It’s probably second nature for parents in developed countries to sterilize their babies’ bottles. And there are still many developing countries where sterilization is also the norm. But how often should you sterilize your bottles and what’s the reason behind it?
Read on to find out the different sterilization techniques and more details about the frequency of sterilization.
Reason for Sterilizing
The main reason for sterilizing is to prevent or kill bacteria that is present in the bottle.
Breast milk or formula, if left in the bottle, can start to harbor bacteria.
Just washing with soap and water will not completely eliminate the bacteria.
Because babies are so fragile and their immune system, along with other body systems are not fully developed, it is much easier for them to get sick from contaminated water or food.
Water, in itself, is not harmful. But water from the tap or water that is not filtered could potentially contain other harmful chemicals and bacteria. So sterilizing the bottles is a way to limit or prevent bacterial contamination.
Types of Sterilization Methods
There are many ways to sterilize your babies’ bottles, from cheap to really expensive.
- The cheapest way to sterilize bottles is the good old-fashioned boiling method. This is the cheapest option because you don’t need a fancy sterilizer or other major equipment. All you need is a pot, which most people have in their kitchen anyways. So this can save you a ton of money.
- The key to boiling is to not overdo it!
- Just bring the water to a rolling boil for about 5 minutes and that should be sufficient.
- The last thing you want to do it save money by using a pot, but then use more electricity (if you’re using an electric stove) by leaving it on the stove for too long.
Microwave Steam Sterilizer
- This is the one I used because I found it very convenient plus it was cheaper than the other types in the store.
- With this type, you do need a microwave for it to work. You just fill the sterilizer with the bottles and put it in the microwave for a set time period (usually between 4 and 6 minutes or so).
- Remember to check the power wattage on your microwave as each microwave is different and will require slightly different sterilization times.
- Always remember to clean the sterilizer regularly to prevent buildup of minerals or water marks.
Electric Steam Sterilizer
- These are usually more expensive than the microwave sterilizers.
- The main difference is that all you need to do is plug in this type of sterilizer, which is very convenient.
Which Bottles Can be Sterilized?
I believe most bottles on the market right now can be sterilized. I haven’t come across one that cannot be. (If you have, please leave feedback in the comments so we can all share in the knowledge).
Plastic bottles are the generic type and they can be sterilized quite easily. Many parents, however, are a bit wary of using and reheating plastic all the time, so they switch to glass bottles.
Most baby bottles will now say BPA free and I think that has eased the concerns of many parents.
Glass bottles are becoming more popular and more and more parents are buying this type of material. I also purchased a few glass bottles to test them out. They actually weren’t that bad. I did find though, that they were of course much heavier compared to the plastics so that’s something to keep in mind.
I also used the glass bottles more at home because I was paranoid about breaking them when out and about. They were more expensive than the plastics so I did everything in my power to keep them intact.
How Often Should You Sterilize?
The million dollar question!
Some say you should sterilize every day and others say every few days. So which is better?
Ever heard the expression, “Prevention is better than Cure“? I’m all for it.
So to limit or prevent bacterial contamination, sterilizing daily is important.
Again, to each their own, and some say heating plastic bottles too often is not good. This is true, but you can always replace the bottles as you go along if you feel like they are being burnt out.
As your baby gets older, their immune system gets stronger and stronger. So the need to sterilize bottles decreases as the child gets older.
There is no “set age” when you should stop sterilizing your baby’s bottles and there are certain factors that should be taken into consideration as well.
Has your baby started solids?
- Many parents believe that once your baby starts eating solids, then there is no need to continue sterilizing bottles. This is not necessarily true.
- Babies who are starting solids at the recommended age of 6 months are still infants. Their immune systems have come a far way since birth, but is nowhere close to being fully developed to the point that sterilizing is no longer needed.
Has your baby started eating from your plate?
- This is a tricky one…..When you eat, sometimes not everything in your plate has been cooked to completion or maybe you just washed your veggies with tap water. Because the tap water is being introduced into their system from the veggies, doesn’t mean that you can now just rinse their bottles with soap and water.
- Remember, milk residue (assuming your baby is still getting milk), still contains contaminants. Sterilizing is the only way to get rid of bacteria that just won’t leave.
Is the water from your tap considered safe to drink as is?
- To be on the safe side, you can always consult with your doctor or local environment agency on what the standard practice is for sterilizing bottles.
- In many areas, where the tap water is not considered up to par, you will be sterilizing bottles for longer. If the tap water is not safe to drink, then it’s not safe to just rinse your baby’s bottle with it.
How is your baby’s health?
- This goes without saying that babies who get sick easily or have certain illnesses, will need to have sterilized bottles at all times until your doctor recommends otherwise.
- Once you baby is back to normal and in good health, you can stop sterilizing one advised by your health professional.
What do you feel comfortable with?
- This is where my gut feeling tells me that maybe I’m being a bit over-dramatic (paranoid mama over here).
- If you feel more comfortable and safer with sterilization, then by all means continue to do it!
- I still sterilize my bottles and will probably do it until my son is well over 1 year old. I’m too paranoid not to!
Sterilization Kills Bacteria
The take home point is this…..“If in Doubt, then Sterilize”.
You can always speak with your doctor or as mentioned above, your local health/environment agency to find out what is usually practiced for babies in your area.
And whatever your gut tells you, just go with it. You know your baby best and you can tell if they’re feeling ill from eating/drinking anything.
I know it’s a tedious process but your baby’s health comes 1st. Pretty soon, you will not even think about it as your baby will be old enough to not need it.
How often do/did you sterilize your bottles? At what age did you stop? Share your opinions in the comments below.
Thanks for reading 🙂