Friday, January 16, 2009

Sterilising baby feeding equipment

As babies do not have fully developed immune systems it is important to thoroughly sterilise all of their feeding equipment (including bottles, teats, beakers and pumps) to protect them against infection. This is especially important for babies who are predominantly bottle fed with formula milk as they do not receive the enhanced immunity provided by breast milk and so are more susceptible to infection.

Before sterilising your baby's feeding equipment you need to wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water. You should use a bottle brush to clean off any remnants of milk and ensure that the teats are clean by washing both sides and then running water through the hole.

It is possible to clean feeding equipment in the dishwasher however this should always be on the hottest setting (teats are more likely to wear if frequently washed in this manner). Whether you clean your baby's feeding equipment in the dishwasher or by hand you should check to ensure all traces of milk and detergent have been removed before sterilising.

Methods of sterilising

  • Boiling - This is the traditional method of sterilising bottles. You should use a saucepan that has not been used for any other purpose (i.e. cooking), fill it with water and fully submerge the bottles inside. You will need to boil the equipment for at least 10 minutes.

  • Steaming - Steam sterilisers are readily available and are an efficient way to ensure that bottle feeding equipment is safe to use. They only take approximately 8 minutes to work and if sealed can keep equipment clean for up to 3 hours.

  • Sterilising solutions - These often come in the form of a tablet which you dissolve in cold water. They take approximately half an hour to work (although you should check individual instructions) and often allow you to leave bottles soaking for up to 24 hours if sealed, although you shouldn't leave them longer than this without changing the solution. It is possible to use any container with a sealed, fitted lid however special sterilising containers with plungers that keep bottles fully submerged are also readily available.

  • Microwavable sterilisers - Steamers for use in the microwave are available although you cannot use them to clean equipment with metal components. Additionally self-sterilising microwavable bottles are also available.
  • When sterilising bottles and other feeding equipment you should ensure they are fully submerged for the whole time and check that there are no air bubbles present. Additionally, you should dispose of bottles and teats once they are showing signs of wear and tear as they become more difficult to fully sterilise once cracks are starting to form in the plastic.

    After you remove your baby's feeding equipment from your chosen sterilisation container you should fill it with milk as soon as possible to avoid contamination.

    Current guidelines suggest that you continue sterilising your baby's bottle feeding equipment until they reach 1 year of age.

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