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Guidelines for Child Care Providers

Storage and Preparation of Formula

  • Prepared bottles of powder, concentrate or ready-to-feed formula should be labeled with the infant’s name and date of preparation and refrigerated until used. Infants should be fed the same formula the parents feed at home. If the infant’s supply of formula runs out, contact the parents so they can bring some more to the child care center.
  • Check the name on the bottle before feeding formula to an infant. If the wrong bottle is fed to the wrong infant, call the parents of the infant and follow your child care center’s policy for what to do next.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling formula and feeding an infant.
  • Powder, concentrate and ready-to-feed formulas should be prepared according to a health professional or manufacturers’ recommendations and discarded according to the expiration date. A good rule of thumb is to discard prepared powder formula after 24 hours and concentrated or ready-to-feed formula after 48 hours. Ready-to-feed formula is the most convenient and sanitary. Store unopened cans of infant formula in a cool, dry place. This is especially important with powder formula as there is potential for bacteria growth.
  • It is important to add the right amount of water to the formula. Adding too little water to a formula causes an infant’s kidneys to work harder and can lead to dehydration. Adding too much water to the formula will decrease the amount of nutrition that the infant receives.
  • If parents prepare the formula for their infant at home, it should be placed in bottles and labeled with the infant’s name and the date the formula was prepared. It should be refrigerated until used.
  • Throw away prepared formula if it is:
    • Brought to the center in a dirty bottle;
    • Not refrigerated for more than one hour;
    • Not finished by the infant within an hour from the beginning of the feeding – this is because harmful bacteria can grow!
  • Formula as well as breastmilk in a bottle should NEVER be warmed in the microwave – this can cause “hot spots” in a bottle that will burn the infant. Bottles should be warmed under running warm tap water or by placing them in a container of warm water that is not warmer than 98°F. Bottles should not be left in the container of water for longer than 5 minutes, because this can lead to bacteria growth.
  • After warming, bottles should be mixed gently and tested to make sure the formula is not too warm. Excessive shaking of the bottle of formula may cause an increase in foaming which could lead to feeding air to the infant and cause gassiness.
  • Prepared formula should be stored in the refrigerator and thrown away after 48 hours (2 days) if not used. Bacteria can grow in a refrigerator at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Never freeze formula. Never allow formula to sit at room temperature to prevent spoilage.
  • After feeding, throw out any unused formula left in a bottle and wash the bottle with soap and hot water.
  • Bottles, bottle caps and nipples used to feed formula from a bottle should be cleaned and sanitized by washing in a dishwasher or by washing, rinsing and boiling for 1 minute.

Check temperatures with a thermometer according to your child care center’s policy.

Updated April 5, 2014

© 2016 All Rights Reserved, University of Northern Colorado, Alena Clark, Author