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Sterilising Equipment - Why, When and How?

Sterilising equipment is a topic that we probably learn briefly about at antenatal classes, but when mixed in along with all the other information that you are told you probably don’t take much in. However, it can be a really important part of keeping your baby healthy and therefore happy. This is a quick guide to help you out if you’re suddenly faced with a need to sterilise.


Babies are in a sterile environment until they are born. They have never come into contact with so many different airborne particles as well as germs which are everywhere. Babies get some natural protection from their mother’s breast milk, which is why so much emphasis is put on breastfeeding. Their immune systems are under developed when they are born, which is why we try to keep equipment that goes into a babies mouth clean and at times sterile. We do not need to introduce anymore germs into their delicate systems.

When a bottle is drunk from bacteria has been introduced to it and while it is not harmful initially as it’s from your baby, leaving it allows bacteria to grow and increase on the item. Breast milk contains natural immune boosting healthy bacteria that help fight against illness, but if left out in warm temperatures for too long it is also at risk.

When and what?

If you have a premature baby or a baby that has needed time in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) or SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) or if you have been told your baby has an illness or condition where they are more at risk of illness it is important that equipment used for feeding or expressing milk is sterilised. This may include nipple shields, breast pump parts, bottles, teats and dummies.

If your baby had no initial problems then you will only need to sterilise pumping equipment or nipple shields if breast feeding once a day. If you are formula feeding you will need to sterilise all equipment used.

Equipment should be sterilised for the first three months. After this babies immune systems have developed more and they tend to be putting more things into their mouths naturally. It is still important to make sure everything is well cleaned.


Once you have used something wash your hands and rinse with cold running water.

It is important to remember to thoroughly clean all parts of the pump or bottles (this means taking all pieces apart). This should be done in a clean sink with hot soapy water and a bottle brush. Once washed everything should be rinsed to get rid of any soapy residue.

Then you have a number of options for sterilising.

The most commonly used are:

· Cold water steriliser using a sterilisation tablet.

· Microwave steriliser.

· Electrical steriliser.

With all sterilising equipment please make sure you wash your hands before touching any of the sterilised parts.

Cold water sterilisation You will need a large container which can hold the sterilising solution and equipment needing to be sterilised, plus a lid and something to keep equipment submerged. Make sure there are no trapped air bubbles. Incredibly easy especially if you are having to sterilise pumping equipment frequently. It is as simple as putting a sterilising tablet into the correct amount of water and submerging equipment in the water for usually 15 minutes to 1 hour (check specific guidelines on product). Not suitable for sterilising metal parts.


· Once set up it can be used for a 24 hour period, multiple times.

· Cheap set up cost.

· Easy.

· Once the time is up you can use the items straight away.


· It smells and can sometimes put baby off feed.

· It takes 30 minutes to sterilise equipment.

· It is an ongoing expense buying more tablets.

Microwave Steriliser. Put your equipment into the steriliser with the required amount of water and put it in the microwave for the recommended time. Always follow instructions.


· It’s quick.

· You can get a lot sterilised quickly.

· Mid price point.


· People worry about the effects on the plastic used in microwaves.

· Not always easy to put breast pumps in as usually designed for bottles.

Electric Steriliser. Put equipment on with the required amount of water and hit the switch. The things will be sterilised and it will automatically turn off. Always follow the specific instructions for your machine.


· One time cost.

· Quick and easy to use.

· Many different brands to choose from.


· Expensive.

· Can be hard fitting in equipment other than bottles.

· Very hot so need to allow it to cool before you can use items in it.

Once you take the items out of the steriliser it’s important to put bottles together and keep the breast pump equipment covered (either put in a clean container or use glad wrap/cling film to cover them) until you need to use them. This keeps them safe from particles in the area and prevents bacteria getting on them.

So sterilising equipment is important to prevent your little bundle of joy getting sick and it’s relatively easy when you know what you’re doing. It’s all about getting into a routine, so that you have the sterilised equipment available for when you need it. It’s a great way that partner’s can help and feel like they are contributing.

For any more information and advice feel free to get in touch with me and ask. Good luck!

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