You’ve chosen a formula and bought a set of baby bottles – and now it’s time. But what exactly do you do? Pediatric dietitian Andrea Adler, RD, CSP, CSPCC, LD, explains the ins and outs of preparing and storing baby food.
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How do you prepare powdered baby food?
For many parents, bottle feeding is essential in the first year of feeding their babies. So learning how to make baby food is a crucial skill. It’s not difficult, but it’s important to follow a few guidelines:
Use the correct formula water ratio water
Always follow package directions for how much formula and water to use unless your pediatrician or pediatric registered dietitian recommends otherwise.
Make sure it’s a full, flattened scoop, Adler says. But read the label: “The directions on some formulas say to pack the scoops, while others say to use an unwrapped scoop.” Use the spoon that comes in the container. This will help you find the right formula to water ratio. Scoops can vary in size from formula to formula.
Avoid bottled water
You may be surprised to learn that tap water is usually the best water to use with formula. “Tap water is safe to mix with infant formula,” Adler reassures. “It contains fluoride, which is beneficial for teeth even before they begin to appear above the gumline.” Do you have a home filter system? That’s okay, because fluoride usually remains in tap water after it’s filtered.
On the other hand, distilled, purified, deionized or deionized water does not contain fluoride. Plus, bottled water isn’t sterile, Adler says, except for infant or children’s water, which is boiled before bottling. Bottled water can also become contaminated if left on the shelf for too long.
Note: If well water comes out of your tap, make sure it is regularly tested for safety by the local health department.
Never use the microwave
There is no need to heat the formula. According to Adler, there is no harm in feeding your child a bottle that is cold or at room temperature. But if you do want to heat it up, don’t put formula in the microwave. Uneven heating can cause burns that can burn your baby’s mouth.
The best way to warm up the formula is to use a store-bought bottle warmer or place the bottle in a bowl of hot water. These methods gently heat the formula. But it’s a good idea to test how hot it is before giving it to your child. Drop a few drops on your inner wrist. When it’s a comfortable temperature, it’s ready for your little one.
Do I have to use boiled water to make formula?
As long as your child is healthy, you don’t have to boil the water, Adler says. But if it gives you peace of mind, go ahead. Make sure the water has cooled completely before mixing it with the formula, so as not to burn or burn the caregiver or baby. Boiling hot water can also break down some of the nutrients in the formula.
Do bottles have to be sterilized?
Washing bottles with soap and water removes germs, but exposing them to high temperatures (sterilizing) takes it one step further. “I recommend sterilizing bottles and teats before using them the first time,” Adler says. “But after that, it’s fine to wash them thoroughly with soap and water.”
However, if your child has a compromised immune system or was born prematurely, you may need to sterilize the bottles regularly. Ask your pediatrician if this step is necessary for your child.
There are a number of ways to sterilize bottles. The cheapest way is to put them in boiling water for five minutes. But you can also buy a bottle sterilizer, which uses steam to kill germs.
If you have questions about which bottles to use, read what a pediatrician says about the safety of plastic bottles and other alternatives.
How long does the formula take after being prepared?
In general, you want as little time as possible between preparing the bottle and giving the bottle to your child. Any prepared formula – mixing powder or concentrate with water or opening a ready-to-use formula – can be left at room temperature for two hours. After that, you should give it to your baby or keep it in the fridge, Adler says.
In the fridge:
Unused, but opened, ready-to-use bottles can be left for up to 48 hours. Unused bottles made with powdered formula can last up to 24 hours.
Can I prepare the formula in advance?
It is best to make the bottle right before giving it to your child. But that can be a hassle in the middle of the night.
“During the day, I recommend making the bottle roughly before feeding it,” Adler says. “But for nighttime feedings, it’s helpful to finish up bottles before going to bed and put them in the fridge. They stay good for 24 hours, so you can grab one quickly at 3am”
Can I keep formula leftovers in the fridge?
Discard leftover formula. Once you have started feeding your baby from the bottle, the bottle will only be good for an hour. That’s because the baby’s mouth introduces bacteria into the nipple.
“It’s like you don’t want to take a sip of milk, leave it for a few hours and then drink it again or put it in the fridge for later. The risk of spoilage is too great,” explains Adler.
How long is the saved formula good?
The unopened formula you have in your pantry is good until the expiration date on the cans or ready-to-use bottles. Once opened, the powder formula lasts for a month. After that time, formula makers cannot guarantee nutritional quality. It is best to start with a fresh can.
Bottle feeding is one of the many skills new parents need to learn, but you’ll be a pro in no time. With these tips in mind, you can keep your little one safe, nourished and healthy.