As a new parent, with everything else I had to do I found myself asking ‘Do I need to sterilize baby bottles?’ It was and still is one of those things that adds something else to the already hectic daily routine of being a parent. Many parents are unsure as to whether sterilizing baby bottles is actually necessary. There are people who don’t bother and people that do.
There are so many different bits of advice out there but who is right? Do you have to sterilize baby bottles, or is it just being over cautious? What is the best way to do it and when can you stop?
Is It Necessary To Sterilize Baby Bottles?
Breast feeding is the most natural and beneficial method of feeding for a new-born baby. For many mothers it is something that continues for many months. However, for many others it is either too difficult to continue after just a matter of weeks or they are unfortunate enough not to have a choice. So, sterilizing baby bottles is only an issue if you actually use them.
Many years ago (but not that many) anything that went into a baby’s mouth was cleaned with soap and water, if at all. As the years rolled by and medical knowledge improved, probably directly linked to an increasing number of infant health problems, sterilization became common practice. Although cleaning baby items with hot water and soap is going to do an OK job, it is important to realize that sterilization is the only way to kill micro-organisms.
Consider the following points:
- For the first twelve months of a baby’s life its immune system is weak.
- With a weak immune system a baby does not have the ability to generate the necessary cells that fight off infection and disease. These cells are called ‘immunoglobulin’.
- If a baby is breast-fed it gets a small amount of immunoglobulin from its mother but still cannot create their own. Only after about six months will a baby start to develop the necessary cell production.
- Until then their immune system is at its weakest and unable to fight off micro-organisms that can cause gastroenteritis and thrush, two potentially serious conditions for a baby.
- Bacteria that lay dormant or in-active are called spores. If they are present in food which is re-heated they become active and rapidly multiply
There are no laws that say baby bottle sterilizing is necessary but it is a simple choice that must be considered by new parents. It could mean the difference between a healthy baby and a baby who suffers ill health.
The Best Way to Sterilize Baby Bottles
I for one am a firm believer that baby bottle sterilizing is a very important part of a new-born baby’s life. Of course this is if a mother does not or cannot breast feed. If you think that sterilizing is necessary you may be wondering how to sterilize baby bottles. There are three main ways – microwave, electric and just with water. Which one is best for you will depend upon personal preference and how it fits your routine.
They all use boiling water and steam to kill off the ‘nasties’ lurking on your baby’s things. You may have a preference on how you wish to manage such a hazard in the home with a little one around.
In The Microwave
Sterilizing baby bottles in microwave is a popular choice for many parents but it obviously requires that you have a microwave available. If you are wondering how to sterilize baby bottles in the microwave, it’s so simple. I will use the one that we use, the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Microwave Steam Sterilizer.
The slightly older version that we use is essentially a large plastic tub with a lid that clips down tightly to form a seal. It can be used either with sterilizing tablets in cold water or as a steamer in a microwave. When steaming in a microwave place the baby bottle components inside; there is a tray that sits off the bottom with recesses that most bottle necks will screw into. Pour just 200 ml of clean water inside, seal the lid and microwave for 4 – 6 minutes, depending on the power of the microwave. That’s it, quick, easy and safe. The contents will remain sterile for up to three hours with the lid kept shut.
A disadvantage of microwave sterilizers is that metal objects cannot be placed inside. This means any baby cutlery or additional components of baby items cannot be sterilized this way.
An electric baby bottle sterilizer is quick and easy to use; they usually only take 8 to 12 minutes, plus time to cool. Bottles can be kept sterile for up to 6 hours, if they are left inside with the lid of the sterilizer closed. Electric sterilizers can hold as many as 6 bottles and many have two layers upon which items can be placed; teats, pacifiers or spoons for example.
The advantage of electric sterilizers is that you can put metal objects inside, which you cannot do with a microwave sterilizer. Similar to a food steamer there is an electric element that gets very hot and boils the water inside. The resulting steam is what circulates within to sterilize the bottles. However, these sterilizers are prone to scale and will often need a clean.
Just Add Water
The oldest method of sterilizing is with a pan of boiling water. People would often use this to deep clean towels and other fabrics such as cloth baby nappies. It takes longer as you must first heat the water before leaving items to soak for a length of time.
Metal items can be sterilizes this way and it does not matter what material baby bottles are made from either. It just matters whether you want to spend the time doing this instead of using one of the more modern and more convenient methods.
Water does not have to be boiled in order to sterilize. Sterilizing tablets can be used and this is often the preferred choice for many parents; there is no boiling water that could present a hazard and it offers an on-going process without the need for external power or other equipment. Simply fill a pan of tub with clean cold water and pop in a sterilizing tablet. It will dissolve and do the job of cleaning anything submerged in the water. It takes at least 30 minutes of being submerged to be properly sterilized but as you take something out you can replace it with another and so on. This means that a bottle is available whenever you need one on a continuous cycle. The water must be changed every 24 hours.
When Can You Stop Sterilizing Baby Bottles?
To stop sterilizing baby bottles can be a big step. After all we are told that we should do it for the wellbeing of our child whilst he or she is so young. How long does it take for them to be strong enough that they no longer need everything to be sterilized?
As a baby’s immune system is a lot stronger after the first twelve months, this is normally the recommended time to stop sterilizing. You may feel happy to stop before then and again that is for you to decide. I can only stress the above points again, though. It is important that everything that goes into your baby’s mouth is clean.
We have a 21 month old girl and a two month old girl and still sterilize everything. We are not being over protective and precious about this but if we sterilize some we may as well do them all; if it helps promote a healthy baby, why not? When our oldest daughter goes from bottle to cup this year (wish us luck…) we will stop sterilizing for her.
If a baby is to be bottle fed either entirely or as part of a topping up routine, everything that goes in its mouth must be as clean as possible. Despite any advice to the contrary, I believe it is an essential part of day to day parenting. It can be a pain but it is worth it. There are a number of different methods available that should suit most parents. When can you stop sterilizing baby bottles? After 12 months is the ideal time, as a baby’s immune system should be strong enough to begin taking care of itself.