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What’s a Good Use for Expired Baby Formula? How to Prevent Waste & Harm to Your Baby

Looking for a use for expired baby formula? Stay on this page, as we’re delving into what you can do with old baby food, and how to avoid it getting into your cupboard to begin with.

Use for Expired Baby Formula

Prepping for a new baby is a great way to make those first few weeks feel less crazy whilst you adjust to your new bundle of joy. Formula and diapers are definitely the most commonly bulk-bought items, but now you have ended up with a box or two of expired baby formula that could potentially harm your baby.

Baby formula has a use-by date just like any other product from the supermarket, but what can you do with powdered baby formula that is past its expiration date?

Does Baby Formula Expire?

How Long Is Formula Good For

YES: Powdered formula can expire just like any other food product and this means that it is at an increased risk of causing serious harm to your baby.

Related Reading: How Long Is Formula Good For?

If you prepare future batches of formula ahead of time and leave them at room temperature, then these need to be consumed within two hours. If not you risk giving your little one a formula that is not baby safe.

When a prepared powdered formula is stored properly and refrigerated, then reheated it needs to be used within 24-hours otherwise it could cause potential harm to your baby.

The liquid formula in a ready-to-feed form can last up to 24-hours once opened as long as it is kept refrigerated which is why multiple packs of liquid formulas are a popular on-the-go option for buying formula.

Can You Use Formula After the Expiration Date?

You may wonder if the expiration date printed on food products needs to be followed rigorously, but when it comes to expired baby food you are at risk of some serious issues.

Not only is the nutritional value at risk of degrading, but this could cause serious health issues if your baby’s nutritional requirements are not being met.

If your baby drinks formula immediately then this is the safest option, but if your baby has a formula that has been made longer than two hours ago or that has passed its expiration date you are at risk of bacterial growth and you will need to keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Stomach Infection
  • Food Poisoning
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration

How to Avoid Accidentally Using Expired Baby Formula

How to Avoid Using Bad Baby Food

Preventing expired baby formula is one of the easiest ways to avoid getting stuck with surplus amounts of baby food that are no longer of use. Mixed baby formula is a dangerous option as this cannot guarantee the health and safety of your baby.

Here are some other ways to avoid your powdered baby formula from expiring and leaving you with a surplus of outdated baby formula.

Avoid Purchasing Multiple Packs

It can be easy to purchase a large quantity of prepared formula and powdered baby formula in readiness for your new arrival, but this often leads to a waste of the product as the infant formula may not end up being used.

Maybe you end up pumping to provide breast milk, or even opt for another brand of a new formula that agrees with your little one’s sensitive stomach.

Either way, the expired formulas will be forgotten about before you have a chance to think about donating to a local food bank or trying to get a refund.

All of the scenarios lead to an abundance of unused baby formula that will turn into an expired product that is no longer of use to your baby.

The best advice would be to buy enough baby formula to get you through the first week or two and then if all is well with the formula you can look at purchasing it in bulk online.

Follow Standard Storage Procedure

Another way to make sure your infant formula lasts the duration of its shelf life is to follow the recommended storage advice that comes on the can. This may seem like an obvious method, but the best before date is created based on the product being stored in the recommended conditions.

Storing your infant formula properly isn’t demanding. You just need to keep it in a cool, dark place that is dry and make sure you re-seal your tub after every use once opened.

Don’t Freeze Baby Formula

Don't Freeze Baby Formula

Unlike breast milk, you cannot freeze prepared formula as it causes the product to separate. Once the powdered formula has been made up it needs to be used within a two-hour period if unrefrigerated or 24 hours when stored in the fridge in a baby bottle.

Although it does not cause any nutritional quality breaks, it will create a change in consistency and taste which will be less appealing to your baby.

Not only will the fat separate from the rest of the baby formula, but it will also not increase the shelf life of any expired powder formula.

Uses for Expired Baby Formula

Now you know how to prevent the baby formula from expiring, what can you do with it apart from throwing it in the trash?

Related Reading: Help! I’ve Run Out of Baby Formula, What Do I Do?

When it is no longer safe for human babies, formula milk does have multifunctional properties that can benefit baby animals in a local animal shelter. Not only that, you may be able to get a refund in-store or use the expired food to improve your gardening!

Donating to an Animal Shelter

Expired Baby Formula Uses

Now we know this clearly is not going to be used in a human baby bottle, but you could consider donating it to an animal shelter that wants to prevent the baby formula from going to waste.

