Can You Premake Formula Bottles? How to Prepare Formula Bottles in Advance

Can You Premake Formula Bottles? How to Prepare Formula Bottles in Advance

Making formula bottles in advance

Your health visitor/midwife/doctor and practically anyone who works in health will advise you to make up formula feeds fresh for every feed, but can you premake formula bottles?

If you are making baby bottles, you’ll soon realise making 6 to 8 individual fresh bottles every day is a monotonous time-consuming task, and it is tricky getting the timing exactly right.

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It can take quite a lot of planning getting each feed ready at the right time, making up the bottle, and allowing for it to cool down so your baby can safely drink it. Especially in the middle of the night, or if you are out for the day.

Unsurprisingly, many time and sleep-deprived parents look for shortcuts to make their lives a little more manageable.

So what else can you do? Can you batch make baby formula? Yes you can, along with some other options.

How to make formula milk

For context, it is important to briefly touch on the process of how to prepare formula milk.

Formula milk manufacturers guidelines state you must make up fresh formula feeds as and when they are needed. This is because powdered formula milk is not sterile and may contain bacteria.

This bacteria can multiply to levels that could make your baby ill, if a made up bottle is left sitting.

Step by step instructions for how to prepare formula milk

The correct way to make up each bottle is generally as follows:

  1. Wash bottles, teats, rings and caps thoroughly in hot soapy water. Use a bottle brush to remove every last trace of old milk from teats and bottles, then rinse
  2. Sterilise bottles and bottle components
  3. Clean and disinfect your hands and kitchen surfaces for preparing bottles. If you have a dish-shaped microwave steriliser, use the upturned lid as a sterile surface to prepare feeds
  4. Boil fresh water in the kettle. Do not use water that has previously been boiled. Allow it to cool slightly, but not for longer than 30 minutes. Water must be at least 70 degrees C to kill bacteria
  5. Use the scoop provided to add the appropriate amount of formula milk powder to the appropriate amount of boiled water in the bottle. Always add the water first so you know the water level is correct
  6. Gently swirl or shake the contents to ensure the powder completely dissolves
  7. Wait for the milk to cool down to body temperature. Place the bottle in a jug of refrigerated cold/iced water to speed this up or hold it under the cold tap
  8. Test the milk on the inside of your wrist to check it is not too hot or too cold
  9. Feed the baby and discard unfinished feed within two hours

As previously mentioned these guidelines are all well and good if you are at home all day, your baby is in a good routine and you are able to schedule perfectly when to prepare a bottle.

Sometimes it is just not practical to make up feeds fresh every time. Even though it is strongly recommended that you do so, but for many of us, life is just not that convenient!

How to prepare formula milk feeds in advance

You have the option to batch make bottles of formula and store them in the fridge. This may seem like a more practical and convenient way of doing things, but I must reiterate it is not recommended by health professionals or formula milk manufacturers.

This is because the longer formula is stored, the greater the risk of bacterial growth (although bacterial infections from powdered infant formula are rare).

If you do decide to prepare formula bottles in advance, note the following precautions to minimise the risk to your baby:

Precautions for batch making formula

  • Follow steps 1-5 above for multiple bottles
  • Stand the freshly made bottles in a bowl of cold or iced water to cool them as quickly as possible to room temperature, making sure the water level is below the lids (you may have to replace the water a few times)
  • The sooner bottles are chilled from preparation time, the better
  • Formula milk should not be allowed to stay warm because bacteria multiply more quickly between 7 and 65 degrees C

Formula milk storage

  • Store prepared formula in a fridge set to below 5 degrees C (use a fridge thermometer), preferably at the back of the fridge, which is the coldest part
  • Never store prepared bottles in the fridge door because it is not cold enough
  • Do not take feeds out of the fridge before they are needed
  • Store feeds in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours from preparation, but don’t prepare feeds earlier than necessary. Store feeds for as short a time as possible
  • According to the Food Standards Agency ‘Feeds should never be stored for longer than 24 hours and this length of time is no longer considered ideal especially for young babies’
  • Do not make a big batch of formula in a large jug or container – it takes longer to cool and becomes more susceptible to contamination

As a compromise, you could batch make baby formula for when it makes the most sense, such as for the middle of the night, for first thing in the morning, and for when you are out of the house. Ensure to make all other feeds fresh each time.

Preparing bottles for a day out

If you are making baby bottles to take out with you for the day, thoroughly refrigerate them first for at least one hour, and carry them in a cool bag with an ice pack or a specially designed insulated bottle bag or thermabag.

Use thermabags to keep formula cold, not warm. Use feeds transported in this way within 4 hours, unless you put them in a refrigerator within this time. (Always use prepared bottle feeds within 24 hours of when they were first made, regardless.)

