According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Center), baby feeding items should be sterilized at least once every 24 hours. Baby's immune system is more vulnerable to bacteria and germs that linger on their feeding bottles, teats, and pacifiers.
Different methods of sterilization are being used for disinfecting the baby's essentials.
- Boiling baby bottles – old, traditional, reliable, but a time-consuming method.
- Steam Sterilization – use electric machines, microwavable containers, or bags
- UV Sterilizers – the new and effortless method
But the question is: Are UV sterilizers safe for babies?
UV sterilizers kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria, not by using heat but by using UV light. These are being used to sterilize hospital rooms and medical instruments, which shows the effectiveness of UV sterilizers. And yes, they are now being used to sterilize baby feeders, baby pacifiers, and other baby essentials.
But you should only use those baby sterilizers certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and meet all safety regulations, especially for baby essentials.
If UV sterilizer is so good, what caused the concern in the first place?
There are so many other aspects to know about the safety of UV sterilizers.
UV sterilizers use UV-C - ultraviolet light with a wavelength between 200-280 nanometers. It can disinfect surfaces and kill pathogenic microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria. These are more effective than UV-A and UV-B light. Exposure to UV-C light is deadly and can even cause injury or cancer.
320 – 400nm
280 – 320 nm
200 – 280 nm
Germicidal UV. Exposure to it can cause cancer and affects eyesight.
Direct exposure to UV lamps or UV devices is harmful to kids. Hospitals also use UV lamps when the room is unoccupied.
However, many types of UV devices are available in the market for commercial and home usage. Not all devices are safe or effective. These devices are regulated by FDA and certified by UL (Underwriter Laboratories). UL has guidelines for the types of devices that are safe to use and can be approved.
According to UL, any device with contained UV-C elements like air purifiers and sterilization boxes is safe to use because the source of UV-C light isn't exposed, and it shuts off as we open the container box.
Since the UV sterilizers for baby bottles have a contained compartment, they are deemed entirely safe to use.
Effect of UV Light on Baby Bottle Material
So far, we have talked about UV sterilizers and their safety. However, there is another concern about the baby bottle material. Most baby bottles are made of plastic.
According to FDA, UVC can degrade certain materials such as plastics and polymers.
The absorption of UV light in plastic leads to a series of chemical reactions and the break up of molecules. The process is called photodegradation.
The baby bottles' plastic is made of the following materials and plastics.
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Tritan - Polyester
- Polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) - Polyester
- Polyethersulfone (PES) - Polyester
Polypropylene is a very common plastic used in budget-friendly baby bottles. If these bottles are exposed frequently to UV light, such as the sun, they can degrade quickly. You can see the degradation in the form of chalky or yellow appearance, cracks, and discoloration.
So, if your baby bottle is made of PP (Polypropylene) you should better use traditional sterilization methods or limit the sterilization of baby bottles in UV sterilizers for those times when you are too busy to sterilize with any alternative method.
On the other hand, polyester is resistant to photodegradation due to UV light exposure. But frequent exposure can decrease the polyester fiber strength, and the baby bottle can degrade.
So, if you are using plastic baby bottles in UV sterilizers, make sure to replace them sooner.
In contrast to plastic bottles, baby bottles made of glass are more stable in UV- lights and safe for UV sterilization.
Silicone Pacifier or Nipple in UV Sterilizers
Pacifiers or baby bottle nipples are made of silicone. Now a days, silicone baby bottles are also commercially available. Silicone has a high resistance to UV lights and ozone. However, it can also show signs of degradation with more exposure to UVC light.
What Features to Look For in UV Sterilizers?
Now you are familiarized with what kind of baby bottles should be used in UV sterilizers, let's understand what you should look for in UV sterilizers.
A UV sterilizer will allow you to put the baby bottles immediately after washing them without waiting for them to dry. The drying mode will first dry the bottles before sterilizing them. It will cut down your time to air dry before sterilizing. Such sterilizers have a filter that you will need to replace after a specific time.
A UV sterilizer with a universal tank allows you to sterilize other accessories and items, such as breast pumps, baby toys, and baby teethers, rather than specified for a single brand or item.
The auto-shut-off feature is essential if you have kids around who can accidentally open the UV sterilizer. It will automatically shut off the UV light when the door is opened.
The physical size of the UV sterilizer also matters if you want to sterilize many objects or baby bottles at a time.
The LED light bulbs in UV sterilizers have a life that ranges between 2000 to 10,000 hours. Keep in mind your UV sterilizer usage and LED life expectancy, so you don't have to replace the bulb for a few years.
If the UV sterilizer has light coming from all directions, it will sterilize baby bottles and all accessories from all sides without missing any area or accessory. In cheap UV sterilizers in which light hits from only one side, there are chances that the baby bottle or any other object wouldn't be sterilized completely.
UV sterilizers are preferred for sterilizing because it doesn't use hot water or steam, which means there is no chance of steam burning injury. It is also a chemical-free solution for baby bottle sterilization. And unlike steam sterilizers, bottles sterilized from UV sterilizers come out at a normal room temperature, and you don't have to wait for them to cool.
But you should be careful and do the product research before buying a UV sterilizer. The UV sterilizer should tick all safety boxes and be certified by UL and the FDA. Also, you should buy either a glass baby bottle or a higher-grade plastic bottle if you are planning to buy a UV sterilizer.