The do’s and don’ts of bottle-feeding

We all know breastfeeding is best for your baby, but if your baby is taking formula from a bottle, it is important to make sure each feeding is safe and clean.

Powdered infant formula is not sterile. It could contain bacteria that can cause serious illness to your baby. By preparing and storing formula properly and sterilizing bottles, you can reduce the risk of infection.

Here’s how to safely get your baby’s formula ready:

  • Only use formula that’s been approved for infants by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These formulas are safe for your baby. Don’t make or use homemade formula. Don’t use formula that comes from other countries. Don’t use formula that’s made for toddlers until your baby is 1 year old.
  • Wash your hands before you get the formula ready.
  • Follow the directions on the formula package. Check the “use by” date on the package to make sure it’s not too old to use.
  • If you use a powdered formula, use only the scoop that comes with the formula. Ask your baby’s provider what kind of water to use (tap water from a faucet or bottled water). Use the right amount of formula and water. Too much water may keep your baby from getting the right amount of nutrients she needs. Too little water may cause diarrhea or dehydration (when your baby doesn’t have enough water in his body). Don’t add extra water to the formula.
  • Wash the top of the formula can before you open it. Make sure any equipment you use with the formula (like a spoon or can opener) is clean.

Here’s how to store prepared formula:

  • If your baby doesn’t drink all the formula in his bottle within 1 hour, throw it away. Give him a new bottle of fresh formula at his next feeding.
  • You can store prepared formula in the refrigerator for 24 hours (1 day).
  • You can store ready-made or mixed concentrated formula covered in the refrigerator for 48 hours (2 days).

Here’s how to make sure bottles and nipples are clean and safe for your baby:

  • Wash your hands before you get a bottle ready for your baby.
  • Scrub nipples in hot, soapy water and rinse them with clean water. You also can boil them for 5 minutes.
  • Wash bottles in hot, soapy water and rinse them with clean water. Or you can wash them in a dishwasher that has hot water and a hot drying cycle.
  • After every feeding, wash bottles, nipples and anything you use to prepare the formula in hot soapy water.

When you feed your baby, tip the bottle to keep the nipple full of milk. Put the nipple in your baby’s mouth. Never prop the bottle or put your baby to bed with a bottle; doing these things may make your baby choke.

For more information on how to prepare bottles safety, visit the World Health Organization’s guidelines for cleaning, sterilizing & storing. For information about formulas and what to ask your baby’s doctor, visit our website.

For information on safe handling and storage of breast milk, visit marchofdimes.org.

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