Can you reheat formula?

You can reheat formula if you make it carefully in advance, cool it quickly and store it in the fridge. Never reheat formula milk more than once.

How to reheat formula:

  • Hold it under a hot tap, or
  • Stand it in a jug/cup of warm water (for a maximum of 15 minutes so bacteria doesn’t have a chance to breed)
  • Use an electric bottle warmer, thermal flask filled with hot water or a portable bottle/food warmer, such as the best selling Tommee Tippee Travel Food Warmer
  • Put it in the microwave for a few seconds, taking care to ensure the milk doesn’t overheat. Gently shake or swirl the milk around in the bottle to evenly distribute the heat. (Health professionals frown upon this method, as baby’s mouth could burn if the heat in the bottle is unevenly distributed.)

How warm you heat the milk depends on your baby. Some babies like their milk room temperature, others like it warm, while other babies will happily drink it cold.

Just make sure it is not too hot to avoid the risk of scalding.

Safety note:

If you keep formula at above refrigeration temperature for over two hours, it could become a breeding ground for bacteria.

You should always discard reheated unused feeds within two hours (never put them back in the fridge for later).

How to make formula milk – other alternatives

Instead of making up bottles individually or making several up at once and putting them in the fridge, you could try these alternatives:

  • Fill a vacuum flask with boiling water (this will stay hot enough for several hours). Put pre-measured formula into a milk powder dispenser, and assemble sterilised bottles
  • This means you can then make up feeds more quickly and you don’t have to boil the kettle each time
  • You can put all of this equipment in a baby changing bag for when you are out, but you will still need time to cool the milk down
  • You can also fill sterilised bottles with cooled boiled water and put them in the fridge. When it’s time for a feed (for example an 8 oz feed), mix 3 oz of hot water from the vacuum flask with the pre-measured formula to kill bacteria, then top up with 5 oz of cold water
  • The milk should be roughly the right drinking temperature straight away (experiment with the ratios)

Probably don’t do this if you premake formula bottles:

Possibly the most controversial method is to boil water and put it into sterilised bottles, let them cool and place them in the fridge. When it is time for a feed, you reheat a bottle of water to the correct temperature and mix in the formula.

Obviously this goes against the guidelines for mixing formula with hot water to kill bacteria, so this method is NOT recommended, and personally I wouldn’t risk it.

Ready to use liquid formula

Ready to use liquid formula that comes in bottles or cartons is sterile until opened. This is the safest, easiest way to prepare bottles for a day out. Simply add the formula milk to a sterilised bottle and you’re done.

But this option is much more expensive than powder. If you can afford it, you may find ready-to-use formula milk handy for night feeds, or when you are out and about, and when you are in hospital with your baby after the birth.

Ready-to-use bottles of formula are handy to pack in your hospital bag if you are not planning on breast feeding.

Formula milk prep machines – hot shot formula method

For a fast way of making bottles on demand at home, a milk prep machine such as the hugely popular Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine will do the job. It uses the ‘hot shot formula method’.

This is a formula milk hot shot formula method maker for making a fresh bottle of formula at the correct drinking temperature in under two minutes. So no waiting around.

  • Makes a bottle in under 2 minutes
  • No waiting for bottles to cool
  • Compatible with most baby bottles
  • Works with most formula brands
  • Prepares the exact amount you want
  • 10 x faster than a kettle, with an added bonus of using less electricity than a kettle and saving energy costs

The prep machine first pours a 70 degrees C ‘hot shot’ of water into the bottle. This kills any bacteria that may be present in the milk powder and helps it to dissolve.

Then you add the required amount of formula milk powder to the bottle, and shake to dissolve. (You can use any brand of powdered formula milk.)

The dispenser will then top up the bottle with cool water and you’re done. You’ll have a fresh bottle of formula at body temperature ready to drink straight away.

You can make up variable amounts of feeds depending on your baby’s requirements – between 4 floz and 11 floz. The machine is compatible with most baby bottles.

To make bottles up quickly at night, a milk prep machine could be the answer to your prayers. For making 6 – 8 bottles a day in under two minutes each, you may consider the investment worth it.

How to make formula milk – your options summarised

In conclusion it is best to make up bottles of formula milk when they are needed, but this is not always practical.

Your safest options include:

  1. making up formula in advance and carefully store them in the fridge for reheating later
  2. filling a vacuum flask with hot water for making up bottles on the go
  3. using ready made formula
  4. investing in a milk prep machine

With all this in mind and common sense, choose the safest method for making up formula that suits your lifestyle, without compromising your baby’s health.

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Making formula in bulk