Animal shelters providing pet care will regularly use expired baby formula as animal feed for puppies, kittens, other baby animals, or sick animals that are in need of a nutritional supplement. They are always happy to receive help and donations so try contacting your local shelter to see if they would benefit from a donation of expired baby formula.

Exchange In-Store

Some stores may accept expired infant formula in exchange for a new box of baby formulas with a better expiry date at no extra cost. Baby’s formula is also often only accepted for returns if the box is not opened beforehand.

If you do not have the receipt then you will find some stores will accept your original method of payment as proof of purchase. But not all stores will accept this, so if you don’t have your receipt you may be out of luck.

Check out our other articles: Best Dish Soaps for Baby Bottles & How to Spot if Your Baby Is Underweight?

Local Farmers

Donate Old Formula to Farmers

When your baby formula expires you may not think that a local farmer would benefit from this, but pet shelters are not the only ones with precious little scamps that aren’t stirred by the expiry date on your baby formula!

Cattle farmers use an expired baby formula for more than just baby food and find that it is a good nutritional source for calves and other livestock when used alongside a protein supplement.

Agricultural studies at Penn State University have even studied this and found it to be a highly beneficial option for the poor souls who are in need of a nutritional source away from their mothers.

Crop Growth

Not only does baby formula help your little ones to grow, but it also has a use in your garden.

When a generic fertilizer is used on plants it provides nutrients to the soil such as calcium to benefit the growth of the plants.

Expired baby formula can also have the same effect when used on plants and will provide nutrients to the soil to promote healthy growth in your garden.

So next time you can’t find a use for any expired formula, try giving your plants some!

Spotting Expired Baby Formula

Accidentally giving your baby an expired formula is a worry for many parents, so knowing how to spot it is a critical skill you must learn as it may be less apparent when your expired formula is no longer safe for your little one.

Nasty Smell

An unpleasant odor is always a telltale sign with any food, especially expired formula. Trust your nose, and if you feel that the formula has a different smell than usual, or you just have a suspicion then usually the parental instinct is right and you shouldn’t use the product.

Related Reading: What Does Baby Formula Taste Like?

Best By vs. Sell By Dates

It can be confusing to see terms such as best by date, use, and sell-by date all used on your formula tin, so how do you know which one is the expiration date?

  • Best-by dates indicate that a product is at its best when used during this period, but doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be dealing with an expired formula after this point.
  • Sell-by dates indicate to the formulas retailers that the product should be in stock and ready to sell during these dates to avoid them from stocking any expired formula.

Finally, the use-by date indicates that you should use your product before this time otherwise you risk facing illness or health problems. This date should be considered your expiration date and you should aim to use the product up before then to avoid any unwanted waste.

Icky Appearance

If you spot mold growing then this is an obvious indicator that something is wrong with your formula tin.

But you should also keep an eye out for any frosted or wet appearance in the tin which may indicate there is a hole, or the tin has not been properly sealed after use.

See Also: 5 Best Alternatives to Breast Milk and Formula

Expired Formula: Frequently Asked Questions

Why does baby formula expire?

Formula milk usually has a best-before date that will last over a year after its first purchase, but due to the high quantities of milk that babies consume during their first year, it often gets used up long before the expiration date.

Does baby formula expire if unopened?

Yes–even when unopened and sealed infant formula can expire and should not be considered safe to use on babies.

Does baby food have an expiration date?

With many cans/ tins of infant food being subject to highly strict health and safety conditions, you may think that this food would have a long expiration date and you shouldn’t worry, but you should always use food before the use-by date.

Where is the expiration date on infant formula?

Infant formula cans will often have a best before date raised/embossed into the base of the can.

This is a better option than stickers which can be easily removed and cause a serious health and safety risk to a baby’s formula.


If you are preparing for a new baby to join your family then you may be wondering if the bulk purchasing of formula is an appropriate way to prevent struggling through those first few weeks. To be honest the small amount of money that you will save buying in bulk is not worth the potential of ending up with a surplus of milk that has expired or worse that your baby does not like or is allergic to.

Looking at all the information we have given you, it is easy to see how you can end up buying too much formula and being left with a surplus of gone-off infant milk. But fortunately, it’s equally easy to avoid the common pitfalls that lead to the question of expired baby food being around in the first place. That said, we hope we’ve helped you find some use for old baby food!

What other advice can you share about using expired baby food? Do you have any specific recommendations for putting it to good use? Leave us a comment below!