If you’re bottle-feeding your baby with breastmilk or infant formula, you’ll need:
- 4-6 large bottles
- rings and caps
- several teats.
You can use any bottle your baby seems to like, because none is better than any other.
Teats are either made from latex (brown) or silicone (clear), and either kind is fine. Teats have holes of different sizes and are graded according to baby age, but this isn’t based on anything scientific. There’s also no evidence that one teat shape is better than another. Try teats with bigger or smaller holes and different shapes until you find one that your baby likes.
It’s important to sterilise equipment until your baby is 12 months old. Your baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off some infections, so sterilising equipment reduces your baby’s chances of getting sick.
Cleaning bottle-feeding equipment
It’s important to clean bottle-feeding equipment after every feed.
It’s best to clean equipment straight after your baby has finished feeding. If you can’t clean the bottle and teat straight away, rinse them with clean water. This will make them easier to clean later.
Here’s how to clean bottle-feeding equipment:
- Wash your hands with soapy water and dry with a clean towel.
- Check teats for any cracks. Throw away any damaged teats – bacteria can grow in the cracks.
- Wash all bottle-feeding equipment in hot, soapy water.
- Use a bottle brush to scrub inside bottles and teats and around caps and screw top areas. This is where bacteria are most likely to grow.
- Squirt water through teats to clear the hole.
- Rinse everything thoroughly.
Sterilising bottle-feeding equipment
Equipment needs to be clean before it’s sterilised.
There are several ways you can sterilise your bottle-feeding equipment after you’ve cleaned it:
- steam sterilisation
- microwave sterilisation.
Note: UV sterilisers are available in Australia, but there is no clear evidence about whether they work or are safe to use for cleaning bottle-feeding equipment.
Sterilising by boiling
Boiling is the simplest and most reliable way of sterilising your bottle-feeding equipment:
- Boil all equipment within 24 hours of use.
- Put the washed bottles, teats, rings and caps in a large pot.
- Fill the pot with water until everything is covered. Make sure all air bubbles are gone.
- Put the pot on the stove and bring it to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
- Let everything cool in the pot until you can take it out with tongs or clean hands without scalding yourself. Shake off excess water. There’s no need to dry the items.
- Store equipment you aren’t going to use straight away in a clean container in the fridge. It can help to have at least 2 containers that you can alternate.
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.
Sterilising using chemicals
You can sterilise your bottles with an antibacterial solution that comes in liquid or tablet form. This is a type of bleach that’s diluted with water, so it’s safe for your baby but strong enough to kill bacteria.
Here’s how to sterilise with chemicals:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when you make up the solution to make sure it’s the right strength. The solution will work only when it’s made at the right strength.
- Completely submerge washed bottles, teats, rings and caps.
- Leave everything in the solution for at least the recommended time. If you need to add extra items to the solution later, start timing again so that all items stay in the solution for the recommended time. You can leave equipment in the solution for up to 24 hours.
- Use tongs to remove equipment from the solution. Shake off excess solution, but don’t rinse the equipment before use. There’s no need to dry the equipment.
- Store equipment in a clean container in the fridge or in the solution. If you leave equipment in the solution, throw away the solution after 24 hours, thoroughly scrub the container and equipment in warm soapy water, and start the sterilisation process again.
Here’s how to be safe 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 heat your equipment to a temperature high enough to kill bacteria:
- Put your clean equipment into the unit.
- Add water according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Switch on.
The unit switches itself off when the job is done.
Store equipment you aren’t going to use straight away in a clean container in the fridge. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for how long you can store sterilised equipment.
Microwave steam sterilisers
These are like steam sterilisers, but you put them in the microwave:
- Follow the instructions carefully.
- Check the microwave power needed – not all microwave ovens are the same.
- Don’t 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.