Does Baby Formula Expire? (Opened, Unopened, Or Already Mixed!)


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Over many generations, parents have used baby formula to quickly and easily feed their children. It’s a great alternative to breast milk because it has all the necessary nutrients to help your infant grow healthy. However, you must keep proper handling practices in mind to make sure your child is well taken care of and protected from bacteria. You must be aware of the signs that formula is going bad to avoid putting their health in danger.

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 being mixed.

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. 

Does Baby Formula Powder 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 must mix yourself.

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. In order to best support your infant’s growth, these nutrients need to be present in their food. So, you should not feed them an old formula that lacks these nutrients.

Also, when baby formula sits unused for a long time, the ingredients in baby formula 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.

What is the shelf life of powdered baby formula?

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. Powder baby formula usually lasts up to a year on the shelf. Some stores could leave the formula on their shelves for a long time, however, so it is important to check labels to make sure that you will have enough time to use it.

Avoid using baby formula after the expiration date on its packaging.

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. Never buy formula that is already expired and be sure that you will have enough time to use the formula up.

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 that the quality may decrease after the date.
  • 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.

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 provided that it is unopened and you can show that it was expired when you got it.

If it is clear that it was expired when purchased, you should be able to return even opened formula at most places as well.

If you are not able to return your product, contact the manufacturer of the baby formula. Let them know the store you visited is selling expired products, and they may work with you to replace your item and follow up with the vendor to make sure that it doesn’t happen again!

Does Baby Formula Powder Expire after Opening?

Powdered baby formula is known to be a long-lasting resource for parents. However, a powdered formula that has been opened also has an expiration date, which is much sooner than the printed expiry date. After opening a container of powdered baby formula, most brands of formula will indicate that you should use it up within a month. Anecdotally, many parents have reported that their doctor told them that formula is normally fine as long as it isn’t clumping. When it comes to your baby’s health, however, it’s usually better 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 formula really expire after one month?

It’s a good rule of thumb to use baby powder formula within one month of opening the container. This ensures that the nutrients are at their highest quality for your child.

How do you know if formula has gone bad?

If you do not know whether or not your baby’s formula has expired, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you believe it’s getting old or spoiled, avoid feeding it to your baby and throw it out!

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. Also, make sure to look out for signs of spoilage. When ingredients start to expire, you should notice:

  • The smell will have an off aroma
  • Clumping
  • Separation of ingredients in the formula
  • Your baby might refuse her bottle or get sick after feeding

Can expired formula make baby sick?

Expired or spoiled baby formula can make your baby sick in some cases.

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. However, most babies will be fine and recover once the spoilage is flushed from their system.

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.

What if you want to make bottles for your baby ahead of time? You can mix bottles for your baby beforehand, but you need to refrigerate it and serve it to your baby within 24-48 hours. That’s the shelf-life of refrigerated baby formula.

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. Be careful of leftover bottles that have been brewing germs. Always clean your bottles thoroughly with warm soap and water in between feedings.

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 quickly 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.

How do you store formula milk 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. All you’d have to do is warm them up, and you’re ready to go.

To safely pre-prepare a bottle for your baby, keep it refrigerated before your baby is ready for it. 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, do not 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.
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician. He or she 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.

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Josh

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. With 10 years of parenting experience across three children, I am constantly learning how to raise children more naturally. I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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