Sterilizing bottles in microwave

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Why it is important to sterilize bottles?

Milk is a nutritious food for the baby. However, bacteria and germs in human milk can be transmitted to the baby if no care is taken on the hygiene of the bottle and breast pump used for feeding. These germs may cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, oral thrush (thrush), ear infections, etc., which can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia or meningitis, especially in young infants.

Sterilizing bottles will make sure that only clean bottles come into contact with your expressed breastmilk. Using sterilized equipment also decreases your chances of developing mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue due to bacterial invasion). Sterilizing makes life simpler and prevents the problem of having to wash bottles frequently.

When to sterilize bottles

Your baby is given his first bottle-feed before he has completed his course of vaccinations. As some vaccines are live, they may contain some weakened germs that could cause illness if your baby comes into contact with them through your breastmilk or the feeding equipment. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor.

If you have previously expressed and stored breastmilk for future use, it would be wise to repair all used containers with new lids or caps before reusing them. This will also help eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination from old milk residue stuck on the containers after thawing out frozen milk in a fridge or microwave oven.

How often should I sterilize bottles?

Breastmilk or formula milk bottles and feeding equipment should be sterilized at least once a day or as often as required during outbreaks of diarrhea. If there is the possibility that the water you use for sterilizing does not meet hygienic standards, it is recommended that boiling water from an electric kettle be used instead. This way, any harmful microbes will be eliminated.

In addition to cleaning your baby's utensils regularly, always make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight and away from other sources of heat such as radiators and stoves. And lastly but most importantly, always ensure tip-top hygiene by having separate utensils for each child in the house.

The safest option would be to have one set of bottles and feeding equipment for each baby.

How do I sterilize my bottles?

There are different ways to sterilize bottles and nipples:

Using a microwave to sterilize the bottle  

Microwave ovens are a quick and easy way of killing germs in bottles filled with water. This method is only suitable for use with plastic feeding bottles, not glass ones. However, it only kills the surface germs; if there is dirt stuck inside the spout or valve, these germs will not be killed using this method.

Soak in boiling water

If you decide to boil your equipment in a pan of water, make sure that no bottle touches the bottom of the pan as this may cause breakage. Place all your utensils in a steamer basket and immerse it in hot (not boiling) water. A microwave-safe plastic bag can be used for this purpose.

Electric steamers

Electric steamers can be found in most modern households. They use a process called sterilization which involves the use of high temperatures to kill all the germs in the bottles and breast pump equipment.

Use the sterilizer

Place bottles and nipples in the tray provided or cut a hole in the lower corner of an ordinary plastic shopping bag so it fits over the cup's mouth. Fill with water to just below the cap and boil for 5 minutes, then leave overnight to cool before removing and discarding any scum that may have collected in the tray.

The next day simply rinses all items thoroughly in cold water before filling them with your expressed breastmilk.

Using sterilizing tablets

Sterilizing tablets are available from pharmacies and supermarkets - follow directions on packaging carefully, giving special attention to timing (check expiry date). If using these tablets, rinse bottles and nipples in cold water before filling them with milk.

UV light sterilizers

UV light sterilizers will kill most germs in the water after they have been exposed to UV rays for 10 minutes, however, it is important to check expiry dates and follow manufacturers' instructions when using this equipment.

What method is more efficient?

There is no definitive answer to this question, but there are ways in which you can make the process of sterilizing more effective. First of all, let your utensils soak for 10 minutes before boiling them so that they are exposed to high temperatures for a longer period of time.

Also, use distilled water instead of tap water for bottles and nipples as the impurities removed using distillation may also kill germs trapped inside cracks.

Do not forget that some areas have extremely hot climates or cold weather conditions which does not suit the idea of leaving bottles out overnight on the kitchen countertop since it will subject plastic equipment to considerable stress.

In such instances, it would be advisable to opt for alternative means of sterilizing bottles - boil them every day, use electric steamers or invest in sterilizing tablets.

Is it safe to sterilize bottles in a microwave?

Microwave ovens are now one of the common household appliances found in most kitchens. It cooks faster than conventional because it uses high-frequency radio waves to agitate water molecules inside the food.

Steam sterilizing equipment is the only method recommended by health professionals as it disables germs such as hepatitis and HIV. Microwaving equipment does not use steam; therefore, food coming into contact with utensils after sterilization will be hotter than boiling point (100 degrees Celsius), which can damage sensitive tissues in a baby's mouth.

Sterilizing bottles in microwaves also makes it more likely that they will leak and even explode during heating, due to plastic deformation. It may also pose a potential danger if there are jagged edges on the bottle or pieces of glass after breakage.

