Babies have delicate tummies and weak immune systems. This means that they can get sick very easily. It’s therefore very important for parents to practice proper hygiene with their baby’s feeding equipment. Here is a quick and simple guide to what you need to know.
Baby bottles need to be completely dry to prevent bacteria
It doesn’t matter if you use sterilising solution, steam sterilising or plain old soapy water and a bottle brush, you’re going to get your baby bottles wet. Where there’s water, there’s the potential for germs, which could attack your baby’s immune system as you’re bottle-feeding. This means that drying your feeding equipment is actually an essential part of the cleaning process. Although this article is about drying baby bottles, much the same comments apply to other feeding equipment such as breast pumps.
Ways to dry baby bottles
There are basically three ways to dry baby bottles. These are as follows. Use a clean towel or kitchen roll. Leave to air dry, possibly on a drying rack. Use a baby bottle dryer.
Using a clean towel or kitchen roll
Although this is listed first, it’s not the recommended approach, especially not if you have a very young baby. Even if you boil wash a towel or use kitchen roll which is just out of the packet, you may find yourself inadvertently transferring bacteria to your baby’s feeding bottle.
Having just said that, if your baby is older and for some reason, you need to dry a feeding bottle quickly, then using fresh kitchen roll, or, at a pinch, a clean towel may be a reasonable option if the alternative is your baby going hungry. It should not, however, be your first-choice option, not even if your baby is a bit older. Basically, it’s just too easy to transfer germs from the towel or kitchen roll onto the bottles as you rub them dry.
Air drying (on a drying rack)
Air drying can work very well, but there is a knack to it and it can help a lot to use a proper drying rack for your baby bottles and other feeding equipment. The first plus about proper drying racks is that they tend to make more efficient use of counter space. This may only become apparent once you start using one and have a chance to compare it to drying bottles on a drainer or on a regular dish rack.
If you have a proper baby bottle drying rack then you can corral bottles, teats and everything else into one place and keep them easily in the right position for drying. For example, instead of just turning a bottle upside down and hoping that it stays upright or having to tilt it slightly to fit on a regular draining or drying rack, you can put your bottle either onto or into a holder which is designed to hold it upside down. This helps to prevent water from being trapped in the bottle and means that your baby bottles will air dry as quickly as possible.
As a bonus, this helps to reduce the likelihood that your newly-cleaned feeding equipment is going to wind up being accidentally knocked off the drainer onto the floor, leaving you needing to grab the bottle brush and get stuck in to another round of cleaning.
Proper bottle dryers also tend to be designed to be easy to drain and easy to clean. This may sound like stating the obvious, but it is actually an important point. Regular draining racks are a lot bigger than drying racks for baby feeding equipment. This makes them more cumbersome to drain and much more challenging to clean. For example, they’d be difficult to fit in a dishwasher alongside other items. If you were going to put them in a dishwasher, you’d probably have to put them in on their own.
This means that if you plan to air dry your baby bottles, even if only some of the time, a proper bottle dryer is likely to be a good investment, especially since they’re so affordable. The key points to check are the size and maximum capacity (these are, of course, closely related), the ease with which it can be cleaned and the safety. In principle, you should be able to take safety for granted if you choose a reputable brand and buy from a trustworthy retailer. It is, however, always advisable to double-check.
Using a baby bottle dryer
When people talk about baby bottle dryers, what they actually mean are sterilisers which also have a drying function. Not all sterilisers have this, so make sure that you check before you head to the checkout.
Sterilisers are certainly investment purchases, especially compared to drying racks. They’re also arguably needs rather than wants since you can use old-fashioned sterilising solution on its own or use boiling water for steam sterilising. They can, however, be massively convenient and if you’re the parent of a baby, the value of convenience should never be underestimated.
What’s more, there’s always a demand for pre-loved sterilisers so you may be able to recoup some of your up-front investment once your baby has moved on from infant formula.
The big plus about using a sterilizer with a drying function is that it does the job quickly and effectively. Another bonus is that it can do double duty as a place to store your baby bottles, or at least some of them.
Where baby bottle dryers really come into their own is when parents are routinely short on time or on space. These days, the second point can be even more important than the first. In simple terms, if you have plenty of space, especially in your kitchen, then you can store plenty of baby bottles. You should therefore, in theory at least, never have to worry about being short of a bottle to feed your baby his or her infant formula because they’re all still in the process of drying.
If, however, you’re in a small space, then you won’t be able to store as many bottles and therefore will need to sterilise/clean and dry them as quickly as you possibly can, obviously without compromising on hygiene. A steriliser with a drying function can be a massive help here. You can even use it when you’re not actually properly sterilizing your bottles. Just give them a standard clean and pop them in the sterilizer to dry and, if necessary as a storage location.
The features to check on a steriliser are essentially the same as for a drying rack. You need to look at size and maximum capacity, ease of cleaning and safety. Additionally, you might want to think about whether or not you have a preference for any particular type of sterilisation.
Cold water sterilisers (the ones which use sterilising solution) and electric steam sterilisers are the traditional option, but these days you can also get microwave steam sterilisers and even UV sterilisers. As always, there’s no right or wrong here. All of these options will get rid of bacteria and germs. It’s just about what works best for you, your baby and your lifestyle.
Last but not least, make sure that you choose a sterilizer with a drying function. As previously mentioned, not all sterilizers also act as dryers. You need to double-check this.
What to do once your bottles are dry
Once your bottles are dry, you need to store them appropriately. Remember, if any water gets back into them then it could become a new breeding ground for bacteria and germs and essentially you’ll be back to square one.
If you’re using a steriliser then the best approach is to leave your bottles there until you need them. This may, however, not be practical, for example, if you need to clean/sterilize and dry your bottles in batches.
If you need to take your bottles out of the steriliser (or if you aren’t using a steriliser), then it’s best to reassemble the bottles as quickly as possible. There is because there is water in the air (even in summer) which can condense inside the bottles and create a home for bacteria and germs.
Ideally, you’ll assemble your dry bottles on a sterile surface using sterile tongs. Using sterile tongs can, however, be a bit of a challenge for some people. If that’s you, then wash your hands thoroughly, have the water as hot as you can stand and then dry them well before you assemble your bottles. Make sure that no water goes from your hands onto the bottles not even on the outside and certainly not on the inside.
If at all possible, you want to store your dry bottles in a sterile location, such as inside the sterilizer. If that’s not possible then make sure to store them somewhere clean and dry where there’s minimal to no chance of water getting onto them. Use them within 24 hours or sterilize and dry them again.