We all know the saying, ‘A dishwasher cleans dishes so that you don’t have to.’ But tempting as it is to pop baby bottles in with the dirty plates, is our time-saving dishwasher really a safe alternative to sterilising?
Dishwasher v steriliser
To sterilise an item it has to be boiled at 100°C for a minimum of 5 minutes. The water in most dishwashers, even on a hot wash, doesn’t actually reach this temperature. Your bottles might look sparkling clean, but you can’t be certain that they’re free from bacteria that might give your little one a nasty tummy upset.
Electric sterilisers, however, are an efficient way of ensuring bottles are kept germ-free. The bottles are sterilised with steam in about 10 minutes. You can then leave the bottles in the steriliser with the lid closed, safe in the knowledge that they’ll stay sterile for up to six hours.
It’s only when you remove the bottles from the unit that they lose their sterility, and this is another downside to the dishwashing method. Once the cycle has finished, unless you transfer bottles to a covered sterile container, they have to be used straightaway to avoid the risk of bacteria forming on them. That’s why we’re advised to use a steriliser rather than a dishwasher for any feeding equipment used before 6 months (including breast pumps and dummies) and for bottles and teats until 12 months.
What goes in the dishwasher
All feeding equipment designed for babies, plus dummies too, can go in the dishwasher once your baby's 6 months or older – but check that they’re labeled as dishwasher-safe. In particular, some parts of breast pumps aren’t suitable for dishwashers. Specially designed dishwasher baskets are handy for keeping small pieces of feeding kit in one place.
Choosing the right programme
If you do intend to use your dishwasher for your baby’s feeding equipment, use a hot programme of 80°C or more rather than a cooler eco wash. Some dishwashers now incorporate a ‘baby cycle’: an intensive wash that aims to remove bacteria from your child’s feeding equipment. Also available are anti-bacterial rinses and ‘heat dry’ settings.
Bottles in the dishwasher
Although most baby feeding equipment, including dummies, only needs to be sterilised for the first 6 months, bottles and teats should be sterilised until your baby's 12 months old – by which point you should be aiming to wean your baby off bottles and onto cups.
If you do decide to wash bottles in the dishwasher, remove all traces of milk first using a bottle brush, and stack them face down to avoid stray bits of food falling into them. Be aware that teats can wear out quicker if you frequently wash them in the dishwasher, and don’t make the mistake of putting bottles in with dirty plates caked in leftover spag bol... it’ll give the bottles a not-so-lovely orange hue!