Sterilising baby bottles and teats is part and parcel of mum life from day 1 if you’ve opted to formula feed. However, there comes a time when you start to wonder if or when you can stop sterilising the bottles before every use. In this article we will give you some guidance on when it should be safe to stop sterilising bottles and offer an explanation to why that is and why it’s so important to keep doing it until then.
Why do we need to sterilise bottles?
This isn’t an article about the science behind sterilising but it’s important to touch on why sterilising is important in the first place to give some context on why it’s important not to stop sterling the bottle after it has contained infant formula milk.
Sterilising baby bottles is important to keep your baby from getting infections from leftover biological waste – formula uses cow’s milk which can harbour nasty bugs that your baby can not fight off properly yet.
When can I stop sterilising baby bottles?
Before we begin, the official Best For Mums stance on sterilising bottles is to carry on doing it until you are no longer bottle feeding. Why’s that? Well, it’s simple – why take the risk of your baby getting sick at all?
The most common time for parents to safely stop sterilising baby bottles is 12 months. At this age your baby’s immune system and digestive system has evolved enough to be able to fight off most common bugs that you can find in baby formula. All babies do mature and grow differently so there’s no need to look at this number as absolute but we wouldn’t recommend doing it any earlier, either.
Should I stop sterilising bottles?
As we’ve previously mentioned, no. It would be reckless and bad advice for anyone to ever suggest that not sterilising bottles is better than sterilising them. Baby formula is made using cow’s milk and counts as biological material which means it can go off and transport bacteria from the bottle to your baby.
Because the formula powder is combined with water it is therefore liquid; so when bottle feeding it can get into absolutely every nook and cranny in a bottle and on a microscopic level so you may never know with certainty it is clean without sterilisation.
Do I need to sterilise bottles with breastmilk?
All bottles should be sterilised before their first use, however breastmilk does not carry the bacteria which may be present in formula milk therefore if you are breastfeeding then a clean in hot soapy water and a rinse will suffice after every use. Alternatively you can of course use a dishwasher to clean your baby’s bottle after it has contained breastmilk.
Breast milk can still go off, of course, but the key difference is the absence of cronobacter which is the key bacteria which causes illnesses in babies and this is why expressed milk bottles do not need sterilising with hot water (doesn’t need to be boiling) and a bottle brush enough or a dishwasher.
Do I still need to sterilize baby bottles after 6 months?
Yes, we recommend to keep sterilising your bottles until babies are at least 12 months old to ensure the bottles teats and main bodies are thoroughly clean in preparation for next feeding your baby. Hot water and a bottle brush is not enough, in our opinion.
I’ve read online that I don’t need to sterilise at all, is this true?
We feel that anyone that gives advice to mums about health of their baby has a moral obligation and a responsibility to only give the safest advice and not the most convenient, especially when pregnant and just starting to research everything. Our staff were shocked quite frankly with the level of contempt people gave to sterilising on forums such as Mumsnet and Netmums, you can see one example on Mumsnet here.
On this specific subject we found it appalling that some mums were fine telling others seeking advice that ‘I never sterilised anything for ds (darling son). I washed everything in the dishwasher to get it clean. He was fine’. Our official stance on this that why would you ever take the risk of letting your baby contract god knows what from unsterilised milk just to save yourself 5 minutes? Dr. Jim Gray from Birmingham Hospital says ‘“In spite of worldwide improvements in living conditions, infections are still far too common, both in developing and developed countries.”
So, to answer the question in regards to whether or not you really need to sterilise bottles or not look at it this way – could your baby avoid all infections from unsterilised bottles until they are completely weaned off? Yes. Could your baby become really ill and potentially hospitalised because of a bad bout of cronobacter because of an unsterilised bottle? Yes.
I’m sure on the back of this you can make your own mind up.