The bottles in my life became plastic with a teat stuck in the top rather than glass with a slice of lime or a cork stuck in the top.
Other than the obvious feeding using the bottles, one of my most sacred duties was to sterilise them.
In the early days of having a Small I had a tendency to sterilise everything as much as possible. This was a natural response to having something perfect in my home environment that I did not want to be responsible for damaging. I was aware of the millions of micro things on any given surface waiting with the express purpose of killing Small, so I defended Small by killing the millions of micro things.
After a while it slowly sank in that I couldn’t stop germs getting to Small and that, if I could, he would never build any immunity to them. Therefore my manic efforts to keep everything surgically spotless diminished back to normal levels of clean. Except in one area – bottles. These were going to be stuck directly into Small’s mouth and any germs there in or there on would have direct access to Small’s inner most workings. They need to be sterilised.
Before sterilising, the bottles needed to be cleaned in hot soapy water. Because milk, whether formula or breast, is fatty, it clings to the bottle and the teat, therefore the advice given at our antenatal classes was to use something abrasive to scrub them. I don’t think the class leader appreciated my suggestion that perhaps I could get my mother-in-law to lick them clean.
Once cleaned there were three sterilisation options; a chemical soak, boiling them in a pan or steaming them in a microwave. I chose the latter because it seemed the easiest and the quickest method. I had to buy the kit but it was not massively expensive compared to a lot of the crap I had already bought and proved to be much more useful than most of it.
The main skill with sterilising was not the sterilising itself, let’s face it, the microwave does that, it was keeping it sterile. First, I had to make sure I opened the lid away from me, to avoid getting a face full of steam. Then, using the fiddly tongs provided, which were searingly hot from the steam, I had to complete the puzzle of inserting the teat into the bottle top without touching it, other than with the sterilised tongs. Next I had to cover the teat with the blisteringly hot lid. Then, taking the white hot bottle I had to fill it with boiled water to the desired level and screw on the top part I had preassembled. This process was then completed for the rest of the bottles.
If I touched a teat it was game over; re-sterilise and start again. Ditto if I forgot to put the tongs in the unit. Fortunately, this method was really quick so redoing the job was not too harsh a punishment.
Sterilising may be quick, fairly easy and relatively pain free but that is only true if you can find the equipment. We moved house when Small 2 was still a babe in arms. He would wake regularly at 2:00am for a feed (and kept it up until he was 2 years old). On the first night I realised we had run out of sterilised bottles. Not great planning but we had spent the whole day moving out of one property and into another.
I knew that, with great foresight, we had put the steriliser in the top of a box. I soon discovered that such foresight was rendered next to useless because we had not marked the box in any way. The boxes where all about me in the kitchen, stacked to the ceiling, but after 10 minutes of pressurised searching (it is amazing how much pressure a scream can exert at 2:00am) the bottle steamer could not be located.
Fortunately, Small quietened down in the car and remained calm as we trollied our way around the 24 hour supermarket praying that they had a steriliser in stock. He exploded again once we had our bounty back at the house but 20 minutes later all was well with the world once more (10 minutes sterilising the bottles and 10 minutes holding the bottle of boiling water under a running tap to cool it down to drinking temperature). Apart from the fact that my bank account was lighter and I now had a 2nd steriliser I didn’t need.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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