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How to Clean and Sterilise Your Baby’s Bottles

Old milk, and the bacteria bottles contain, is exceptionally bad news for babies. Make sure you clean and sterilise them thoroughly. Their developing immune systems lack the ability to fight off infection. Heat-steaming or using a non-toxic chemical cleaner kills bacteria. Very careful handling – ensures that germs from your hands never touch surfaces your baby’s mouth also touches.

This is one area where no shortcuts will do. Make a point of choosing a time each day to spend the 15 or so minutes it takes to clean and refill your baby’s bottles. Sometime after breakfast, before you go out for the day, is ideal.

To clean baby bottles, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands.

  2. Gather up all used bottles and empty any remaining contents.

  3. Wash the bottles and the plastic tongs you use to help re-assemble the bottles in hot, soapy water.

    Use a bottle-brush and a tiny teat (nipple) brush that gets right into the drinking teat to scrub away any milk deposits.

  4. Scrub in plain water, paying extra attention to the teat.

    Now you’re ready to sterilise.

  5. Sterilise the bottles, teats, and lids.

    • The fastest method uses the microwave and a microwave steriliser.

      In essence, a microwave steriliser is just a lidded bowl with racks on which to stand bottles, lids, and teats. It converts to a steamer when correctly filled with water and heated in the microwave. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the amount of water to use and the steaming time – around eight minutes is typical – then take care when removing the hot bowl.

      The sanitary effects of steam sterilisation don’t last. If you get too busy to actually fill the sterilised bottles, you need to put them through the microwave again after two hours. Don’t attempt to make your own microwave steriliser using plastic lidded bowls. A microwave oven super-heats water and if handled incorrectly can erupt from containers.

    • An alternative to the microwave is an electrical steamer.

      These are bulky, taking up almost the same worktop space as a microwave, and expensive. Buying a budget microwave is a better route – and of course you can cook your own dinner, too. For time-pressed parents, microwave-ready meals are much appreciated!

    • Cold sterilisation – the method your mum and gran probably used – is a third option.

      Buy sterilising tablets or liquid at a chemist or baby store, and you need a lidded container large enough to hold fully immersed bottles. Scrupulously wash bottles, as described in Steps 1 though 4. Immerse the clean bottles, lids, and teats into the sterilising solution for 30 minutes.

      There’s no need to wash off the sterilising solution before filling the bottles – doing so utterly defeats the sanitation purpose. The solution has no taint or aftertaste. Left in the container with the solution, bottles keep sterilised for 24 hours.

Always use clean plastic tongs to move and help fill the bottles. Never touch the teat that your baby’s mouth is also going to touch with your fingers.

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