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How Long Is Baby Formula Good For?

Having extra or leftover formula seems to go hand in hand with being a parent. Personally, I bought some before he was born and he couldn’t use it. WIC gave us so much we weren’t able to use it all.

There might also be a time when you have a bottle of opened ready-to-eat formula that has gone in the fridge or when your little one doesn’t finish a bottle. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to make sure that formula is good before giving it away or feeding it to your baby.

Importance of Learning How Long Baby Formula Is Good For

Eating bad food can make an adult sick, and eating bad formulas can make a baby sick. If the formula has already been partially used, bacteria can begin to breed in the formula.

If it is no longer good even though it has not been opened yet, it can still upset your baby’s stomach.

This can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, stomach upset, and more, like a negative association with feeding. If you learn how long the baby formula is good for, it can help prevent your baby from getting sick or having anxiety associated with eating.

Powder Formula In Can

When you pick up the formula, most first time parents will grab the type that is a powder. This kind is usually found in large supplies in the baby aisle because it is so popular.

Whether the powder is unopened, opened, already made, etc. will have an impact on how long the baby formula is good for.

Unopened Can

Powder baby formula in a can has an expiration date indicated on the can, just like other canned goods. To determine how long an unopened can of formula last, check for the expiration date. Then, make sure to store the can in a cool, dry location like a bottom kitchen cabinet to keep it fresh until the expiration date.

baby milk bottle and opened can of formula

Opened Can Of Powder Formula

Once you open a can of powder formula, it is no longer protected by the seal that keeps it fresh. Because of this, it should be used within one month of the date that you opened the can.

If it is not, it can make your baby sick. If you do not use it within one month, it should be thrown out.

Pre-Mixed Powder Formula

When your baby is screaming because they are hungry, they do not want to wait for you to make them a bottle. Parents quickly figure this out, and most begin pre-mixing formula and storing it in the fridge.

The formula can be mixed in a pitcher and then poured into bottles as needed, or it can be divided up into bottles beforehand to save time. Then, when your little one is hungry, all you have to do is grab the bottle out of the fridge and heat it up.

The formula that is pre-mixed and placed in the refrigerator should be used within 24 hours. After one day, the leftover formula should be discarded.

Ready To Eat

Ready to eat formula is different than powdered formula. After this type of formula is opened and placed in the fridge, it is good for 48 hours.

After 48 hours have passed, dump the rest of it out and open another container. Fortunately, most ready to eat formula comes in small containers so you usually don’t wind up wasting formula.

Most containers will only provide enough formula for 5-8 bottles depending on how much your little one eats.

Liquid Concentrate

Liquid concentrate is a bit different than ready to eat formula. Although it’s easy to get the two confused. Liquid concentrate formula is usually mixed with water, just like powder formula is mixed with water. It comes in smaller quantities, though.

If the package has not been opened, follow the expiration date listed on the package. Once it has been opened, the formula should be used within 48 hours. The extra formula needs to be thrown away.

Already Made Bottles

How long your bottle is good for will depend on several different factors, such as whether your baby has already eaten part of it, and how it has been stored.

Partially Finished Bottles

Once your little one has enjoyed part of their bottle, it is only good for one hour.

As soon as their mouth is on the nipple, it has saliva on it which can create a nice breeding ground for bacteria. This bacteria can then get into the formula and make your baby sick.

At the one hour mark, dump out any remaining formula. If your little one gets hungry soon after, simply make them another small bottle. It’s always better to be safe instead of sorry.

Untouched Bottles

Untouched bottles don’t pose the same risk as partially eaten bottles, but how long baby formula is good for depends on the temperature that you keep it at.

For bottles kept at room temperature, it will only last for two hours. After this, they can begin to spoil. Feeding your baby a bottle that has sat out longer can cause food poisoning or stomach upset.

If it is stored in a refrigerator and untouched, it needs to be consumed within 24 hours. If it is not, it should be dumped down the drain.

Does Freezing Baby Formula Make It Last Longer?

It’s a common myth that freezing baby formula will make it last longer, but it is not recommended. Instead of freezing formula, simply make less pre-mixed formula or make bottles as your little one needs them if you find that you are making too much formula.

Freezing Does Not Impact Nutrients

If you choose to go against recommendations, you can trust that freezing formula will not have a negative impact on the nutrients in the formula. Instead, your little one will still get the same nutritional value that they would from a pre-made bottle.

It Does Effect The Texture

Freezing formula and then thawing it out will have a negative impact on the texture. The formula may separate during the thawing process, and the powder is known to become hard making it impossible to properly mix the bottle.

If it does still mix, the texture can feel different to your baby when they drink it, and they might not like it.

baby drinking bottle

Freezing Bottles Makes The Fats Separate

When you freeze formula, it makes the fats separate from the rest of the formula. This can taste different to your baby so they might refuse a bottle.

It can also result in an upset stomach because your little one consumes more of the fat in the formula at once because it is not mixed like it would be in a freshly made bottle.

Heating Bottles

If you’re using a pre-mixed formula, you will have to heat the bottle to room temperature for your baby to drink it. There are safe ways to do this and a few ways that can be dangerous for your baby.

It’s important to make sure that bottles are heated safely to prevent burns.

Do Not Use The Microwave

Microwaving bottles can create hot spots in the bottle. This is when one spot in the bottle is much hotter than the rest. Microwaves do not heat liquids evenly, so you can never be sure that there won’t be a hot spot in the bottle.

If there is, you might test the temperature on your wrist and assume the bottle is okay. Then, your little one could get a drink of formula that is extremely hot, resulting in a burned tongue and a crying baby.

A Cup Of Hot Water

Place a bottle in a cup of hot water to gradually warm the bottle. The bottle should already be made. The hotter the water is, the faster it will warm the bottle. Some people prefer to use a pan of hot water because the water heats up faster. This is an extremely safe way to warm a bottle.

Bottle Warmer

Bottle warmers are also safe to use. There are several versions available so that you can find one that works for you. An electric bottle warmer is the most popular. These sit on your counter, plug into the wall, and perfectly heat bottles with the touch of a button.

It takes the guesswork out of bottle warming too. You won’t have to wonder if the bottle has been sitting in the cup of warm water long enough. Bottle warmers also heat up a bottler faster than the hot water method.

Test It On Your Wrist

After heating up a bottle, make sure to test it on your wrist. Your wrist is more sensitive to temperatures than your hand. This sensitivity usually matches how sensitive your baby will be. The wrist test is also used when running bath water for infants.

When you begin feeding your baby, it’s important to understand the do’s and don’t’s behind formula feeding. You should be able to answer the question of how long is baby formula good for to guarantee that your little one is safe and healthy.