For generations, parents have used baby formula to quickly and easily feed their children. The ingredients in infant formula are meant to mimic the composition of breast milk and provide babies with the necessary nutrients. However, when your baby is formula feeding, there are certain safety practices to keep in mind to ensure your child is protected from bacteria. One thing to keep in mind is the expiration date of your baby’s infant formula.
Does baby formula expire? Yes, baby formula comes with a use-by or expiration date to indicate its unopened shelf life. Once open, the unmixed formula should generally be used within a month and any prepared formula should be used within an hour if left out or within 48 hours if refrigerated within two hours after mixing.
Keep reading to learn the safety measures you need when feeding your baby formula and how to know when it’s time to throw it out.
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Does baby formula expire?
Considering how much baby formula costs, no parent wants any formula to go to waste. This leads many parents to wonder does baby formula expire and how long does it last after it’s been opened. Every type of baby formula has an expiration or use-by date, but how long it lasts depends on the type of formula and whether the formula has been opened or not.
Even though you want to preserve as much formula as you can, making your baby a bottle with expired formula can have unfortunate side effects for your baby. It’s important to throw out any formula that has gone bad to keep your baby healthy.
Does baby formula expire if unopened?
Because there are many different types and forms of baby formula, each will have its own storage practices. Baby formula can come in ready-to-serve liquids, as well as powder and liquid concentrate formulas that you mix yourself.
All baby formula packages will come with a use-by date. This date indicates when your baby formula will be at its peak quality. Each baby formula product is carefully manufactured with a complicated process that includes all the nutrients a baby needs, however, these nutrients will begin to deteriorate after a certain length of time. To best support your infant’s growth, you should not feed them an old formula that lacks these nutrients.
Also, when baby formula sits unused for a long time, the ingredients can start to separate, leading to uneven mixtures that won’t be fit for your baby. If this happens and you still use the product, it can also clog the nipple on your baby’s bottle.
Does baby formula expire after opening?
Powdered baby formula that’s unopened can last for a while, but opened formula expires much sooner than the printed expiry date. After opening a container of powdered baby formula, most brands will indicate you should use it within a month. Many parents have reported that their doctor told them that formula is normally fine as long as it isn’t clumping, but when it comes to your baby’s health, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
To store your powder formula properly to extend its quality, make sure to keep it where it is not exposed to heat or moisture.
I recently wrote a great resource on proper storage of baby formula to prevent spoilage and attraction of pests. Check it out!
Does mixed baby formula go bad?
Baby formula is, at its foundation, milk. So, you want to treat it similarly to how you would treat a regular glass of cow’s milk. You wouldn’t drink milk after it’s been sitting at room temperature for three hours, nor should you give that same type of formula to your baby.
For a good rule of thumb, your baby should consume formula within two hours of it being mixed. If it sits at room temperature longer than this, you’ll need to toss it.
You can mix a bottle for your baby ahead of time, but after putting it in the fridge, you’ll need to serve it to your baby within 24-48 hours.
Make sure to always throw away any leftover formula after feeding your baby. When your baby drinks from their bottle, bacteria from their mouth can get into the bottle and start to spread. If you feed your baby from that same bottle, you could put them at risk for food poisoning. To the same effect, always clean your bottles thoroughly with warm soap and water in between feedings to get rid of any bacteria.
How long does powdered baby formula last?
Each package of powder baby formula will have an expiration date. In most cases, you’ll probably use up the product way before the expiration date. But if you do have an unused can, powdered baby formula usually lasts up to a year on the shelf. Some stores could leave the formula on their shelves for a long time, so it is important to check the label before purchasing powdered formula to ensure you’ll have enough time to use it.
If a can of formula is past the expiration date, avoid using the expired formula for your baby.
Where is the expiration date on formula?
Need help finding your formula’s expiration date? Here are some common places to look on your packaging:
- Embossed on the bottom of a tin can
- Printed on the top of the lid
- Printed on the paper label
- Written on the seal inside the lid of the formula
Take a good look at your baby formula at the store before you make a purchase. Also, don’t buy formula that is already expired and be sure that you will have enough time to use the formula before it reaches the expiration date.
Here’s a quick guide for some of the most common expiration date labels you may see at the grocery store:
- Use-by dates- are required for infant formula products. This means you should use the product before the date printed, which is the last day the food will be at its peak quality.
- Best-by dates- are the most common label, which means the food will be good by the date on the label or soon after. This does not necessarily mean the food is unsafe to eat after that date, but the quality may decrease.
- Sell-by dates- are a guide for the retailer, letting them know the food is less likely to spoil if it is sold by a specific date. If a product is not sold by that date, retailers should pull it from the shelves.
Does formula really expire after one month?
It’s a good rule of thumb to use powdered baby formula within one month of opening the container. This ensures that the nutrients are at their highest quality for your child.
Is it possible that the formula is still good? Yes, and some may tell you it’s okay to use it. However, when it comes to your baby’s health and safety, you don’t want to take any chances.
