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Your baby can get sick from formula contaminated by bacteria. To prevent this, stick to the following guidelines for safely storing formula.
When your baby doesn't finish a bottle
Feed warmed formula to your baby right away. Don't heat it in advance, because warm liquid offers a conducive environment in which bacteria can grow. If you make a bottle of formula and it's left out at room temperature for more than an hour, toss it.
If your baby starts a bottle of formula but doesn't finish it within an hour, toss it. Don't refrigerate and reheat leftovers. Bacteria from his mouth can seep into the bottle, contaminate the formula, and make your baby sick.
When you've made a bottle to use later
- Prepared formula: Once you've mixed powdered or liquid concentrate formula with water, put it in closed bottles or a tightly covered container and refrigerate immediately. Don't let it cool outside the refrigerator first. After 24 hours, toss what's left over, because bacteria may have formed.
- Ready-to-use formula: Once you've opened ready-to-use (premixed) liquid formula, store it in closed bottles or tightly cover the container and refrigerate immediately. After 48 hours, discard any that's left over, because bacteria may have formed.
Tip: Label bottles with the date and time you prepared or opened the formula. Write on painters' or masking tape, use a sticky note, write with a wax pencil, or set an alarm on your phone – whatever method is easiest for you. Place bottles toward the back of the refrigerator, where it's coldest, putting the newest in the far back and rotating the oldest bottles to the front.
Formula on the go
- Prepared formula: The safest option when you're out and about is to carry an unopened container of premixed formula and a clean, empty bottle. When your baby is ready for a feeding, pour the formula into the bottle and serve right away. However, premixed formula can be expensive, and it might not work for your baby if that's not what she usually eats.
- Powdered formula: Before you leave home, put premeasured powdered formula into a clean bottle. Boil water and put it in a thermos, which will keep it hot for about four hours. After you mix the water and formula, check the temperature by sprinkling a few drops onto your wrist to make sure it's comfortably warm, not hot, and then serve right away.
- Premade bottle: If you need to mix formula and place it in a bottle before you go out with your baby, chill it for at least an hour in the back of the refrigerator, where it's coldest. You can store a bottle of pre-chilled formula in a cooler with ice packs for up to two hours. After two hours, discard any leftovers.
Tip: While some babies prefer a heated bottle, there's no medical reason to warm up formula. So if your baby is fine with room-temperature or cold formula, make it easier on yourself by skipping the step of heating it up.
Warming up a bottle from the fridge
You can warm up a refrigerated bottle of formula by running it under very warm or hot water and gently swirling the liquid for a few minutes. Or place it in a bowl or pot of very warm or hot water until it reaches the temperature your baby likes. If using a pot, remove it from the heat source before placing a bottle in it.
Another option is to use a bottle warmer that sits on a countertop or plugs into a car's lighter socket.
Never use a microwave, which can heat the liquid unevenly, creating hot spots that could burn your baby's mouth.
Learn more about preparing and using formula safely.