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How To Sterilise Feeding Equipment

Updated: Mar 12

That sounds like the most boring title I've ever written, but after a poll on Instagram its the topic my followers wanted to know the most about, and I simply can't think of a sexy title.


So let's make this simple...


What is sterilising?


"Sterilization describes a process that destroys or eliminates all forms of microbial life"(1)

Sterilisation means to free something of all life of any kind. Sterilisation isn’t the same as disinfection. Disinfection is defined as the killing or removal of organisms capable of causing an infection that may not necessarily result in sterilisation. An example of a disinfectant used in everyday life is chlorine, or iodine.


OK, so the aim of sterilising something is to eliminate ALL forms of life, that means we are getting rid of all the bad germs, but also some of the good ones.



How can we sterilise in a domestic environment?


Sterilisation can be achieved by a combination of heating, chemicals, radiation, high pressure, and filtration (such as pressurised steam, dry heat, ultraviolet radiation, gas steam sterilant, chlorine dioxide gas, etc.).


But not all of these methods are easy, or suitable for us to do at home. What options are suitable at home?


Heat Method


The heat method is the most commonly used method of sterilisation. The process uses high temperatures to kill microorganisms. The degree of sterilisation is affected by the heating temperature and heating duration. Thermal processes are classified according to the type of heat used, which are wet heat/steam sterilisation and dry heat sterilisation.


Chemical Method


The heating method provides a reliable way to remove all microorganisms, but it is not always reasonable because it may damage the material, which is when chemical sterilisation methods can be used. The procedure uses liquids (or gases) that do not affect the materials, but that do kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.


A great example of this is Milton®, the active ingredient is 1% sodium hypochlorite solution, which is also one form of chlorine used for water disinfection. According to Milton® the solution

  • Kills 99.9% of germs including bacteria, fungi and viruses (2)

  • Is effective on Rotavirus (N°1 cause for gastroenteritis), MRSA and the swine flu virus (2)

  • Bactericidal : in 5 minutes EN1040, EN1276 (including MRSA), EN 14561 and at 1.8% V/V EN13697 (2)

  • Fungicidal : in 15 minutes EN1275, EN 1650 and EN14562 on Candida albicans (agent responsible for thrush) (2)

  • Virucidal : in 15 minutes NF T72-180. Effective on Rotavirus and Coronavirus (2)

Did you know? EN is the abbreviation for European Norm.


Radiation Sterilisation


In this process, materials are exposed to radiation (ultraviolet rays, X-rays, gamma rays). The main difference between different types of radiation is their penetrability and effectiveness. Ultraviolet rays have poor penetration, so the effect is poor, but it is relatively safe and can be used for small-area disinfection. X-rays and gamma rays have much stronger penetrating power, so they are more effective for large-scale sterilisation. However, they are more dangerous, so special attention is required. In a healthcare or industrial environment ultraviolet radiation is usually used to disinfect the inside of a biological safety cabinet between uses, for example. X-rays are used to sterilise large packages and pallet loads of medical devices, whilst gamma radiation is commonly used to sterilise disposable medical devices (such as syringes, needles, cannulas, and IV infusion sets) and food.


How to do each method


Heat Method


Wet Heat - Steaming

  1. Wash all items in warm soapy water to remove all visible food, dirt, gloop etc

  2. Rinse all items in cold water

  3. Place all items facing downwards (open bottles down etc)

  4. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions, as there are several different types of sterilisers

  5. Always use the correct amount of water (otherwise it doesn't create the right amount of steam to work properly)

  6. Always use the correct amount of time (otherwise it doesn't create the right amount of steam to work properly)

  7. It's best to leave bottles and teats in the steriliser until you need them

  8. When you do take them out, wash and dry your hands before handling sterilised equipment. Better still, use some sterile tongs (to protect yourself from burns also)

  9. When you do take them out, put the teats and lids on the bottles straightaway

  10. Assemble the bottles or pump parts on a clean, disinfected surface or the upturned lid of the steriliser

  11. Manufacturers will give guidelines on how long you can leave equipment in the steriliser before it needs to be sterilised again

Wet Heat - Boiling


  1. Make sure the items you want to sterilise are safe to boil

  2. Wash all items in warm soapy water to remove all visible food, dirt, gloop etc

  3. Rinse all items in cold water

  4. Boil feeding equipment in a large pan of water for at least 10 minutes, making sure it all stays under the surface

  5. Set a timer so you do not forget to turn the heat off

  6. Remember that teats tend to get damaged faster with this method. Regularly check that teats and bottles are not torn, cracked or damaged

  7. When you take them out, wash and dry your hands before handling sterilised equipment. Better still, use some sterile tongs (to protect yourself from burns also)

  8. When you take them out, put the teats and lids on the bottles straightaway

  9. Assemble the bottles or pump parts on a clean, disinfected surface



Chemical Method


Cold water sterilising solution


  1. Wash all items in warm soapy water to remove all visible food, dirt, gloop etc

  2. Rinse all items in cold water

  3. Traditionally these products are normally in tablet form (just drop in water and watch it fizz), but some brands now have a liquid solution that you simply mix with the water. Tablets can be useful for travel purposes.

