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How To Sterilize Bottles On A Plane

Sky in Bassinet

Flying with a baby can be a daunting experience for the new parent.  All of a sudden you’re worrying about bassinets and how you’re going to keep your baby from screaming the entire flight!  One way to take the pressure off is to be well prepared and plan in advance what you’ll need to pack.  If you aren’t exclusively breastfeeding, top of that list will be bottles and milk.  Which begs the question, how do I sterilise my baby bottles onboard a flight?

Well, allow me help you with this my fellow traveling parent.  Firstly you need to allow for all eventualities.  On the very first longhaul flight I did with my then 4 month old, we were delayed on the tarmac for 5 hours! Thankfully I had overpacked nappies and bottles.  So the first tip is to pack 1.5 times more than you think you’ll need.  Regarding the water, I have flown with numerous airlines and never had a request for boiled water turned down.  Make sure you ask a long time in advance of the feed to allow the water time to cool.  If the cabin crew won’t give you boiled water, you can use some mineral water, the NHS has a good guideline on what to look for with sodium and sulphate levels.

Don’t forget to take plenty of formula with you.  I like to separate my feeds in advance using a formula dispenser. This makes it easy to make up a bottle quickly.  

formula dispenser

In addition to powdered formula, you can also buy ready-made cartons of formula.  However, as this is liquid, you may be subject to testing at security.  At many UK airports, you can call Boots (UK pharmacist) airside in advance and reserve cartons of liquid formula. This means you won’t need to stress when you are going through security.  If you are bringing breast milk, the best way to store it is in sealed containers kept in a small, insulated cooler with frozen ice packs. The milk should be ok for 24 hours.

There are various options when it comes to sterilising bottles and you can mix and match to suit your journey e.g. 3 of your own sterilized bottles + 3 disposable sterilized bottles.  Check in advance the liquid rules for the countries you are traveling to & from.  For example, according to the UK government, ‘When travelling with a baby you’re allowed to take enough baby food, baby milk and sterilised water for the journey. In some cases this will be over 100ml. Airport staff might need to open the containers to screen the liquids at the security point.’

Sterilizing Options

  1. The easiest of all sterilizing options is just to have plenty of your own bottles, pre-sterilized with cooled boiled water inside (will remain sterile up to 24 hours in advance).  However, this may not be practical if you are on a longhaul flight and need bottles every hour!  I used to bring a mix of empty sterilised bottles and sterilised bottles with boiled water inside.  Bear in mind, Security staff may test the water which means the bottle becomes unsterile.
  2. Buy disposable sterilised bottles and nipples e.g. Steri-Bottle.  These are 100% recyclable and BPA free. The only downside is the cost although they aren’t too pricey.  It’s worth doing a trial run with a bottle in advance of your flight to check your baby is comfortable with the bottle and nipple flow.

  3. Buy Pre-Sterilised disposable liners for your bottles e.g. Playtex Drop-Ins.  You still need to sterilize the teat but it does save you having to clean and sterilize the bottle.  The liner collapses as baby drinks so no air gets in the liquid or in baby’s tummy.
  4. Similarly to the above, fashion your own liners!  I have to credit Beyza Bilgic who used her own plastic bags inside her bottles which she then just threw away after her baby finished drinking. Not so environmentally friendly but sometimes you have to opt for the easy route!
    Plastic sterilising bottles
  5. Sterilise your bottles using a Milton solo travel steriliser.  Place the bottle inside the Milton Solo then add cold water and one quarter of a Milton tablet or 7.5ml of Milton sterilising fluid. The bottle is ready in 15 minutes.  Of course for this option you still need to wash the bottle and its parts first in soapy water.  So don’t forget to bring a bottle brush, small dispenser of washing up liquid and cloth with you onboard.  Not so fun washing these up in an airplane toilet, panicking that your sleeping baby is about to wake up!
    Once you are on your holiday, you can then continue to use the Milton Solo with cold water or upright in a Microwave.
    Milton solo
  6. A disposable version of the above is available – yes the Disposable Steriliser Bag! Each bag is a totally self-contained steriliser unit lasting up to 24 hours and will hold at one time a maximum of 4 standard or 3 wide neck bottles.  As the bag can get really heavy once all the water is inside, make sure you have somewhere convenient to place this on the plane where it won’t get knocked. There’s a brand called Oasis selling them although reviews of the steriliser bags are mixed and you may want to go another option.

Now if all of that sounds like an extra complication to what is already a stressful time for parents, remember the sterilising doesn’t last forever!  Although I think I’d rather sterilise a bottle than chase a toddler round the cabin…

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