There are many factors to consider when feeding and preparing formula for your baby. Aside from the nutritional value and whether your baby accepts the formula, you need to think about how to store leftover formula.
Ideally, powdered infant formula should be prepared immediately before use. However, life sometimes gets in the way; if you are a busy parent, you may want to learn about preparing formula in advance. From formula fridge storage to knowing how long formula can be left out, here’s what you need to know.
How to store infant formula
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to store infant formula for your little one. Some people only store boiled water to prepare later, while others make up complete formula feeds and refrigerate. Whatever the case, in order to store infant formula correctly, it’s important to take care during the preparation phase. Here are some top tips:
- Either prepare one bottle at a time using the mixing instructions on the can, or store premeasured boiled water to mix with formula at a later stage, as required.
- Always store prepared formula or boiled water in sterilised bottles.
- Store bottles in the middle area towards the back of your fridge as this is the coldest part of the fridge. Don’t store any in the fridge door where it is warmer.
- Discard any unused water or formula after 24 hours.
Storing boiled water
Yes, you can boil water for formula in advance – you don’t necessarily have to completely prepare the formula in order to store it. Some people find it easier just to make up several batches of boiled water for storage, after which they can easily mix with the powdered formula.
If you do decide to boil water, it should be kept in freshly sterilised bottles before being stored away (e.g. in your fridge). Then, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for preparation of formula.
Ready-made formula milk storage
If you would prefer to have completely ready-made formula stored in preparation for future feeds, you can do that instead of just keeping boiled water stored. This is very common, whether you are a busy parent or simply want to stay on top of your baby’s daily feeds.
Make up the formula as per the instructions on the tin. Then, like storing boiled water, only store the prepared formula in sterilised bottles. Make sure you store them in the middle area towards the back of your fridge, not in the fridge door, and discard any unused formula after 24 hours.
How long does the formula last once made?
Make sure you read the instructions and formula storage guides on the back of the tin, as different formula products may have different timelines for how long they last. Most formulas can be made up and kept in the fridge for 24 hours.
Infant formula won’t keep at room temperature, so it’s important to refrigerate any formula immediately after making up a bottle. If it’s left out for over an hour it should be discarded.
Warming a stored feed
Warming up a stored formula feed is just as important as storing it correctly. Here’s our top tips for preparing it correctly:
- Warm up the bottle of prepared formula by sitting the bottle in a container of hot water (not boiling).
- Microwaves are not recommended for safety reasons when heating formula, as they do not heat the milk evenly and cause ‘hot spots’ that could burn your baby’s mouth.
- Always use a warmed-up formula within 1 hour. After this, it should be discarded.
- Avoid warming bottles for more than 15 minutes. Bacteria can grow or the formula may become too hot with extended warming times
- Test the milk temperature by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist. It should feel lukewarm and never hot.
Ways to make up feeds on-the-go
If you have the time to prepare formula and keep it in your fridge for up to 24 hours:
- Make up the formula at home and keep it refrigerated until you are about to go out.
- Pack in a cool bag with an ice pack to keep it cold.
- Use within 2 hours.
Alternatively, you can take care of formula feeds while out and about – just make sure to prepare!
- Put freshly boiled water in a sterilised bottle
- Measure scoops of formula into a sterile container
- Mix it just before you need it.
Can you put warm formula in the fridge?
If you have prepared formula using warm water, this will need to cool down prior to being placed in the fridge. Alternatively, formula made with cool boiled water can be immediately placed in the fridge. If formula has been stored and then warmed but not fed to the infant, it cannot be safely returned to the fridge for further storage.
How long does unmixed formula last once the container is opened?
Every type of baby formula has an expiration date, so make sure you keep note of that date after you have opened it. As long as the container is sealed and kept in the right conditions in your house, it will usually last for a full month.
Can you boil water for formula in advance?
Yes, just make sure you store the boiled water in sterilised bottles.
How long can you leave formula in a bottle warmer?
It’s recommended that you don’t warm formula for any longer than 15 minutes, as bacteria may begin to grow. Also, extended time in a bottle warmer or bowl of hot water can cause the formula to get too hot and potentially burn your baby’s mouth.
How many times can you warm up formula?
Baby formula should only ever be heated once, with any leftover formula discarded after a feed. You can prepare formula for storage in advance, but make sure that the first time you heat it up is right before you feed it to your baby.
Can you freeze formula?
Ideally, formula should be prepared just prior to feeding. Otherwise, refrigerate prepared formula and use within 24 hours. Formula left in the bottle after a feed must be discarded.