How to Safely Prepare Baby Formula

Posted by Alaina Moulton on

Baby safety month is September! In honor of baby safety month we’ll look at formula safety! 

Parents who formula feed take great care in finding a formula that best suits their baby's needs as well as what they consider to be the most important when it comes to nutrition. Whether its cow milk-based, soy-based, protein hydrolysate, organic, etc. every mom wants to give their baby safe and healthy nutrition. (Luckily, all formulas are regulated and must be approved by the FDA.) With as much time and energy as we put into choosing a baby formula, we as parents must take care to prepare it safely, as well.

It's important to prepare your baby's formula correctly, according to both the Mayo Clinic and the CDC. 

Taking care to follow these steps will ensure that your baby has a healthy bottle of formula for every meal.

1. Pay Attention to the Expiration Date

Starting at the time of purchase, you'll want to take time to find the expiration or "use by" date on the formula you're choosing. Consider when you'll need the formula to ensure this date won't pass before you use all of it. No matter what, any formula remaining after the expiration date needs to be thrown out. 

2. Keep Hands Clean

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's easy to forget. With the number of germs that come into contact with our hands, you need to make sure they are freshly washed each time before you begin to prepare your baby's bottle. Be sure to thoroughly dry them off, as well.

3. Make Sure Bottles are Clean

All parts of your baby's bottle need to be properly cleaned before each feeding. This includes the bottle, nipple, cap, ring and any other internal part that may come into contact with the formula. 

Before the first use, you'll want to sterilize all of the parts by boiling them in water for five minutes (or you can use a microwave steam sterilizer bag specifically made for bottle parts.) 

The Mayo Clinic states, "After the first use, there's no need to sterilize your bottle and accessories." A thorough washing each time with soap and water is all you need. Bottle and nipple brushes may be necessary to get all parts completely clean depending on the type of bottle that you use. 

4. Add Water to Liquid-Concentrate or Powdered Formula

Both liquid-concentrate formula and powdered formula need water added to them before you give them to your baby.

This leaves the question, what type of water is best when preparing my baby's bottle?

Both tap and bottled water are safe to use when preparing your baby's bottle of formula. Tap water is perfectly safe in most areas. However, if there is any concern about the purity of the water that you'll be using, you'll want to consult your doctor right away.

Something else to consider is how much fluoride is in the water where you live. Though fluoride for infants is a great way to prevent tooth decay, it can lead to a harmless condition called fluorosis which can leave faint white lines on your baby's teeth. If you have a concern about this, you'll want to consult your pediatric dentist for recommendations.

Remember that you should never add extra water to your baby’s bottle beyond what is directed. 

5. Use Proper Measurements

Once you've determined the type of water that will work best for your baby's bottle, it's time to measure out how much you need.

Like medicine, it's important that you follow formula measurements exactly as outlined in the directions. Be sure to take care to read the label carefully before preparing your baby's bottle, but here are some basic guidelines:

Ready-to-use formula needs to be shaken first. Then it is poured into a clean bottle. There is nothing else that needs to be added. 

Liquid-concentrate formula should be shaken first. Put the amount of water needed into the bottle and then pour in the formula. Cap the bottle and shake well.

For powdered formula, you'll need to first determine how much you'll need based on the package directions. Carefully measure how much water you'll need and then pour in the correct number of scoops of formula. Cap the bottle and shake well.

6. Safely Warm As Needed

Warming is an optional step in the process. However, very few babies will drink their formula cold. And you should be careful what temperature of water you're using from the tap. 

There are two main ways that you can warm a baby's bottle safely:

  1. You can warm it in a bowl of warm (not hot) water. This method does work, but can be a little messy and takes time. Remember that your baby's bottle should feel lukewarm, not hot (you can test it by placing a drop on your wrist.)
  2. The next method takes the guesswork out of warming your baby's bottle. We highly recommend the Baby's Brew portable bottle warmer which works great both at home and on-the-go. With 4 safe temperatures to choose from (no hot spots!), it will have your baby's bottle warmed with the push of a button in about 5-10 minutes. Plus formula feeding moms can choose the option to have a detachable formula dispenser which makes the whole process completely mess-free!

*NEVER microwave a baby's bottle.

7. Follow Proper Storage Guidelines

Take care to read the instructions on the container of formula you choose. This will help with any specific storage questions.

But here are some good rules of thumb:

  • Unused ready-to-use formula can be covered and refrigerate for the next use. Be sure to discard any leftover formula after 48 hours.
  • You can prepare bottles of formula ahead of time, but you'll want to write the date on the bottle of when it was prepared and keep it in the fridge until you need it. It should only be kept in the fridge for 24 hours after it's been prepared.
  • Always throw out any uneaten portion of your baby's bottle of formula
  • Prepared infant formula can spoil if it is left out at room temperature so use it within 2 hours of preparation and within one hour from when feeding begins.
  • Formula should never be frozen

Any specific questions or concerns about preparing your baby’s bottle of formula should be directed to your child’s pediatrician. 


Q: When do babies stop drinking formula?

A: Typically here in the USA, babies start drinking whole (full fat) cow’s milk at a 1 year of age. Before they turn one, babies still need the nutrients in breastmilk or formula.


Q: How much is baby formula?

A: If your baby currently consumes 25 ounces of milk per day, you can expect to spend between $821.25 and $2,920 in your baby’s first year – depending on the brand you choose. There is a big difference in cost between formula brands so choosing which one works best for your baby will determine the cost. 


Q:  How much formula to feed baby

A: Every baby is different and there is no set amount that baby should eat. How much and how often your baby feeds will depend on your baby’s needs and growth. In the first days and weeks the baby should eat every couple of hours and smaller amounts. As baby grows they will drink larger bottles and they will be eating every 4 hours. Consult with your pediatrician if you are concerned about your baby’s growth and weight. 


Q: Are there resources to help with the cost of formula?

A: Depending on your financial circumstances, you might be able to qualify for government assistance. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states and their services help low-income women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or using formula feeding. If you qualify, WIC can help cover the cost of formula to ensure that baby is getting proper nutrition. 


Q: How to switch baby formula?

A: If changing due to an allergy or other medical issue, you should change the formula by doing an immediate switch. Some parents who just want to change brands, choose to do a gradual switch by mixing the formula at first. When switching formulas, it's natural for babies to have some digestive changes. With time, these issues should subside. Talk to your pediatrician when deciding to change baby formula. 


Q: Is formula bad for babies?

A: Absolutely not! Commercially made formulas in the USA are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make sure they meet minimum nutritional and safety requirements. You should pick an infant formula that is made especially for babies to make sure that your growing baby is getting the proper nutrients. 


Q: How long can prepared baby formula sit out?

A: Prepared infant formula can spoil if it is left out at room temperature so use it within 2 hours of preparation and within one hour from when feeding begins.


Q: What kind of water for baby formula?

A: You can use any type of clean water (tap or bottled) to prepare liquid-concentrate or powdered formula. If you're concerned about the purity of your water supply, talk to your baby's doctor or your water provider. 

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