Sterilisation refers to any process that effectively kills or eliminates transmissible agents such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, spore forms, etc. from a bottle surface or breast pump for example. It is essential that during their first year, all baby bottles, teats, soothers ect should be sterilised because at this time babies are at their most vulnerable to viruses, bacteria and parasitic infections which can cause illnesses from a mild case of thrush to a serious condition of gastroenteritis which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. Before sterilisation was standard practice, many babies died unnecessarily as a result.
Sterilisation can be achieved through application of heat or chemicals, but most commonly with steam for baby bottles and accessories. Electric steam sterilising is based on hospital methods and is quick and efficient and usually available in a compact microwave variety or a larger model which plugs directly into the mains. Their main advantage is that there is no smell or taste involved and the items inside remain sterile for a period (see model for time period) if the lid is kept on.
Although babies cannot live in a germ free environment, using a steriliser can reduce the risks open to small babies.