For a variety of reasons, women cannot or choose not to breastfeed. I personally was unable to breastfeed — hyperemesis gravidarum ravaged my body during my pregnancies, and I couldn’t produce enough milk. Luckily for my children, infant formula was an option. Since I had always planned on breastfeeding, I had to take a crash course in preparing formula. And while it’s certainly not rocket science, the Mayo Clinic has steps to follow to make sure your baby’s formula safely prepared.

So, what are the safety rules to preparing formula? Let’s take a look:

1. Wash your hands

This should be a no-brainer, but we’ll say it anyway: wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Scientists have found that the temperature of the water doesn’t matter, which is excellent news.

2. Check the expiration date

Infant formula has an expiration date. As the Mayo Clinic says, once the use-by date has passed, you can’t be sure of the formula’s quality. Also, most cans of formula are only good for about 30 days after they’ve been opened. Be sure to check your formula container and make note of how long the opened batch will last.

3. Use a clean bottle

Again, another no-brainer. A bottle should be sterilized before its first use (throw all the parts in boiling water for five minutes). After that, the Mayo Clinic says that washing bottles with soap and water is fine, as is using the dishwasher.

4. Use clean water

If you are feeding your baby with powdered or liquid-concentrate formula, you’ll have to mix it with water. Bottle or tap water is fine. The Mayo Clinic suggests boiling well water and letting it cool to “body temperature” before mixing it with formula.

5. Measure and mix the formula

There are three kinds of infant formula: liquid concentrate, powdered, and ready-to-use. Depending on what you use for your baby, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following steps:

preparing formula

Image: Mayo Clinic

6. Warm it up

If your baby prefers his formula at body temperature, warm up the bottle after you’ve mixed it. The safest way to do this is to stick the bottle in a bowl of warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. NEVER warm up formula in the microwave as the liquid could heat unevenly and burn a baby’s mouth.

7. Store or discard the leftovers

Ready-to-use formula from a newly-opened container can be covered and stored in a refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Liquid concentrate or powdered formula that has been mixed with water can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours. The Mayo Clinic says to discard any remaining formula at the end of each feeding if it has been more than an hour from the start of a feeding. It also urges parents not to refrigerate a bottle once a baby has fed from it, since bacteria from a baby’s mouth can multiply in the fridge.

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(Image: iStock / DGLimages)