Preparing formula safely
What's safe and what's not when you give your baby the bottle?
A new study by Milupa Apta-Junior shows nearly half the region's bottle-feeding mothers are not preparing or storing formula correctly. we asked nutritionist and certified breastfeeding specialist Leena Muhanna to sort the myths from the facts ...
My baby’s formula seems a bit thick and she’s constipated. Can I add extra water to thin it out a bit?
The short answer is no. Prolonged thinning of formula can lead to the baby being undernourished. If your baby is suffering from constipation, it is advised to seek medical guidance. Please don’t take action yourself by making changes to the baby’s formula feeds as this could potentially cause harm to your baby.
I’ve been using bottled water for feeds – surely this is clean and sterile?
Although bottled water may be clean, for infants below the age of two months, even bottled water should be boiled to remove excess minerals which might be harmful. Boiling water to 100 degrees kills off the majority of bacteria. Actually, most infant formula manufacturers recommend the use of cooled boiled water although this requirement may vary depending on the water source and the age of the baby.
I’m getting frustrated as my baby grazes on her feed, and there’s heaps left an hour or so later. Is it ok to store it and try again later?
No, although this is a common frustration amongst mothers, any left-over infant formula must be discarded immediately after feeding. Harmful bacteria can generate in infant formula that is left over from a feed. It is also not recommended to store left-over infant formula in the refrigerator and then re-heat as the process of re-heating can also cause bacteria to form that can have adverse effects of baby’s health.
Any tips for preparing formula during night feeds to make them easier?
Cooled, boiled water can be added to the sterilized bottles and stored in the refrigerator, then when the baby wakes, add the formula to the bottle, shake well and heat the bottle gently. This is the only safe way to prepare infant formula!
What age can I stop sterilizing?
The advisable age to stop sterilization is at 12 months. During the first year of their life, babies tend to be more vulnerable to germs and bacteria, so it is best to keep sterilizing until the baby turns one.
Is it true that I can over feed my child with formula? How can I avoid this? Should I be sticking to the amounts suggested on the packaging for my child’s age – or are these just a rough estimate?
Yes, children can be over fed with formula and it is really very important to stick to the guidelines on the packaging. If your child appears to be unsettled or discontent with their feed, please do consult
your medical practitioner.
If I’m in a rush, I tend to warm the bottle in the mircrowave, and then give it a shake. Is this ok? If it’s not, are there any quick ways of warming formula that are suitable for a hungry (and crying) child?
No, using the microwave to heat the baby’s bottle is unsafe and can be harmful to the baby. Because the microwave heats unevenly, there is a risk of having hot spots inside the baby’s bottle which can burn the child’s mouth. The best option to warm the baby’s bottle would be to put the bottle under warm running water, or put it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes.
Any tips for transporting formula when I’m out and about? What’s the best way to do it so I’m not lugging around lots of heavy bottles and water?
The best way to transport the formula when the mother is on the go is to take cooled boiled water along with individual measured portions of the powder in a sterilized container, and mix them in the bottle when needed.
Alternatively, the mother can prepare the baby’s bottle at home, store it in a cool place and serve it to the baby within two hours of preparation. According to the WHO guidelines for safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula, if feeds are not to be consumed within two hours of preparation, they should be refrigerated or placed in a cool bag from the moment they are prepared, transported under refrigerated conditions, and reheated at the destination. The refrigerated feed should be used within a maximum of 24 hours of the preparation time.
What about sterilization while travelling? Are there any alternatives to boiling or steaming – particularly when we’re flying?
In order to avoid sterilizing bottles when travelling, mums can look out for sterile and disposable bottle bags and a sterile pack of teats. You can also use a sterilized single-use bottle – these can be very convenient to use when flying.
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