Squeaky clean: How to sterilise baby bottles, and when to stop

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Leave your baby's equipment in the steriliser if you won't be using it immediately.
Leave your baby's equipment in the steriliser if you won't be using it immediately.

It's not possible to keep your baby's surrounds germ-free, and according to researchers, it's fortunately also not necessary.

According to the so-called hygiene hypothesis, children who had little exposure to bacteria and viruses as babies have a bigger chance to develop allergies, asthma and other auto-immune conditions later in their lives.

Yet this doesn't mean all germs are always welcome close to your baby, mainly because scientists aren't entirely sure what germs give the immune system a bit of a boost.

Early exposure 

The other thing about early exposure to germs is that your baby does not immediately get the benefit.

It's only later in his life that he'll better be able to fight against infections than a child who never played dirty games. The bacteria from which you want to protect your child in his first year are those growing in milk.

Also read: Ouch! What to expect when your baby starts teething 

That is why the sterilisation of dummies, baby bottles and other feeding equipment is recommended for at least the first year. Up until your baby's first birthday, he is extremely susceptible to infections due to his weak immune system.

Milton South Africa research shows that by his first birthday, your baby has built up only 15 to 17 per cent of his antibodies, called immunoglobulins.

The vaccines your baby gets in his first year also help to build his antibodies and fight a number of baby illnesses. But you must help prevent the risk for certain baby sicknesses by offering extra protection, such as sterilisation until your baby's immune system is older and stronger.

How long should I keep sterilising?

Sterilise your baby's bottles, dummies and other feeding equipment for at least the first year.

Dummies that fall on the floor or ended up in other hands or mouths should also be washed and sterilised in the first year after your child was born.

After that, your child produces antibodies so that he can be more resistant against germs.

How to sterilise correctly:

Step 1

Clean equipment before you can sterilise your breast pump or your baby's bottles, dummies and teats - it's a good idea to clean them properly.

It's also easier to clean equipment as quickly as possible after feeding or an expressing session.

Wash them with a bottlebrush and clean warm water and soap. In this way, you get rid of any old milk that's maybe still sticking to the bottles or teats.

Also see: Everything you need to know about skin to skin contact with your newborn

Turn the teats inside out to be thorough. If you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher, you can pack the baby equipment on the top shelf of the dishwasher.

First, just make sure the bottles and equipment are dishwasher-friendly.

Step 2

If you've cleaned all the equipment, rinse the soapy water properly under cold running water.

Ensure the teats and bottles have no cracks or tears – bacteria can survive in these little nooks and crannies, even if the equipment is sterilised.

Step 3

There are five ways to sterilise your baby equipment: 

1. Boil it in water on the stove

Place the bottles and teats in boiling water on the stove and boil for five to 10 minutes. Ensure everything is completely covered with water. Remove with tongs, and leave to dry.

2. Electric steam steriliser

The initial outlay is quite steep, but it's an efficient, quick, easy and safe way to sterilise bottles and teats. Buy one that comfortably fits your bottles and remember to insert the bottles and teats with their openings pointing downwards so that they can be properly sterilised.

3. Microwave steriliser

It's cheaper than a steam steriliser and just as quick. Again, ensure the bottles and teats' openings point downwards to ensure proper sterilisation. Never place any metal equipment in the microwave.

Also read: Five games to play with your baby and toddler

4. Sterilising agents

Chemical sterilisers like Milton also work quickly, and the baby equipment can remain in the solution for 24 hours. Buy a small sterilisation bucket in which your bottles will fit, with a ring floating on top to keep the bottles and teats under the surface of the water solution. Don't rinse after sterilisation.

5. Dishwasher

You can sterilise baby bottles in the dishwasher if it reaches a water temperature of more than 82 degrees

Step 4

Leave your baby's equipment in the steriliser if you won't be using it immediately. Bottles or equipment that stand in a cupboard or drying rack for too long become infected again.

If you leave it in the steriliser or solution it remains germ-free. Also, make sure your hands and the surface where you are preparing the milk are clean.

What about other baby eating utensils?

It's not necessary to sterilise your baby's cups, bowls, spoons and plates, as the first solids will only be introduced by six months when his immune system is a bit stronger.

Bacteria also doesn't survive as easily in solids as in milk.

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