The dos and don'ts of safe formula feeding

Feed your baby formula safely with tips from lactation consultant Teresa Pitman.

By Teresa Pitman
The dos and don'ts of safe formula feeding

Photo: iStock/FangXiaNuo

Whether you’ve chosen formula or need to supplement with formula because breastfeeding isn't going as smoothly as planned, it's important to pay careful attention to safe preparation of your baby’s milk, because the formula-fed baby does not have the immune factors that the breastfed baby does. Here is our guide to safe formula feeding. 

Do Make sure powdered formula is right for your child. Because powdered formula is not sterile, babies under two months of age, or those who were born prematurely and not yet two months past their expected due date, and babies who have a compromised immune system should only be given concentrated liquid or ready-to-serve formula.

Do Check the expiration date on the formula container, make sure it is not damaged and write down the lot number in case of recalls (see Health Canada's site for current advisories).

Do Emphasize cleanliness. Before preparation, wash your hands thoroughly. Wash the counter or table where you will be mixing up the formula. Wash and dry the lid and outside of the can (dirt or bacteria on the lid can fall into the can when you open it). When you open the container, check for foreign particles (insects and pieces of glass have caused some past recalls) or curdled or discoloured milk in liquids.

Bottles, nipples, caps and rings should be sterilized for safe formula feeding by boiling for at least five minutes before using for the first time. After that, thorough washing in hot water with soap should be sufficient. Once the bottle is filled, wash and dry it again.

Do Mix and measure carefully. For powdered formula you should boil the measured water, pour it into a clean bottle, and add the measured amount of formula. Don’t let the water cool below 70 C to ensure dangerous bacteria are killed. The measuring scoop should be levelled off with the flat size of a knife.

For liquid-concentrate formulas, measure the water that is added with a measuring cup—lines on the bottle may not be accurate. Let the tap run for two minutes, to reduce the amount of lead and other contaminants. (If you have well water, boil the water.) Or use distilled bottled water.

Don’t Warm the bottle in a microwave. This can create hot spots in the milk that could burn your baby’s mouth.


Do Store formula in the back of the refrigerator, where it is coldest. Discard formula after 24 hours in the fridge. Never freeze formula. Use a cooler with ice packs to transport bottles for safe formula feeding.

Don’t Use formula that has been at room temperature for more than two hours. Also discard leftovers if your baby doesn’t finish a bottle.

Do Hold your baby for feedings, with your baby in a semi-sitting position where he can see your face and you can watch for signs that he needs a break. If the milk flows too quickly, you may need a different nipple — the baby should have to actively suck to get milk.

Don’t Try to get the baby to finish the bottle if she shows signs of wanting to stop, as this leads to excess weight gain.

Print out this handy chart that has all the answers to your bottle-feeding questions.


This article was originally published on Sep 07, 2016

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