For advice on how to transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, and the changes to expect, visit combination feeding.

Using formula is simple, but it’s important to follow the directions carefully. With all the boiling, cooling and mixing do’s and don’ts, there is a lot to remember. Follow these five important tips to make sure your baby’s formula is prepared safely every time.

  1. Wash your hands before you start.
  2. Sterilise the bottles and teats (find out more in what you need).
  3. Make the formula up with cooled, previously boiled tap water. It should remain around 70°C to ensure any bacteria is killed, so don’t let it cool for longer than 30 minutes.
  4. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on the tin, make sure to follow these closely and measure carefully. Always use the original scoop provided in the tin, with the specified volume of water instructed, as this can differ between formulas.
  5. Check the milk isn’t too hot before feeding. It should feel lukewarm on your wrist.

If you plan to bottle feed from birth, whether with formula or expressed milk, there are a few things to remember in the run up to your due date. Before the big day it is a good idea to check with the maternity ward if you need to bring your own bottles and equipment as not all maternity units provide these.

If you plan on formula feeding your baby, you may need to think about bringing the formula you plan to use at home into the hospital with you, in case the hospital doesn’t have it. This will prevent you having to switch your baby to a new formula after the first few feeds.

No matter what your chosen method of feeding is, ask your health visitor or midwife to provide advice on feeding your baby. Be sure to ask all the questions running through your head so you can feel confident feeding your baby.

Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions as storage instructions may differ. The instructions below are correct for storing Similac infant and toddler milks.

Unprepared, powder formula:

  • Once the tin is opened make sure the lid is re-fitted securely and store it in a cool, dry place - not in the fridge.
  • Make sure to use the formula within 3 weeks of opening. With the hectic life of being a parent it’s a good idea to use a permanent marker to write the date you opened it on the lid.

Prepared, liquid formula:

  • Once you begin a feed, any formula that is left in the bottle after two hours must be discarded for safety and hygiene reasons.
  • It is recommended, and safest, to only prepare a feed when your baby needs it; however it is possible to prepare feeds in advance if you need too. For guidance on the safe preparation and storage of formula in advance, have a read of our advice below.

Where possible, each bottle should be made up fresh for each feed. Storing made-up formula may increase the chance of your baby becoming ill. However, there are times when this may not be practical and feeds need to be prepared in advance. Follow the steps below for a safe way to pre-prepare feeds for later use:

  1. Prepare feeds in separate bottles, not in one large container (e.g. a jug).
  2. Sterilise all bottles and equipment and wash your hands and surfaces before beginning.
  3. Prepare feed as you would normally, with previously boiled tap water, following manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Quickly cool the mixed formula down to room temperature. You can do this by running the bottle under cold running water or placing it in a container of cold water.
  5. Once cooled, store the feed in the main part of the fridge. Prepared bottles should be stored below 5°C at the back of the fridge, not in the door.

Once stored at the back of the fridge, the feed should be used within 24 hours.

If you need to transport your feed out of home, make sure the bottle has been cooled in the back of the fridge for at least one hour. Then take it out just before you leave and carry it in a cool bag with an ice pack. Use within 4 hours.

If you have had to prepare feeds in advance, it is safe to give it to your baby at room temperature (or cold). However, if they are used to warm feeds they may prefer it warmed up. Here’s how to safely re-warm feeds for your baby:

  1. Remove the stored feed from the fridge (or cooler bag) just before it is needed.
  2. Place the bottle under warm running water, or in a container of warm water. Alternatively, if you have a bottle warmer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for warming a bottle.
  3. A bottle should not be left warming for longer than 15 minutes and should never be heated in a microwave – this can result in ‘heat spots’ which can be harmful for your baby.
  4. Once warm, shake the bottle to ensure the feed is heated evenly and test the temperature with a few drops on the inside of your wrist.
  5. Any formula left after two hours from the beginning of a feed must be discarded for safety and hygiene reasons.

After using previously boiled water, how can you be sure a feed is not too hot for your baby? There’s an easy test – shake a few drops of feed onto the inside of your wrist. The drops should feel lukewarm, not hot.

If you do think the feed is too hot, replace the cap and hold the bottle under cold running water for a few minutes.

Breastfeeding is best for babies and is recommended for as long as possible. If you have any concerns about feeding your baby or your baby’s health, please contact your health visitor or GP.

Related Pages

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Date of preparation: September 2016

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