Breastfeeding mums know that one of the many advantages is the convenience of having baby's food in natural, easily-accessible containers that don't need sterilising before feeds! But, if you are also expressing, you will need to make sure your feeding equipment is sterilised.
Mums-to-be may be a little daunted by the prospect of making sure that all of their baby's feeding equipment would pass the most stringent of hygiene tests. But there’s no need to worry, there are several, very easy ways to ensure that everything is as clean as the proverbial whistle!
During a baby's first year she is more vulnerable to viruses and gut infections which can lead to anything from a mild attack of thrush to the more serious condition of gastroenteritis which can cause vomiting diarrhoea and subsequent dehydration.
It is neither possible, nor practical, to create a totally germ-free environment for your baby but you can drastically reduce the risks by initiating a good hygiene routine. By the time your baby is one-year-old and fully weaned she will be producing her own antibodies and be more resistant to harmful germs.
Washing feeding equipment in hot soapy water does not sterilise it, however it is a good idea to do this before your sterilising routine. Wash everything as soon after use as you can so that every trace of milk is removed. Use a brush and make sure that the detergent you've used has been carefully rinsed off.
Check the feeding equipment carefully and throw out any with splits or cracks because damaged surfaces can also harbour bacteria.
Providing your baby's feeding equipment is dishwasher safe you can use the dishwasher to clean the items before sterilising them. Always check though, as some items are best washed by hand before being sterilised.
It should go without saying that when handling your baby's feeding equipment (especially after sterilisation) your own hands should be washed clean with soap and hot water.
Microwave and electric sterilising units are popular and easy to use. However, you may not always have access to electricity or a microwave, so it is worth being familiar with more traditional methods of sterilising as well.
Electric steam sterilising equipment takes from 8 to 12 minutes, plus cooling time. You must be careful that you only put in equipment that is safe to boil (check the markings) as the temperatures reached are extremely high.
Steam sterilisers, which are based on the method used by hospitals, have the advantage that there is no smell or taste involved and the items remain sterile for three to six hours, depending on the model, if the lid is kept on.
Sterilisers, that are specifically made for microwaves are efficient and easy to use, but always be careful that nothing metal is placed inside them. They take around five to eight minutes to work, plus cooling time. They are useful for travel and taking on holiday providing there is a microwave available.
Always check that the power on your microwave is sufficient for the equipment and follow the manufacturer's advice to the letter.
The oldest method of sterilising is boiling and this is perfectly adequate, although not as convenient as the new methods. Most feeding equipment needs to be boiled for at least 10 minutes.
The pan you use must be used exclusively for that purpose and should have a lid. The items need to be kept under the surface of the water during the boiling time.
Ideally they should be used as soon as sterilisation is complete. Unused items should be reassembled so that they do not become contaminated.
Some items will have to be replaced more often if you use this method, as they get sticky. Always be careful when boiling water as it is easy to get scalded.
You can buy special feeding equipment that can be sterilised in the microwave in just 3 minutes. After taking apart they should be washed thoroughly in warm soapy water, then rinsed before being placed in the microwave. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions when microwaving; to make sure that pressure doesn't build up inside during the heating process.
This uses a non-toxic solution in liquid or tablet form. The solution is highly effective against bacteria. It is safe to use and can be applied to the skin or even swallowed with no harmful effects.
You can buy special sterilising units for this purpose, but you could use a new bucket or plastic container with a lid, provided there is something to stop the equipment bobbing to the surface (a plate will do). It's important to make sure that there is no air trapped inside the containers.
The equipment should be sterile after half an hour and can safely be left in the solution for up to 24 hours. You will need to change the solution daily and remember to wash your hands before removing the sterilised items. You may wish to rinse off the fluid with cool, boiled water, but this is not actually necessary.
Avoid leaving sterilised empty containers out on work surfaces as they will quickly lose their sterility and keep them well away from greasy areas (cookers, work tops).
Storage is not usually a problem when sterilisers have built-in storage facilities so that items can be removed when required.