Sterilising your baby’s feeding equipment
Because babies are born with an immature immune system, they are very susceptible to picking up infections, including gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting). It is therefore, very important that any equipment used to feed a baby who is under 12 months of age, is sterilised before being used. This applies to feeding equipment that is used to give babies infant formula milk and expressed breast milk (EBM) as well as, handheld pumps used to express your breast milk, and baby feeding spoons. The following article has been developed to give you practical information on how to sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment.
Methods for sterilising equipment
There are a number of different ways that you can sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment:
- Steam sterilising
- Cold water sterilising solutions eg Milton sterilising system
- Sterilising in boiling water.
Before you start preparing to sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment, it is important that you pay attention to your hand hygiene. You will need to ensure that you have washed your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Kitchen work surfaces should also be cleaned with hot soapy water or with antibacterial wipes or an antibacterial surface cleaner.
Clean and rinse!
Before any equipment is sterilised, it is important that it is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. You will need to clean your baby’s bottle and bottle teat in hot soapy water as soon as possible, once they’ve finished feeding. Bottle and teat brushes are indispensable cleaning utensils – they ensure that all remnants of infant formula milk/EBM are removed from the surface of the bottle before it is sterilised. Once the feeding equipment has been washed in the hot soapy water, it needs to be rinsed off under the tap in clean, cold running water. You can also use your household dishwasher to clean your baby’s feeding equipment; however, dishwashers cannot be used to sterilise items because they do not reach a sufficiently high temperature. NB. You need to both clean and sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment.
Methods of sterilising
Steam sterilising: This is the most expensive method of sterilising feeding equipment because of the costs associated with purchasing the necessary equipment. There is a good selection of steam sterilisers currently available on the market – both electric steam sterilisers and microwave steam sterilisers. It is therefore important that you follow the manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations for their use. This information will include details about the safe time limits between steam sterilising your baby’s feeding equipment and then using it. The manufacturer will advise you how long unused equipment can be left before it will need to be re-sterilised.
When placing the feeding equipment in the steam steriliser you will need to ensure that all openings (ie bottles and teats) are facing downwards so that the hot steam rises and has access to all surface areas. Most steam sterilisers include a removable top shelf, which means that larger items such as feeding bottles can be placed on the lower level and bottle teats and covers/lids can be put on the top shelf.
Cold water sterilising systems: This method of sterilising is less expensive and involves using a sterilising solution or dissolvable tablets in cold water. Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions for use. You will need a large container with a lid – Milton sterilising units are a well-known brand. They include an internal lid/floating cover which ensures that all feeding equipment remains submerged and all surfaces in contact with the sterilising fluid. It is important to ensure that no air becomes trapped in the feeding equipment while it is being placed into the sterilising fluid. This is because where an air bubble occurs, that surface of the feeding equipment will not be sterilised. Your baby’s feeding equipment will need to have been submerged in the sterilising solution for at least 30 minutes before it can be used. NB. You will need to change the sterilising solution every 24 hours.
Sterilising in boiling water: This is the cheapest method of sterilising; however, it can also be the least practical because of the risks of scalds/burns and obvious safety concerns where there are young children present. NB. Hot pans and liquids should never be left unattended. When sterilising your baby’s feeding equipment using this method, you will need to ensure that all items remain fully submerged in the boiling water for at least 10 minutes. You will also need to check whether your baby’s feeding equipment is safe to be sterilised in boiling water. Bottle feeding teats tend to get damaged (ie cracked and torn) more rapidly when they are sterilised in this way.
Once the feeding equipment has been boiled for at least 10 minutes you can start to prepare the area where the bottle and teat will be assembled. The work surface will need to be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water, disinfectant wipes or surface cleaner. Wherever possible, it is best to remove the feeding bottle from the water just before you are going to use it. If this isn’t possible you should fully assemble the bottle and teat and put the cover/lid on, as this prevents the internal surfaces of the bottle and the internal and external surfaces of the bottle teat from becoming contaminated.
If you gave birth in hospital, the postnatal ward staff will show you how to sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment. They may also give you an information leaflet with your discharge paperwork before you go home. Additional advice and support can be offered by your community midwife and health visitor.