MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS
Rachel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University and is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works as a nutrition and wellness coach with focuses on infant and maternal nutrition, and mindful eating.
Free & Live Chat with the Happy Baby Experts
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you should add only water to formula in the amounts directed on the package. Following the preparation instructions is important to ensure your baby receives proper nutrients. Too much water will dilute the formula and too little water will concentrate it, and either can undermine the nutrition your baby might otherwise receive.
Practicing proper hygiene is also key when preparing formula. Your baby’s immune system is still developing so minimizing unnecessary exposure to bacteria can help decrease the risk of infections.
Now wash your hands and get ready to prepare your baby’s first bottle!
Check expiration dates
Note the expiration dates on the formula packaging before serving. Make sure the cans or containers do not have dents.
Work in a clean area with clean bottles and other equipment
Wash your hands and work on a clean counter before handling baby bottles and formula. If you’re using the bottles for the first time, sterilizing the bottles along with their parts is a good precautionary measure. Simply boil the items for 5 minutes and then let cool before handling.
Otherwise, clean the bottles, bottle liners and nipples in hot soapy water and rinse well. You can use a special bottlebrush to clean any hard to reach spots.
It’s important to note that powdered infant formula is not sterile; it may harbor a rare but dangerous bacteria called cronobacter. Because of this, some organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend against powdered formula use in infants less than 1 month old. Sterile liquid (concentrate or ready-to-feed) is a safer option should you be concerned.
Here are instructions on how to safely prepare powdered formula:
*Note: According to the CDC, boiling the water decreases the risk of infection from bacteria that could be present in the formula itself. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends boiling water for formula when the quality of the water being used is in question. Discuss the above recommendations with your baby’s pediatrician.
If your city or town has safe drinking water with low levels of contaminants such as lead, then it is usually fine to use cold drinking water to boil for formula use. Formulas contain a low amount of fluoride, but some municipal or well water can be high in fluoride which could cause mild dental fluorosis. Distilled water, purified water, or de-ionized water are typically lower in fluoride and may be less likely to cause Fluorosis. Speak with your pediatrician should you have a concern. For more information click here.
Mix infant formula with water according to package instructions
Check and follow the water-to-formula ratio on the package instructions as not all formulas use the same concentrations.
Formula instructions usually indicate to pour the water first and then add the powdered or concentrated liquid formula. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Use a measuring cup for the water and the provided scoop for powder formula.
Close containers of infant formula or bottled water as soon as possible.
Store prepared formula safely
If you can’t remember how long you have kept formula in the refrigerator, it is safer to throw it out than to feed it to your baby.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to chat live with our infant nutrition experts!
For more information, see the WHO’s formula prep brochure or the CDC’s instructions.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Kleinman RE, ed. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook, 7th edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: 2004. How to Safely Prepare Formula with Water, AAP Sterilizing and Warming Bottles, AAP Formula Form and Function: Powders, Concentrates, and Ready-to-Feed, AAP Infant formula: 7 steps to prepare it safely, Mayo Clinic