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. Try teats with bigger or smaller holes until you find one that you and your baby are happy with. Teats are graded according to the age of the baby, but this isn’t based on anything scientific. There’s also no evidence that one teat shape is better than another.
Your baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off some infections. Milk is also a very good breeding ground for bacteria, which can make your baby sick. Cleaning and sterilising all bottle-feeding equipment reduces your baby’s chances of getting sick. It’s important to sterilise equipment until your baby is 12 months old.
Cleaning bottle-feeding equipment
It’s important to clean bottle-feeding equipment after every feed. You need to clean it before you sterilise it, and 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 teat. Give particular attention to the caps and screw top areas – this is where bacteria are most likely to grow.
- Squirt water through teats to clear the little hole.
- Rinse everything thoroughly.
Sterilising bottle-feeding equipment
There are several ways you can sterilise your bottle-feeding equipment after you’ve cleaned it:
- steam sterilisation
- microwave sterilisation.
Sterilising by boiling
Boiling is the simplest and most reliable way of sterilising your bottle-feeding equipment:
- 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 five 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, sealed container in the fridge. Wash these containers every day with hot soapy water, and rinse them with very hot water. It can help to have at least two containers that you can alternate.
- Use all equipment within 24 hours of boiling.
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 is 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 right strength is needed to make sure the solution is effective.
- Completely submerge washed bottles, teats, rings and caps.
- Leave everything in the solution for 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.
- Use tongs to remove the equipment from the solution. Shake off excess solution before using, but don’t rinse the equipment. There’s no need to dry the equipment.
- Store equipment in one of the following ways: in a clean, sealed container in the fridge, or in the solution. If you store equipment in the fridge, use it within 24 hours of sterilisation. If you leave equipment in the solution, throw the solution away 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 ‘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.
Store equipment you aren’t going to use straight away in a clean, sealed container in the fridge. Use all equipment within 24 hours of sterilisation.
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.
- 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.