You will need to keep sterilising bottles and other feeding equipment that comes into contact with milk until your baby is at least a year old as small babies are especially vulnerable to the bacteria that can develop in them.
You should wash baby bottles and teats thoroughly before sterilising, either with hot soapy water using a brush, then rinsing under running water, or in a dishwasher. If you are using a breast pump to express milk, this will also need sterilising.
If you are going to use a dishwasher, it's worth noting that it may discolour teats. And if you're buying your first dishwasher, make sure you get a great model that won't leave milk trapped in bottles - take a look at our pick of the that are ideal for parents.
There are four methods of sterilising:
You can buy sterilisers designed specifically for each of these. A steriliser is not essential, though – bottles can be sterilised in a pan of boiling water.
If you use a steam steriliser, remember to descale it regularly to avoid limescale building up. Check the user manual for guidance on how often to do this.
With this type, you place your bottles upside-down in the steriliser, add water and switch it on. The water is heated electrically. When sterilisation has finished, usually after about 10 minutes, the steriliser switches off automatically. Provided that the lid isn't opened, the contents will stay sterile for a while (usually about six hours).
You place the bottles in the steriliser with a small amount of water, fasten the lid, place it in the microwave and operate according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Sterilisation takes about 10 minutes.
Tablets or liquid containing diluted bleach are placed into a measured amount of cold water inside the steriliser tank. Bottles must then be completely immersed in the solution, making sure there are no air bubbles where bacteria could survive (you need to be especially careful about this if the bottles are sterilised lying on their side).
Sterilisation usually takes around 30 minutes. The bottles need to be rinsed in recently boiled water before use to completely get rid of the chemical solution.
These types of sterilisers use UVC rays to sterilise bottles. They typically come as boxes with reflective surfaces inside, which allow the UV light to cover all surface areas on the objects inside. As with other sterilisers, it's crucial to wash your bottles and teats in warm, soapy water before placing them inside. This is because any dirt left on the bottles and teats will make the UVC rays less effective.
If your baby has an occasional bottle, and you don’t want any more baby paraphernalia taking up space in your kitchen, boiling bottles in water is a cheap and relatively quick method of sterilisation.
You put the items you want sterilised into a large pan of boiling water. The water should be brought back to the boil, and boiled for 10 minutes before removing the items. A disadvantage with this method is that it can make rubber teats spongy and swollen – check them regularly and discard any that seem damaged.
You should also set aside a pan that is used only for this purpose and not other cooking.