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There’s so much to do as a new parent, that you might be wondering if you can avoid using a bottle warmer and skip out on heating formula. But can babies drink cold formula? Here’s what you need to know.
Yes, according to Mallory Whitmore (M.Ed. and Certified Infant Feeding Tech), founder of The Formula Mom and Bobbie Education Lead), most babies can drink cold infant formula without issue. However, she advises parents to consult their child’s pediatrician in case they have specific needs.
“Cold formula is typically not recommended for premature infants, who often require sterilized formula, which has been hot enough to kill bacteria and then cooled to human temperature before serving,” she says, “It’s also not recommended for those with slow weight gain because bringing the formula up to body temperature in baby's belly can burn a few extra calories.”
If your child has a sensitive stomach, you might think cold milk could upset it. According to Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, your baby’s stomach will be fine. “Some babies may prefer warmed milk, but generally, formula won't upset a baby's stomach.”
However, if your baby isn't feeding well, she recommends switching from cold to warm milk before changing formulas altogether.
If you accidentally give your baby cold formula, it’s unlikely to have negative consequences. Just be sure to switch back to the warm formula next time. However, if the formula was previously heated, it should be disposed of. “Formula should only be heated once,” says Whitmore. “So if a parent plans to heat cold formula, they should make the formula at room temperature before storing it in the fridge. You should not heat formula, then refrigerate, then heat again.”
According to Dr. Casares, all bottles should be used within two hours of preparing the formula. “If you don't use the formula within two hours, you can store the baby bottle immediately in the refrigerator and keep it there for up to 24 hours. Then, use it immediately. Once you start feeding the formula, throw it out once you've reached the one-hour mark to avoid bacteria growth from the baby's saliva.”
To avoid any problems, Whitmore suggests batching formula powder with water (filtered, spring or tap water is fine) in a formula mixing pitcher, such as Dr. Browns and then storing it in the fridge until needed. This will save time as well as have other benefits for both parent and baby.
“It reduces the time between a baby's hunger cues and the start of the feeding, it reduces how much mental math a parent has to do throughout the day, and it gives the formula a chance to settle after mixing which allows bubbles and foam to break up before serving.”
Just keep in mind that excess formula should be disposed of after 24 hours.
Teething can be a challenge for parents just as much as it is for babies. If your baby tolerates or prefers cold formula, you may have an advantage here because drinking a cold bottle of formula may be preferable for teething. “Many parents do use cold (or even frozen) formula for teething. The cold liquid may soothe the gums and provide some soothing for their little ones,” says Dr. Casares. “It's also a good way to avoid medicine-based teething options.”
One major trend in recent years is freezing breast milk in popsicle moulds. The same thing can be done with formula. So, if your child is experiencing discomfort, it’s certainly worth a try.
On the other hand, cold formula may not end up doing the trick. Whitmore notes there is no research to suggest that cold formula is beneficial for teething. So, while it may be helpful for some babies, it might not work for yours.
Once the mixed formula is outside of the fridge, it should be consumed within two hours. “If you start feeding the formula, throw it out after one hour to avoid bacterial contamination,” says Dr. Casares.
Whitmore tells me, “As is the case with any fresh milk, the longer a bottle sits out, the higher the likelihood that it goes bad. In a perfect world, parents should offer a bottle as soon as possible after taking it out of the fridge."
After you prepare the formula, it can sit out for up to an hour if it's warm, while room temperature and cold formula can sit out for up to two hours. “Once formula has been offered to baby and touches their lips, it should be used or tossed within an hour,” says Whitmore.
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