Preparing formula

Whatever type and form of formula you choose, proper preparation and refrigeration are essential, both to ensure the appropriate amount of nutrition and to safeguard the health of your baby.

Newborns have few defenses against germs. It takes a while for your baby to build up immunity — especially if he or she isn't getting breast milk, which contains antibodies. Formula doesn't have them. That's why it's important to minimize the danger of bacteria contaminating your baby's formula by preparing and storing it safely.

Wash your hands before handling formula or the equipment used to prepare it. All equipment that you use to measure, mix and store formula should be washed with hot, soapy water and then rinsed and dried before every use. Sterilizing bottles and nipples isn't necessary as long as you wash and rinse them well. After use, clean bottles, nipples and preparation equipment with hot, soapy water. Use a bottle brush to wash bottles. Brush or rub the nipples thoroughly to remove any traces of formula. Rinse well. You can also clean bottles and nipples in the dishwasher.

Wash or wipe the tops of formula cans with a clean towel before you open them. You may keep unused liquid concentrate formula in the can after you open it. Cover it tightly and refrigerate. Generally, you can store all prepared formula or liquid concentrate in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. After that, throw away all unused formula.

Whether using powder formula or liquid concentrate formula, always add the exact amount of water specified on the label. Measurements on bottles may be inaccurate, so pre-measure the water before adding it to the formula. Using too much or too little water can be harmful to your baby. If formula is too diluted, your baby won't get enough nutrition for growth needs or to satisfy hunger. Formula that's too concentrated puts strain on the baby's digestive system and kidneys and could dehydrate your baby.

Warming formula isn't necessary for nutritional purposes, but your baby may prefer it warm. To warm formula, set the bottle in a pan of warm water for a few minutes. Shake the bottle and test the temperature of the milk by dropping a few drops of formula on the top of your hand. Don't microwave formula because this can cause hot spots that can burn your baby's mouth. Once you warm formula, don't refrigerate the leftovers. Discard the unused portions of formula.

In general, it's best to make up formula when you need it, not in advance. However, you may prefer to make up a bottle or two and store them in the refrigerator for use that night. This may make nighttime feedings easier.

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