How To Sterilize Baby Bottles On Holiday

Travelling with a baby can be an unknown experience. This uncertainty can cause undue anxiety and stress. At home I had a good sterilizing routine and I knew where everything was but I wasn’t sure how to develop a routine when we travelled. 

Travelling with a baby and sterilizing the bottles and teats causes a few more challenges but I will explain some ways to help you enjoy the holiday and feel in control of the process.

baby holding a bottle important to sterilize

Why sterilize?

Baby touching bottle with finger important to sterilize

It’s important to sterilize all your baby’s feeding equipment, including bottles and teats, until they are at least 12 months old.

If the formula milk has been at room temperature for more than 1 hour, throw it away. If your baby doesn’t drink all the formula in the bottle, throw away the unused portion. Do not save it for later as bacteria can start to breed. 

Pre-sterilizing routine, very important!

Before sterilizing, clean the bottles immediately after a feed in hot soapy water.

Use a baby bottle scrubber to get all the residue out of the bottle and teats. Bottle scrubbers are great investments especially for getting milk out of the teats. When my daughter was bottle fed we went through at least four bottle scrubbers! 

They wear out fast and having backups means you don’t have to worry about leaving them at a family or friends house. Check out the OXO Tot Bottle Brush with Nipple Cleaner and Stand on Amazon.

TOP TIP: Please don’t use salt to clean the bottles or teats as this can be dangerous for the baby. Your baby’s kidneys are still growing and might not be able to process any traces of salt.

You can put the bottles in a dishwasher but remember this still only cleans but does not sterilize the bottles. Like any bottles you put in a dishwasher have them facing downwards. To put my mind at ease I preferred to hand wash and I had lots of backup bottles around.

Just before you are ready to sterlise, rinse the bottles and teats in cold running water to get the soapy residue off.

Find out if you can use the water abroad to make up bottles

Always check to see if drinking the local water is recommended. If it is allowed, then always boil it first and don’t use previously boiled water. Generally, bottled water is not recommended because it may contain too many minerals.

However, when you are travelling or visiting some countries using drinkable tap water and boiling it may not be possible. If you do need to make up a feed with bottled water make sure that the sodium levels are less than 200mg per litre and sulphates are less than 250mg per litre.

Remember, you still need to boil bottled water before using to prepare feeds and don’t re-boil previously boiled bottled water as this can concentrate the salt and sulphate levels. Some bottled waters such as Evian are suitable for baby feeding, so opt for these.

Boil water to make up formula feeds  and let it cool before you give it to your baby. Seek advice from your nurse or your doctor before you travel if you are unsure.

TOP TIP:You can boil water and keep it in a thermos flask. It will keep the water hot upto 24 hours.


If you’re flying, the 100ml carry-on limit for liquids doesn’t apply to formula milk powder. It’s best to pack many bottles with pre-measured amounts of formula powder. 

Some airports won’t let you take pre boiled water that is over 100ml, so I would just ask a restaurant to boil some water for you once through check-in. A better option would be use the premade fomula as some brands come in small bottles.

Cold water method:

Grab some sterilizing tablets or liquid. I picked up some Milton sterilizing tablets from the pharmacy before our travels.

You can use a clean plastic container or one designed by the tablet/liquid company. Be sure to go through the pre sterilize routine. 

I grabbed the milton cold water sterilizer at the same time as the tablets. The container wasn’t a total waste of money as it’s now home to a collection of minnie mouse toys.

You can use tap water or if the water isn’t up to standard, boil bottled water. Put the tablets or liquid in and all the pre washed bottles and teats. Be sure to cover the container, 15 minutes is the required time by Milton but I always left it for 30 minutes to be sure.

TOP TIP: Make sure there are no air bubbles in the bottles or teats when putting them in the water. I would use a pair of tongs to thoroughly submerge the bottles until the bubbles stopped.

When the 30 minutes is up, take out only what you need from the sterilizing solution and cover the container immediately. The solution is good for 24 hours. There is no need to rinse the bottles or teats as the sterilizing tablets/liquid have done their job.


TOP TIP: Use a pair of tongs to remove the bottles and teats from the solution to prevent contamination. These don’t have to be special fancy ones, I used to use a normal kitchen tong and washed it thoroughly beforehand.


Place all the prewashed bottles and teats in a saucepan and cover completely with tap water or preboiled bottle water.

Boil the bottles for 20 minutes and the teats for 10 minutes and prolonged exposure to boiling water can damage the teats.

TOP TIP: I used to set a timer on my phone to remind me when the time was up for the bottles and teats.

When the allotted time is up there is no need to rinse the bottles. It’s best to take out only what you need and cover the saucepan with the lid.

Electric steam sterilizer:

The electric steam sterilizer is a bit bulky to carry around and requires electricity but the sterilizing is quick and easy to use. Make sure the bottles and teats are facing downwards. 

The bottles are sterilized from 8 minutes to 12 minutes depending on the make. Contents can stay sterile from 6 to 24 hours if the lid is closed. There is no need to rinse the bottles or teats and follow the cooling time instructions to avoid any burns.

Microwave steaming:

Most places have a microwave and so this is a good method when on the move. Check out the Dr Brown’s Microwave Steam Sterilizer on Amazon.

This method takes less time than boiling. The contents stay sterile for 24 hours if the lid remains closed and there is no need to rinse. 

You can’t put metal in the microwave but as long you don’t have any fancy futuristic metal bottles you will be fine as most are plastic. A compact microwave steam sterilizer with a clip-on lid is perfect for travelling. Follow cooling time instructions to avoid any burns.

TOP TIP: Call ahead to find out what size microwave is at the accommodation. It may be too small to fit the sterilizing container.

Disposable and pre-sterilized:

The ultimate saviour and best kept secret of parenting. Make your life easy and always have a few packs around. The minutes saved, the convenience…just do it! Be sure to read the manufacturer notes as some teats are fast flow are only suitable from 3 months. Also the teats are non removable.

Check out: Steribottle Ready to Use Disposable Baby Bottles.

Sterilizing bags:

You put the bottles in, add tap water and microwave for the specified time as explained by the manufacturer. They can only hold a few bottles but are an extremely space saving idea.

Sterilizing bags vary from brand to brand so please check with the manufacturer. Some bags can be re used a specific number of times whilst others are strictly for one use only and then have to be thrown away,

Try the excellent: Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags.

TOP TIP: Let the bag cool down for 5-10 minutes before removing it from the microwave.

Handy to have - Pre-mixed formula:

Most powdered formula will have a pre-mixed option too. They can be kept at room temperature and do not need to be heated up. They often come packaged with pre sterilized teats. I always had a stash of these in case of emergencies although they can be quite expensive.


My personal method was to sterilse the bottles and teats in a microwavable sterilizer. I would call the hotel to find out what size of microwave they have. But I would also carry some disposable bottles and pre sterilized bags. I used some premade bottles when the water in the flask was no longer hot.

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