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Sterilising baby bottles: how, when and why

Medically reviewed October 2022
When To Stop Sterilising Baby Bottles in the UK | Naytal

In the UK it is recommended that you sterilise all feeding equipment before feeding your newborn baby milk. This also includes dummies if you plan on using them. By feeding equipment, we mean bottles, bottles caps and teats. If you are expressing breast milk then it is important to sterilise both the pump and milk containers.

Why is it important to sterilise baby’s bottles?

It is important to keep all feeding equipment for babies sterile in order to avoid any dangerous bacteria getting into babies mouths. Babies can become quite unwell with illnesses like diarrhoea or sickness if they ingest the wrong bacteria.

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Despite our water supply being sufficiently clean in the UK, we still recommend that you clean and sterilise all feeding equipment every time you use them. It is the bacteria from the milk products that can cause illnesses and these bacteria can easily build up in all of the nooks and crannies of bottles and teats.

This is why we recommend sterilising feeding equipment to make sure that none of these nasty milk bacterias end up in the baby's tummy.

What needs to be sterilised?

It is advisable that you sterilise all feeding equipment including:

  • teats
  • bottles
  • bottle lids
  • expressing equipment such as pump and milk containers

It is also advisable that you sterilise dummies/soothers up until the baby is about 6 months old.

It is advised that babies drink only milk until they start weaning. When they start to eat solid foods, at around 6 months olds, a water cup can be introduced at this stage. It is not essential that these cups are sterilised as water doesn’t produce as much bacteria as milk products, but make sure the cups are cleaned well between each use.

What age do you stop sterilising bottles in the UK?

It is recommended that you sterilise all bottles and teats up until the babies are 12 months old. When they reach this age their guts are more mature and their immune systems are more capable of fighting off any bacterial infections.

Dummies or soothers may not need to be sterilised for as long as this. When babies are about 4 months old, their hand to mouth coordination becomes more controlled and they start to put everything into their mouths; this is how they learn about shape and texture. This doesn’t, however, mean that you now have to sterilise everything that your baby wants to put into her/his mouth! Just the milk feeding equipment.

How to sterilise baby bottles

There are three ways to sterilise bottles:

  • Cold water sterilisation
  • Using a steam steriliser
  • Or sterilising with boiling water

Remember, washing feeding equipment in the dishwasher will clean them but it won’t get rid of all the bacteria. Follow all the manufacturers’ instructions when using sterilising equipment and try not to touch the bottles or teats after they have been sterilised, leaving them in the steriliser/pot until they are needed.

Want to speak to someone about your pregnancy or get advice for your newborn baby? Our team of midwives, breastfeeding consultants, psychologists and maternal health experts are here to support you with any concerns. Book an appointment at a time that suits you today.

Kate, Naytal Midwife

Kate has been a Midwife within the NHS for more than 15 years and supports women to work harmoniously with their bodies and tune into their intuitions.

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