How to tell if baby formula has gone bad
Whether you have an opened or unopened can of formula, what should you do if you’re not sure what the expiration date is? If you don’t know whether or not your baby’s formula has expired, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Additionally, remember to always practice good hygiene when serving your baby formula to prevent foodborne illnesses. Always wash and dry your hands before preparing your baby’s milk and make sure to look out for signs of spoilage. When ingredients start to expire, you should notice:
- The smell will have an off aroma
- Separation of ingredients in the formula
- Your baby might refuse her bottle or get sick after feeding
Even if your baby’s formula hasn’t passed the expiration date, throw it out if you notice any signs of spoilage.
Can you use expired formula?
If you believe it’s getting old or spoiled, avoid feeding it to your baby and throw it out! Sure, formula can be expensive and it’s frustrating to waste any of it. However, expired or spoiled baby formula can make your baby sick in some cases, and saving money on formula isn’t worth your baby getting sick.
If you do accidentally use expired formula, watch out for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea that could indicate that your baby was exposed to bad food. If the condition is severe, it could result in a fever. Most babies will recover once the spoilage is flushed from their system, but be sure to contact your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s health.
How do you safely store formula for night feeds?
Night feedings can be a challenge. It’s dark and you’re tired, which can make it difficult to make that nighttime bottle. That’s why many parents choose to prepare these bottles ahead of time so all you have to do is warm them up and you’re ready to go.
To safely prepare a bottle for your baby ahead of time, keep it refrigerated until your baby is ready for it. Remember, mixed formula is good in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Then, warm up the bottle in boiling water or a bottle warmer.
Here are some more tips you can keep in mind for safe formula feeding:
- Avoid wasting formula. When preparing a baby bottle, only make what your baby will drink during a single feeding so you won’t have to throw any milk away. If your baby regularly drinks six ounces in a feeding, don’t make a full 10-ounce bottle.
- Store powder formula in a cool, dry place away from changing temperatures. This helps maintain its quality and the necessary nutrients.
- Check your package of baby formula for holes or dents to make sure it was not tampered with. This is an important step to take in the store, right after checking for the expiration date.
- Use the right water. Water will add nutrients—or even dangers—to your baby’s formula. Make sure you’re using the right kind. I’ve written a more complete resource on the best water to use for formula that you should check out!
- Never freeze your baby formula. Freezing it can cause the components to change and sometimes, can make the formula unsafe.
- Talk with your child’s pediatrician. Your child’s doctor can help you decide on the best formula for your child’s diet. They can also give you more support and guidance on how to store your baby formula.
Tips for safely using baby formula
From safely storing your baby’s bottle to checking for an expiration date, there are many rules and precautions to pay attention to when it comes to safe feeding. Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to formula feeding:
- Check the label- even if you’re purchasing a brand new can of formula in the store, always check the label before buying. Ideally, stores switch out their formula cans to ensure freshness, but since an unopened can of powdered formula can stay good for up to a year, it’s important to make sure the one you’re buying isn’t close to the expiration date.
- Store your formula properly- despite the expiration date, there are many factors that could make your baby’s formula go bad sooner, and improper storage is one of them. Always store your containers in a cool, dry place.
- Keep it clean- washing your hands before you handle food is a good practice no matter what you’re preparing, but it’s absolutely crucial when it comes to your baby’s bottles. Be sure your hands, the bottles, and the work surface are all cleaned with soap before prepping anything.
- Don’t take any chances- your baby’s health and safety is your top priority as a parent. If you have any doubts about your baby’s formula, toss it. It’s not worth the risk of your baby becoming ill.
Why does formula expire after an hour?
Baby formula is a perishable food item. If it is left out, it can go bad pretty quickly. It will develop bacteria at around 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise known as the temperature danger zone when it comes to food safety. That’s why you should never leave a baby bottle at room temperature, as this could risk the milk becoming spoiled.
If you use pre-made formula, it must be refrigerated within two hours of opening it. Then, you can use that refrigerated formula within 48 hours.
Can I exchange expired formula?
If you accidentally purchased baby formula that is expired, you may be able to exchange it at the store for another package. This will depend on the retailer and the date you purchased the expired formula, but most places should allow you to return or exchange your formula if it’s unopened and you can show it was expired when you got it.
If you are not able to return your product, contact the manufacturer of the baby formula. If you let them know the store you visited is selling expired products, they may work with you to replace your item and follow up with the vendor to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
How long is a bottle of concentrated or ready to feed formula good for once opened?
After you open it, concentrated or ready-to-feed formula should either be used right away or placed in the fridge. If you refrigerate it within two hours, it will stay good for up to 48 hours. If there’s any left after you feed your baby, toss the leftovers.
Can you save unused formula after it’s warmed up?
Even if your baby didn’t drink any of the bottle, you can’t save formula after it’s been warmed up. Once you’ve warmed up the bottle, your baby should drink it within an hour or it should be tossed.
Can I save my baby’s leftover formula after a feeding?
You should never save formula or milk from a bottle your baby already drank out of. Your baby’s saliva combined with the formula can cause dangerous bacteria to grow. If there’s any left, toss it out and sanitize the bottle.