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Sterilising baby bottles

Because a baby's immune system is still developing, it's not as strong as an adult's when it comes to fighting off infections, which makes a baby more vulnerable to illness.

Until your baby is 12 months old, it's important to thoroughly clean and sterilise any bottles and teats to reduce the chances of your baby getting sick, whether you use the bottles for infant formula or expressed breast milk. Because other types of feeding equipment such as cups are easier to clean, they require sterilising for only six months.

Good hygiene

Before you get started, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as well as clean any work surfaces with hot soapy water. As soon as you can after a baby's feed, clean the baby bottle, teat and any rings, caps and lids in hot, soapy water. A bottle brush is essential for getting into tight spots for a thorough cleaning.

You can clean baby bottles and teats in a dishwasher, but the temperatures reached are not high enough to sterilise them, so you still need to sterilise baby bottles and teats afterwards. There are several methods to choose from: by using a cold water solution, steaming with an electric steriliser or in the microwave, or by boiling.

Sterilising baby bottles in a cold water solution

Follow the manufacturer's instructions closely to make the solution, and remember to do the following:

  • When putting the bottles and teats in the sterilising solution, take care that there aren't any trapped air bubbles or pockets.
  • Use a floating cover to keep all the equipment under the solution.
  • Leave the feeding equipment in the solution for at least 30 minutes.
  • Always change the sterilising solution within 24 hours.

Sterilising baby bottles with steam

There are different types of steam sterilisers available, so always follow the manufacturer's instructions, whether the equipment is operated by electricity or works in the microwave. In addition:

  • When you put the baby bottles and teats into the steriliser, make sure the openings are facing down.
  • If you are not using the sterilised equipment straight away, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for how long you can leave it before it needs to be re-sterilised.

Sterilising baby bottles by boiling

No special equipment is needed for this method, other than a pan large enough to hold the equipment.

  • Before using this method, make sure that the equipment you want to sterilise is safe to boil.
  • Take care when boiling the feeding equipment to prevent scalds and burns. Never leave hot pans and liquids unattended, especially with a child present, and keep the pan handle turned in, out of a young child's reach.
  • Heat the feeding equipment in a pan of boiling water for at least 10 minutes, ensuring all the items remain under the water at all times.
  • Try to remove the equipment just before using them, but if you need them for later use, assemble the bottle fully with the teat and lid so the inside of the bottle and the teat remain sterilised.
  • Teats tend to be damaged faster when they are boiled than when sterilised by other methods, so check them regularly for tears, cracks or other damage.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 14, 2012

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