Some parents think that if it is safe to warm up food for their babies in microwave ovens, then sterilizing bottles is okay also. However, microwaving heats up food because water molecules - not fat and sugar - are the main ingredients in breastmilk, formula milk, and foods for infants.

Using a microwave to warm baby bottles can lead to hot spots so it is important that you stir the milk carefully after heating it before giving it to your baby. You can also use a bottle warmer or put boiled cooled water in a container with metal handles before putting the bottles in the water.

This will help distribute heat evenly throughout the containers when warming bottles this way instead of placing them directly into boiling water which may crack them.

Steps on how to sterilize a bottle in a microwave:

  1. Wash and rinse all utensils to be sterilized thoroughly before placing them in the microwave
  2. Heat the water for about two minutes until it's boiling
  3. Add 3-5 drops of baby bottle sterilizing solution or use a sterilizing tablet and mix well (follow instructions on the packaging carefully).
  4. Arrange everything neatly so that all parts of the equipment are touching the surface of the bottom tray and place inside a microwave oven
  5. Close door and heat for the recommended time period (usually 30 seconds to one minute depending on wattage)
  6. Stand back as bottles will become very hot when taken out from the microwave oven as they retain heat even after the heating process has finished; allow bottles to cool down slightly before giving to your baby.

Tips to help you sterilize bottles safely in microwave ovens:

  • Always place utensils standing upright, don't turn them on their sides or upside down because it will cause the water inside them to overheat instantly leading to breakage
  • Make sure that all equipment has direct contact with the bottom of your microwave oven so that they are exposed evenly to heating rays and prevent overheating of food by creating hot spots
  • Always use distilled water instead of tap water because impurities found in tap water can leach into plastic bottles which may pose harm to babies if they are given contaminated feed
  • Do not overfill containers as there is a high risk of explosion if liquid boils unexpectedly - this has the potential to cause severe injury to you and your baby
  • Ensure that exit holes on microwave oven doors are left open so that there is proper ventilation inside for steam to escape when sterilizing containers using a microwave oven
  • Keep utensils in a safe area where children cannot reach them as they become very hot after heating in the microwave oven and may result in burning accidents if handled by young children or pets

Is there any difference in sterilizing bottles after milk and after formula?

Bottles should always be sterilized after formula to prevent any possibility of contamination from bacteria that contain spores, such as Bacillus cereus and Clostridium botulinum.

These spores can cause vomiting and diarrhea, leading to dehydration. C. botulinum also produces a toxin called botulism, which causes nerve damage that has been associated with serious illness or death in children less than one-year-old. Botulism poisoning causes paralysis and respiratory failure that requires intensive care treatment and mechanical respiration for survival.

Sterilizing bottles after breastmilk is not absolutely necessary, but it would be advisable since some components are carried through via the milk. For example, Streptococcus salivarius carried by the mother may cause pneumonia in infants.

How long should I sterilize a bottle in the microwave?

You should only warm up your baby's milk in the microwave for up to 2 minutes which means you need to sterilize it first. This is because microwaves lose their strength when they are turned on and off constantly, so this will affect the quality of the healing process.

When using a microwave oven, make sure that all containers containing water are removed before operating the machine as any leftover water may cause an explosion if there is electricity running through it during operation.

Therefore, sterilizing bottles in microwaves can be dangerous for health if not done properly. It is best that parents avoid doing this at home and instead use steamers or boiling water to sterilize equipment instead.

How do I know if my bottles are sterile?

The best way to see if your bottles are germ-free is by doing a simple test. Once you fill-up the bottle with water, place some drops of household bleach into the cup. If there are no bubbles or fizzing within 20 seconds then congratulations - your utensils are sterile!

Otherwise, keep pouring bleach until all the microorganisms have been killed off. Always make sure that you use bottled drinking water or boiled water if tap water does not have a good smell.

Making sure my baby's feeding utensils are clean 

If you are using reusable breast pump kits, make sure to wash them by hand with warm soapy water after each pumping session. Cleaning your breast pump regularly will prevent bacteria from growing inside it. It is also recommended that you replace your pump parts at least twice a year or when they get damaged or worn out.

Make sure you buy new ones at reputable stores only. Never share bottles, nipples, disc inserts/dividers, spacers, or flanges with anyone.

Temperature test

Before feeding your baby make sure the milk is at an appropriate temperature. You can check this by feeling the outside of the bottle or placing a few drops of breastmilk on your inner wrist to see if it feels lukewarm.

When should I stop sterilizing bottles?

It is recommended that you stop sterilizing baby feeding utensils and bottles when your child turns one year old. However, there are no specific guidelines on this matter.