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Baby Bottle Guide: How to Sterilise Baby Bottles

8 min read | 16 May 2022

Whether you are bottle-feeding with breastmilk or formula, it is really important to know how to appropriately clean and sterilise the bottles to prevent your baby from getting sick.


Cleaning and sterilising needs to be done for all baby bottle-feeding equipment (as per Australian guidelines) for the first 12 months of your baby’s life.

As parent’s, you can start bottle feeding your baby whenever you choose to. There are lots of different options regarding bottle feeding, you can:
  • Bottle feed from birth (formula or breastmilk)

  • Mix feed with breastfeeding and bottle feeding

  • Transition to a bottle after you finish your breastfeeding journey.

There is no right or wrong choice, it is whatever works best for your situation and your baby’s needs.

Depending on how often you plan on bottle feeding, will depend on how much equipment you need. You will generally need at least four of each of these:
  • Bottles

  • Rings

  • Caps

  • Teats

Which teat is best?

Regarding teats, slow flow teats are recommended to begin with as they only have one hole in the teat which is best for newborns. As your baby grows and develops, you can then switch to a medium flow teat, and then later again, a fast flow teat.

There is no evidence that one shaped teat is any better than others, so just find a shape that your baby likes and sucks well on. You will also need sterilising equipment to sterilise the bottles and teats, this equipment varies depending on which sterilising method you use.

How to bottle feed your baby?

Prepare and safely warm the formula or breastmilk in the bottle, cradle your baby in your arm on a slight incline and with the other hand place the teat of the bottle to their mouth. When your baby opens their mouth wide, let them attach and begin sucking and swallowing. Ensure there is milk in the teat at all times when baby is feeding, and stop to burp your little one about halfway through the bottle to assist with their digestion.

If you are having troubles getting your baby to take the bottle, some tips include:
  • Get someone else to try, (baby can often refuse mum if you have been breastfeeding previously).

  • Brush the teat over their top lip to encourage feeding

  • Position the baby slightly differently in your arms

  • Try a different teat

  • Wait and offer the bottle again in 10-15 minutes

When do babies transition off the bottle?

Again, there is no right or wrong time to wean your baby off the bottle. This is whenever you choose to transition them off having a bottle of milk. It is recommended by around 12 months old that babies stop using a bottle, to prevent tooth decay and learn to drink from a cup.

To assist the transition from a bottle to a cup, you can introduce a sippy cup to your baby from 6-8 months old to play with and start learning how to drink from it. When baby is drinking properly from the cup, you can swap one bottle feed at a time for the cup, and this way you can gradually transition baby off the bottle.

Why do bottles need to be sterilised?

While your baby is young, their immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off bacteria and infections. Bottles are a common breeding ground for bugs that can make your little one sick. This is mainly due to the warm milk residue in the bottles, teats and lids.

Cleaning and sterilising all bottle-feeding equipment reduces the chance of your baby getting sick. Placing baby bottles in a dishwasher to be sterilised is not recommended as dishwashers do not get hot enough to effectively sterilise the equipment. 

The Australian recommendation is to sterilise any feeding equipment and dummies until your baby is over 12 months old.

How to clean baby bottles?

It is a good routine to clean feeding equipment after every feed, which consists of washing in hot soapy water. If you don’t have enough time to do this then at least rinse the bottles and teats so they are ready to be cleaned and sterilised.

When cleaning it is best to use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of the bottle and teats, and always inspect the teats to ensure there are no cracks present where bacteria can grow. After cleaning the equipment in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly including through the hole of the teats. After cleaning, all equipment will then need to be sterilised.

How to sterilise a baby bottle?

There are four main methods to sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment, through boiling, steaming, microwave or chemical sterilisation. Before sterilising, take all parts of the bottles apart so they are separate and can be sterilised properly. Each method has different benefits depending on your circumstance and how often you need to sterilise. Always wash your hands before sterilising and touching clean bottles to reduce any contamination.

Storing baby bottles once sterilised is also important. Place sterile equipment in a clean airtight container preferably stored in the fridge to keep them sterile for 24 hours. The container you use to store sterilised equipment also needs to be washed every day with hot soapy water. Once sterilised, feeding equipment should be used within 24 hours or re-sterilised.

Sterilising methods:

Boiling

A simple and reliable way to sterilise equipment. Place bottles, teats and rings in a pot and fill with water until equipment is covered. Put the pot on the stove, bring to the boil and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Let the pot cool, remove the equipment with tongs and place in a clean storage container. If you have a toddler or older children, make sure they are out of the kitchen when boiling water is on the stove.

Steam

Sterilisers are automatic electronic machines that increase to a high temperature to kill any bacteria present. Place your clean equipment into one section of the unit, fill with water as per the manufacturer's instructions and switch on. The machine will switch off when it is finished, therefore it is safe and doesn’t need constant supervision. Steam sterilisers are very efficient if you are bottle feeding full-time and have a lot of equipment that needs sterilising.

Microwave

Sterilisers are another type of steam sterilisation. Microwave sterilisers are a portable device which you place water and the equipment into appropriate sections of the sterilising unit. This unit is then put in the microwave to heat and sterilise the items. Follow manufacturer's instructions and ensure your microwave power is set correctly so equipment is sterilised properly.

Chemical sterilisation

Done using chemicals in a liquid or tablet form mixed in water to sterilise the feeding equipment. Always ensure the chemicals are safe to use for your baby. When using chemicals, place them in a plastic or glass container and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make the solution the right strength. Completely submerge bottle-feeding equipment into the solution for the recommended length of time. Use tongs to remove the equipment from the solution, shake well and place in a storage container. Always ensure chemicals are stored well out of reach from children.

Guidelines change frequently and vary from country and state. This is general advice only and does not replace your countries guidelines or health practitioners recommendations.

Whether you’re about to start the journey with your little one or looking to add to your collection of bottles, shop our range of baby feeding accessories at Purebaby now. 

Blog is written by midwife Aliza from Bumpnbub.

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