Sterilisers - your options

Whether you're using bottles to feed your formula milk, or expressed breast milk, bottles, teats, rings, lids and all expressing equipment needs to be cleaned thoroughly AND sterilised before each use, until your child is one year old.

Choosing the right option for you depends on how often you need a steriliser.

If you are going to use is daily for feeds, (either now or in the future if you are returning to work after six months or so, then it's probably easiest to get yourself an electric steam steriliser which can treat an average of six bottles at a time. These will be kept sterile for a minimum of six hours if left in the steamer, and then a prepared bottle of boiled water (for making up formula) or milk, can be sealed into the bottle if the lid is kept on and the bottle is refridgerated, for about 24 hours.

Avent iQ24
Electric steam sterilisers usually take about five to eight minutes to complete their cycle, though you should allow time for it to cool off a bit too, otherwise you will burn your hand when you try to remove the items inside.

If you have limited worktop space and prefer speed, you can get a microwave steriliser, which steams bottles in less time. Depending on the size of your microwave, you can buy ones which will take up to six bottles, but small ones take two bottles, and microwave bags take one bottle at a time for quick fix solutions.

Some people use cold-water sterlising. This is popular if you don't plan to do much sterlising and don't want to go to the expense of an electronic format, or if you are going to use it when travelling and are not sure when you will be near a plug!

Electric steam sterilisers

You load this up, add a little water to the holder in the bottom, and then the element heats up and steams everything until it's shiny and sterile. They usually take between five and eight minutes but the manufacturer's notes will guide you on that, and a light will go off once it's ready.

You can expect to pay between £29.99 and £60 for a steam steriliser. The price depends on whether or not you want it to do other clever little things (eg the Avent iQ24 has two settings, one of which will keep the bottles sterile in the machine for up to 24 hours).

Boots Cold Water Steriliser

Most steam sterilisers will take six standard bottles or a mix of bottles and breastpump equipment and are pretty easy to use. Avent have a range of three models and Boots and Tomy also have a couple of options, which vary in speed or capacity.

The Avent one has well designed shelves inside which you can easily add or remove, depending on how big the items are you want to sterilise. Two of the shelves also clip together to form a 'basket' so you can put things in the dishwasher without losing little bits and pieces.

For pure girly delight, Moulinex do a very sexy, see-through steriliser with red trim, plus a little coathanger style shelf inside, for around £30. We found it on the www.electricshopping.com.

Microwave steam sterilisers

If you don't want to give up your workspace to a steriliser, you could get a smaller pack, which you can fill with bottles, add a little water to, and then put in your microwave. These usually take about three minutes and ones like the Closer to Nature version from Tommee Tippee costs around £24.99. The Boots version retails at £19.99.

If you're travelling and you don't want to lug around your stand-alone steriliser, but you know the place you are going to has a microwave, you can use microwave steriliser bags if you want. They are fairly cheap and will be ready in three minutes.

Cold water sterilisers

These work by adding sterilising tablets or liquid to water, in a special bucket or steriliser. Nowadays, many are designed to drain easily so you don't have to hold a heavy, water-filled container over the sink after use. Sterilising with this process usually takes about 30 minutes.

Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Electronic Steam Steriliser
It can be a useful method if you don't always have electricity to hand, but it can be cumbersome and messy. However, these are much cheaper than electric steamers (the Boots model is £13.99) and are perhaps a preferable standby for holidays and for people who aren't doing daily bottle feeding.

The abovementioned Closer To Nature steriliser can be used in a microwave or with cold water, for £19.99, which does give you flexibility.

If you only want to use this option on the go when travelling, Boots do steriliser bags with the solution in, which take 30 minutes and which keep a bottle sterile for 24 hours. They cost £7.99.

Little extras

More expensive models of any form of steriliser will come with 'extra' features. For example, the swishy Avent iQ24 has an option to keep the bottles sterile for six hours (without refridgeration and sealing), or for 24 hours. Lindam's Rapid Steriliser has a warning system to let you know when the handle is too hot to pick up.

Many come with special offers - free bottles, cleaning equipment etc - so look out for these when shopping for one.

Descaler

Because sterilisers use water and heat up, they can, like a kettle, build up limescale. Some manufacturers recommend you descale very regularly, though busy parents do usually survive for a few weeks at a time without breaking their steriliser! (However, like any equipment, you should follow the instructions if you want it to be in tip-top condition.)

Many sterilisers will come with a few sachets of descaler, but you can buy these quite easily. (Boots, for example, do six 10ml sachets for £2.49.)