It amazes me still that new mums today either aren’t being given the proper advice to make up their bottles of formula for their baby, or they are choosing to ignore it. Yes, advice changes and it doesn’t mean we are trying to be difficult, sanctimonious or trying to criticise you. You can no longer make up bottles in advance, or the water. Many people mistakenly believe that it’s the water from the tap that needs to be boiled and sterilised. Whilst it’s true in some countries where the water doesn’t have the same treatment that it does in the UK, it’s actually the baby formula powder itself. Here’s why.
Bacteria in baby formula powder just can’t be eliminated
According to recent research, bacteria (in particular, Cronobacter, which can cause meningitis, systemic infection and necrotizing enterocolitis) can be present in infant formula powder. The factories have tried to eradicate this bacteria, but they cannot guarantee total eradication. This applies to all brands of powdered baby formula. Therefore, the World Health Orgnaisation (WHO) now recommends guidelines for the preparation of infant formula to lessen the risk of the bacteria being transmitted.
So what can we do to reduce the risk?
By following the correct WHO recommended guidelines, you can be sure the baby formula you’re giving your baby is the safest possible. If you use the ready made formula bottles or cartons, they have already been pasteurised and are safe. They do cost more than making up your own bottles though. Another way that is fast becoming popular are the perfect prep machines. I’m on the fence about these, they have passed the test to be sold safely, but health professionals are concerned about the cleaning of the machine. If you follow the manufacturer guidelines, then it can be used safely.
The WHO guidelines for making up infant formula
These are the current guidelines for making up powdered infant formula.
Prepare the area, which should be a clean, uncluttered surface.
Wash your hands
Boil water in the kettle or stove, it needs to be over 70 degrees Celsius (boiling water is 100 degrees).
You can leave the water in the kettle for a maximum of 30 minutes, so that it doesn’t drop below 70 degrees.
Shake off any excess water from the steriliser, or rinse with cooled boiled water
Follow the instructions from your formula provider and add the required amount of water. Always add the water first, powder second
Use the scoop provided with the formula you’re using, fill and level with a clean knife or the leveller provided, then add the required amount of scoops
Using the sterilised tongs, pull the teat through the bottle ring and screw onto the bottle
Put the lid on and shake the bottle to mix up the formula
You can either wait until the temperature is right to give to your baby, or run under the cold tap to cool. Do not Microwave to heat, there can be hot spots
You can refrigerate and keep for four hours, or left outside the fridge use within 2 hours
Preparing bottles for going out
If you’re going on a short journey, one bottle to be used within 2 hours maybe enough. You can take a flask of boiled water with you and some milk powder containers which have compartments to put the measured scoops into. Then use the hot flask water to make up the bottles when out. If you’re going to a cafe or restaurant, they will be able to provide boiled water for you.
The other option is to take pre-made bottles or cartons with you. As I mentioned before, they are more expensive, but they come ready pasteurised and just need warming up according to your baby’s tastes. All of the brands will provide this option.
It’s no doubt that formula feeding is a bit fiddly and you will always need to be prepared! If you have chosen this method or you find yourself in this position unplanned, it’s important to do it correctly to avoid the risks. There’s also no need for follow on or growing up milk, the advice is to stick with the first milk until you have finished this type of milk feeds.
You will come across parents who make bottles up in advance and/or boil the water, let it cool and then add the powder as they go, but this is against current advice. They may say all their children and babies are fine, and they may well be as the risk is low, but if your child is the one affected, it will be devastating for you.