How to sterilise baby bottles to prevent Hepatitis

World Hepatitis Day is recognised annually on 28 July in an effort to increase awareness of this viral infection that can result in serious disease and inflammation of the liver. When it comes to your baby’s health and well-being, you can never be too safe or too clean.



Hepatitis can fall into six different categories: infectious, metabolic, ischemic, autoimmune, genetic, and other. There are five types of hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A Virus (HAV)
  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
  • Hepatitis D Virus (HDV)
  • Hepatitis E Virus (HEV)

Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis

Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly. They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice

Sterilising your baby’s bottles and dummies is vital to eliminate any chance of contamination. With my first baby, I was obsessed with sterilising everything, but less so when baby number two came along. Doing some research for this article has put me back on the straight and narrow and I’ve become fastidious again about sterilisation, much to my husband’s disappointment (he is committed to the school of thought that dropping items on the floor only builds up a baby’s immunity). Yes, my love, that is true. But let’s be realistic in this society that we live in. Our daughters can build up their immunity through many other ways and still be healthy and safe without contracting hepatitis.

“Breast milk and formula residue in bottles can result in the growth of bacteria, leading to hepatitis A, rotavirus and other foodborne illnesses.”

The most important way to look after your baby’s immune system health is to sterilise bottles and other feeding utensils. When sterilising your baby’s bottles, you need to determine how you’re going to do that and what resources you have available. Breast milk and formula residue in bottles can result in the growth of bacteria, leading to hepatitis A, rotavirus and other foodborne illnesses.

Many moms are warned about using infant formula and the high admin required to clean and sterilise these bottles, but the truth is that whether you use infant formula or breast milk in these bottles, you have to apply the same high level of sanitation. You need to educate yourself and others who care for your child on the why and how of sterilisation to prevent contamination. Regular, thorough cleaning of your baby bottles should prevent any residue from forming in the first place. So, let’s unpack this:

Why sterilise?

The main principal behind sterilisation is to ensure that the water temperature is hot enough to kill germs. The simplest way to sterilise is to fill a large pot on the stove with water, bottles and bottle accessories and boil for a minimum of five minutes. Be very careful not to burn yourself when removing the items from the water and that there are no little hands around to grab the pot or the recently boiled items. Never get close to boiling water when your child close to you, including on your hip. 

The other alternative to this tried and trusted method is to use more modern or conventional methods such as steam and microwave sterilisers or sterilising solutions. There is even a formula “espresso” machine that can sterilise too. Your dishwasher may also sterilise your items as part of the run cycle, as long as the water temperature gets hot enough (check the manual). Check that your bottles are dishwasher safe and that all the equipment that you want to put into your electric steriliser are suitable – some breast pump pieces are not suitable to go in an electric steamer.

If you’re planning to use a sterilising solution designed for use in cold water, be sure to use a separate container for your feeding equipment such as a bucket with a lid or a plate on top. The sterilising mixture must be changed every 24 hours. Keep the bottles in the steamers or solution until you’re ready to use them.

How do I sterilise?

Bottles, teats and accessories need to be cleaned out very well once after use, using warm, clean water and soap. Be sure to get into those hard-to-reach places which are standard in many modern bottles (special colic funnels, air reduction intake valves, nipples/teats, etc.). Assign a special bottle brush and cloths to this baby equipment, so that they aren’t exposed to other household items and cleaning detergents. Try to wash your bottles separate from your normal eating and food preparation utensils to avoid cross-contamination, as well as the transfer of possible grease and oil residues. After cleaning, remember to rinse your bottles really well to remove excess detergent.

Can I wash my bottles in the dishwasher?

Yes, you certainly can but remember to wash them separately from other items and place the small, loose bits such as the teats, lids etc. in a basket to avoid them moving around inside the dishwasher.

Tip: It is important to empty out and rinse off every bottle after every use to avoid bacteria build-up and the really offensive smell of old milk (formula or breast).

If you’re battling to remove milk stains in the bottles, prepare a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and water and allow bottles to stand for about 10 minutes to remove the stains and then rinse well. If you cannot get rid of a stale milk odour in your bottles, fill them with a bit of warm water and a teaspoon of baking powder. Shake well, leave overnight and then rinse.

Remember at all times: Clean, sterilise and prepare your bottles with clean hands and in a clean working area.

Don’t begrudge the time it takes to sterilise bottles; rather, think of how you’re contributing to the health, safety and long-term happiness of your baby.

Also read:

How formula is made
Can you use bottled water to mix baby formula?