For bottle-feeding babies, you need clean water and the right equipment – bottles, teats, rings and caps – plus something to clean and sterilise the equipment. It’s also important to know how to make up infant formula properly.
If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, you’ll need 4-6 large bottles, rings and caps, and several teats.
Choose any bottle and teat your baby sees to like, because none is better than any other. Some babies like some types better than others.
Teats are either made from latex (brown) or silicone (clear), and either kind is fine. Teats are graded according to the age of the baby, but this isn’t based on anything scientific. Try teats with bigger or smaller holes until you find the one that you and your baby are happy with.
Cleaning and sterilising bottle-feeding equipment
A baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off some infections, so sterilising her bottle-feeding equipment until she is 12 months old will reduce the chance of her getting sick.
To clean and sterilise your bottles, rings, caps and teats, you’ll need:
- a bottle brush to clean the bottles and teats
- sterilising equipment – this could be as simple as a pot to boil equipment in, or you might want to look into chemical or steam sterilisers
- containers for storing sterilised equipment.
When you’ve finished feeding your baby, take apart the bottles, teats and rings. Rinse everything in cold water straight away.
Before you sterilise for the next feed, wash all the bits in hot, soapy water. Use your bottle brush to scrub inside bottles and teats. Squirt water through the teat to clear the little hole. Rinse everything thoroughly.
Then there are several ways you can sterilise your bottle-feeding equipment.
The simplest way of sterilising your bottle-feeding equipment is to boil it:
- Put the bottles, teats, rings and caps in a large pot.
- Fill the pot with water until everything is covered and all air bubbles are gone.
- Put the pot on the stove, bring it to the boil and boil for five minutes.
- Let everything cool in the pot until you can take it out with your hand without scalding yourself.
- Store equipment you aren’t going to use straight away in a clean container in the fridge.
- Boil cleaning equipment like bottle brushes every 24 hours.
If you have other children, you might want to use this method when they’re asleep or out of the house to reduce the risk of scalding them.
You can also sterilise your bottles with an antibacterial solution that comes in liquid or tablet form. This is a type of bleach that is diluted with water so it’s safe for your baby but strong enough to kill bacteria:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when you make up the solution to make sure it’s the right strength.
- Wash all equipment with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Then completely submerge everything and leave it all in the solution for the recommended time before you use it again. You can leave equipment in the solution when it’s not in use.
- Remove the equipment and shake off excess solution before using, but don’t rinse it.
- You can keep the solution for 24 hours once it’s made up. After this time throw it away, thoroughly scrub the container and equipment in warm soapy water and make up some new solution.
For safety when you’re using sterilising chemicals:
- Store the concentrate and solution well out of the reach of children.
- Use plastic or glass equipment, including the container you use to mix the solution. The chemical solution will eventually eat away metal equipment and containers.
Steam sterilisers are automatic units that ‘cook’ your equipment at a temperature high enough to kill bacteria.
Put your clean equipment into the unit, add water according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and switch on. The unit switches itself off when the job is done.
Microwave steam sterilisers
These are like steam sterilisers, but you put them in the microwave oven:
- Follow the instructions carefully.
- Check the microwave power needed – not all microwave ovens are the same.
- Do not put any metal inside these sterilisers.
Never put your equipment straight into the microwave to sterilise it. This won’t work, and your equipment will melt or get damaged.
If you have trouble getting clean water or you don’t have access to a fridge, keep sterilising until your baby is 12 months old.
Making up infant formula for bottle-feeding
To prepare formula, first get some water fresh from the tap.
Bring the fresh water to the boil either in an electric jug or on the stove top. (In places with clean water supply that meets Australian standards, hot water urns like hydroboils are also safe to use for preparing formula.)
Let the water cool down to a safe temperature – lukewarm or around room temperature. This will take about 30 minutes. When the water has cooled, store it in a sealed container in the fridge. Note that you can prepare a few jugs of cold boiled water in this way.
Here are the basic steps for adding your powder to the water to make formula:
- Pour the amount of cooled, boiled water you need into the bottle.
- Using the scoop from the formula tin, measure the right number of scoops into the bottle. Level off each scoop. You can do this with a knife or something similar.
- Seal the bottle with a ring and cap.
- Tap the bottle gently on the bench so the powder falls into the water. Swirl the bottle gently, then vigorously shake the bottle. This thoroughly mixes the formula, powder and water.
- If you aren’t using the formula straight away, store it in the back of the fridge where it’s coldest, not in the door where it’s warmer. It’s best to make up formula only when you want to use it, rather than making it up ahead of time.
- Throw out any mixed, refrigerated formula you haven’t used after 24 hours.
Bottle-feeding safety tips
- Wash your hands and clean work surfaces before preparing formula.
- Check teats when you wash them, and throw away any that are cracked. Bacteria can grow in the cracks.
Preparing and using formula
- Use only the number of scoops of formula that it says on the tin – don’t use more or fewer scoops.
- Check the expiry date on tins of formula. Throw the formula away if it’s out of date.
- Throw away any opened tins of formula after one month.
- Don’t let any moisture or water get into the formula powder. If the scoop gets wet, make sure it’s dry before you put it back in the tin.
- Put formula into the fridge as soon as you make it if you aren’t using it straight away.
- You can store formula that has been at room temperature for less than one hour in the fridge for up to 24 hours. If formula has been in the fridge for more than 24 hours, throw it away.
- Throw away the contents of used but unfinished bottles after about an hour. Storing half-empty bottles for future use is risky because they get contaminated quickly once they’ve been sucked on.
- Take the cooled, boiled water and the powdered formula in separate containers and mix them when needed. This is the safest way to transport formula.
- If you need to transport prepared formula or expressed breastmilk, make sure it’s icy cold when you leave the house. Carrying it in a thermal baby bottle pack will keep it cold.
Video Bottle and formula preparation
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This short video shows you how to prepare baby formula and bottles for newborns.