the water for 10 minutes.
  6. Leave the items in the pot until you’re ready to fill them. Or you can store them in a sterilized container in the fridge. When removing your bottles and teats, make sure the water has cooled enough that you won’t burn yourself.
  7. Repeat this process if you don’t use your bottles and teats within 24 hours of boiling.

Pros

  • This is the cheapest method of sterilization.
  • You do not need any specialized equipment to use this sterilization method.

Cons

  • Teats tend to degrade faster with this method of sterilization.
  • There is a risk you may burn yourself using this method.

All Minbie products can be sterilized by boiling. I recommend using this method at least the first time you sterilize a Minbie bottle and teats.

Cold-sterilization chemicals

Cold-sterilisation chemicals work by disinfecting bottle feeding equipment. There are a range of sterilizing 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 sterilize baby bottles and teats, the instructions on the product must be followed to the letter.

To sterilize using one of these products, follow these steps:

  1. Make up the sterilization solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions (if you’re not using a pre-made product) in a dedicated sterilization container.
  2. Put the items you wish to sterilize in your chosen container, making sure they’re covered by the sterilization solution and that there aren’t any bubbles trapped anywhere inside your bottles or teats.
  3. Leave your bottles and teats in the solution for at least the recommended time (usually about 30 mins but be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions). Whatever container you choose to use for this process, make sure you have a plunger or floating cover that you can use to keep your bottles and teats completely submerged under the liquid for the entire time.
  4. Leave your sterilized items in the solution until you need to use them, provided you don’t leave them in there for longer than 24 hours. After 24 hours, you need to replace the sterilization solution.

You should wash the container you use to sterilize your bottles with warm soapy water before filling it with each batch of fresh sterilization solution. Don’t store cold-serialization liquid in a metal container otherwise, the chemicals will slowly eat away at the metal.

Pros

  • Once you’ve made up a sterilization solution, you can add and remove items throughout the day for as long as the solution remains effective (this is usually 24 hours but refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific product you’re using).
  • This method of sterilization can be used when you’re out and about and don’t have access to the equipment needed for other sterilization methods.
  • This method of sterilization shouldn’t cause your bottles and teats to degrade more quickly provided you only leave them in the sterilization solution for the minimum amount of time required for successful sterilization.

Cons

  • Not all baby bottles are compatible with the chemicals in these products.
  • Your baby may be sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in these products.
  • These products have a use-by date.
  • It can be more difficult to use this sterilization method properly (for instance these products only work if the chemicals are used in the right concentration so if you’re not using a pre-mixed solution you need to be able to accurately measure the water you use to prepare them).
  • Leaving your baby bottles and teats in cold-sterilization chemicals for extended periods of time may cause them to degrade more rapidly than other sterilization methods.

This sterilization method can be used on Minbie teats and plastic bottles (and associated parts). You must not put glass Minbie bottles in cold-sterilization chemicals.

Microwave

Microwave sterilization uses steam (heat) to sterilize baby bottles and teats. You’ll get the best results if you purchase a sterilization unit that is designed to be used to sterilize baby bottles in a microwave.

To use these sterilizers, 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 sterilizer. If you’re not using the sterilized items immediately, you can store them in the sterilizing 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 sterilize it; not only will it not effectively sterilize your bottles and teats, but it will likely damage them as well. You should also ensure you never microwave metal items inside a microwave sterilizer.

Pros

  • Sterilization is accomplished quickly and easily using this method.
  • Microwave steamers are usually fairly inexpensive.
  • This method doesn’t degrade feeding equipment as quickly as boiling does.

Cons

  • Not all baby feeding equipment, including anything metal, can be microwaved.
  • You need to be careful to avoid being burned when using this method.
  • Microwave sterilizers can be bulky.

This sterilization method can be used on Minbie teats and bottles.

Electric sterilizer

Electric sterilizers make sterilizing baby bottles and teats very easy as they automate most of the process. Like microwave sterilization, they use steam to kill microorganisms.

To use an electric sterilizer, 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 sterilized items can be left in the unopened unit before they need to be re-sterilized.

Pros

  • This sterilization method is very simple to use.
  • This method may be more effective than boiling or microwave sterilizing because there is less room for human error.
  • This sterilization method doesn’t cause bottles and teats to degrade as quickly as boiling does.

Cons

  • Electric sterilizers can be expensive.
  • Electric sterilizers can be very bulky.

This sterilization method can be used on Minbie teats and bottles.

Things to remember

Sterilizing 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 sterilize any utensils you might use to make up formula. And be sure to always wash your hands thoroughly before you touch sterilized 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 sterilization 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 sterilizing 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.