  4. Use the correct amount of water according to manufacturer instructions

  5. Use the correct amount of solution/tablet according to manufacturer instruction

  6. Make sure there are no air bubbles trapped in the bottles or teats when putting them in the sterilising solution

  7. Your steriliser unit should have a floating cover or a plunger to keep all the equipment under the solution

  8. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions, but in general, leave feeding equipment in the sterilising solution for at least 30 minutes

  9. Change the sterilising solution every 24 hours

  10. When you do take them out, wash and dry your hands before handling sterilised equipment. Better still, use some sterile tongs (to protect yourself also)

  11. When you take them out, put the teats and lids on the bottles straightaway

  12. Assemble the bottles or pump parts on a clean, disinfected surface



Radiation


UV bottle sterilisers use ultraviolet (UV) light to sterilise baby products. They are an incredibly popular item to purchase, and feature highly on peoples Baby Registry.


BUT, their effectiveness can be dependent on the positioning of the UV light path, the shape of the items being sterilised and how you place the items into the UV steriliser.


UV light only kills germs if it directly shines on the product surface. Unlike steam which is a gas and can easily spread across the entire surface of a bottle or pump part regardless of shape, UV light can't. If an item's surface isn't directly above or below the light, it can impact the effectiveness of sterilisation.


If you haven't already thought about it, yeah, a lot of baby products and feeding parts are curved so there's a chance that not all surfaces will be thoroughly sterilised.


The other concern (and I'm sorry to put a big dampener on a very popular piece of equipment)

Some UV Light including UVC light can degrade the plastics often used in bottles and pump parts including polypropylene (abbreviated as PP) and low-density Polyethylene (abbreviated as LDPE). These UV rays can break the bonds within the plastic and cause cracking or discolouration. In fact, many bottle brands specifically recommend against using UV sterilisers on their products, as the rays can seriously decrease the durability of the bottles. But as you can see from the image it's a great solution for sterilising other household items like toys and keys.


Noting all of the above, here is a quick general How To guide to get the best possible results from a UV Steriliser.

  1. ALWAYS FOLLOW MANUFACTURING INSTRUCTIONS

  2. Wash all items in warm soapy water to remove all visible food, dirt, gloop etc

  3. Rinse all items in cold water

  4. Drain before placing in the steriliser. Don’t put dripping wet items into a UV Steriliser, as water can gather at the base. If there is water at the base or leaking from the steriliser, please turn off the machine and wipe away water

  5. Place items inside the steriliser

  6. Separate all components and ensure all surfaces that need to be sterilised are visible (3)

  7. Be mindful that UV light does not penetrate plastic or glass, and ensure that you spread the objects out and not pile them on top of each other, as surfaces need as much exposure to light as possible for the germs to be eliminated (4)

  8. Place bottles facing upwards to help the drying function

  9. Select the function you wish to use – options vary from sterilise only, dry only, auto sterilise and dry or storage function

  10. Do not take items out of the steriliser during sterilisation

  11. If you wish to leave the products inside the steriliser you can use the storage mode which will keep them sterile (if applicable)

  12. When you do take them out, wash and dry your hands before handling sterilised equipment. Better still, use some sterile tongs (to protect yourself from burns also)

  13. When you take them out, put the teats and lids on the bottles straightaway

  14. Assemble the bottles or pump parts on a clean, disinfected surface


BEFORE I GO


You might have noticed a slight tone in my writing at the start of this article, when I said that the aim of sterilising is to "eliminate ALL forms of life, that means we are getting rid of all the bad germs, but also some of the good ones".


There are times and circumstances in our lives when we need to protect ourselves and those we love, and are responsible for, from bad germs, and if the pay off for that is that we also loose a few good germs along the way, that's OK.


BUT as our little people grow up, as their own digestive system becomes stronger, and if we want it to become stronger still, then exposure to healthy and good bacteria, helping to build a healthy and strong gut flora and microbiome, is also vital.


Breastmilk is one way that we can help our littles to develop a healthy gut flora, but it's not the only way (and for some people it's not an option, and that's OK too). We can also supplement with probiotics and many formula brands now include human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) (5) so the options for helping our little people build happy, healthy associations with food, germs, eating and play are ever increasing.



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