Preparing Bottles in Advance
If you feed your baby formula, you'll soon realise making 6 to 8 individual fresh bottles a day is a monotonous time-consuming task. Unsurprisingly, many time and sleep-deprived parents look for shortcuts to make their lives a little easier. You can make a fresh bottle at correct temperature in less than two minutes with the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine.
Preparing bottles the regular way
Each time you prepare a bottle you are supposed to boil the kettle, wait for it to cool a bit, and then mix hot water with the appropriate amount of formula milk powder. Then you have to wait some more while it cools down to room temperature (you can place the bottle in a jug of refrigerated cold water to speed this up).
This can take quite a lot of planning and a lot of screaming from your hungry baby if you are to get each feed ready at exactly the right time, especially in the middle of the night. And it's not practical if you are going out for the day or leaving your child with someone else.
The problem with storing formula milk
Many parents choose to prepare several bottles of formula in advance and keep them in the fridge, and their babies suffer no ill effects. This is a more practical and convenient way of doing things, but it is not recommended by health professionals or formula manufacturers – they recommend you make up fresh formula feeds as and when they are needed.
This is because powdered formula milk is not sterile and may contain bacteria. When a bottle is made up and left for longer than recommended, the bacteria can multiply to levels that could make your baby ill. The longer formula is stored, the greater the risk of bacterial growth (although bacterial infections from powdered infant formula are rare).
Precautions for preparing bottles in advance
If you make up feeds ahead of time, take the following precautions to minimise the risk to your baby:
- Wash bottles, teats, rings and caps thoroughly in hot soapy water, using a bottle brush to remove every last trace of old milk from teats and bottles, then rinse and sterilise
- Make sure your hands and kitchen surfaces used to prepare feeds are clean and disinfected (if you have a dish-shaped microwave steriliser, you can use the upturned lid as a sterile surface to prepare feeds)
- Boil fresh water in the kettle every time you make up a batch of feeds
- Allow the kettle to cool slightly, but not for longer than 30 minutes – water must be at least 70 degrees C to kill bacteria
- Make up the bottles according to the formula milk manufacturer's instructions, then gently swirl or shake the contents to ensure the powder is completely dissolved
- Stand the freshly made bottles in a bowl of cold or iced water to cool them quickly, making sure the water level is below the lids (you may have to replace the water a few times), then put the bottles in the fridge
- The sooner bottles of formula 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
- Try not to prepare feeds any sooner than necessary, and never make them up more than 24 hours in advance
- As a compromise you could just make up bottles in advance 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 going to be out of the house
- Do not make a big batch of formula in a large jug or container – it will take longer to cool and will become more susceptible to contamination
Storing formula milk safely
After you have made up the bottles and cooled them, you must make sure they are stored safely. Follow these guidelines:
- Store prepared formula in a fridge set to below 5 degrees C, preferably at the back of the fridge, which is the coldest part, and certainly not in the fridge door where it is not cold enough
- According to the World Health Organization, feeds can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours from preparation
- Do not take feeds out of the fridge before they are needed
- If you are taking prepared bottles out with you for the day, make sure they are thoroughly refrigerated first and carry them in a cool bag with an ice pack or a specially designed thermabag
- Remember, thermabags should be used to keep formula cold, not warm. If a bottle of formula is kept above refrigeration temperature for more than two hours it could become a breeding ground for bacteria
Re-heating formula milk
To re-warm a cold bottle of formula, you can put it in a bottle warmer (but you may have to wait for around 10 minutes), hold it under a hot tap, or stand it in a jug of warm water until it is lukewarm. A portable bottle warmer may come in handy for when you are out and about. Whatever method you choose, re-warm chilled feeds for a maximum of 15 minutes (to avoid bacteria growth) and always discard unused feeds within two hours (never put them back in the fridge for later).
You can also microwave the bottle for a few seconds. Microwaving is probably the quickest and most convenient option, but the milk may overheat or heat unevenly and burn the baby's mouth. You can eliminate this risk by gently shaking or swirling the milk around in the bottle before feeding it to your baby. You may need to experiment to work out how long the bottle requires warming in the microwave.
Other options for preparing formula milk
Instead of storing made up formula milk in the fridge, you could try these time saving tips:
- Fill a vacuum flask with boiling water (this will stay hot enough for several hours), put pre-measured amounts of formula into a milk powder dispenser, and assemble some sterilised bottles. You can then make up feeds more quickly and you don't have to boil the kettle each time. You can also put all of this equipment in a baby bag, but you will still need to cool the milk down.
- In addition to the previous suggestion, put sterilised bottles filled with cooled boiled water in the fridge. When it's time for a feed (for example an 8oz feed), mix 3oz of hot water from the vacuum flask with the pre-measured formula, then top it up with 5oz of cold water. The milk should be roughly the right drinking temperature straight away (you can experiment with the ratios). Put cold water in a thermabag to mix bottles on the go.
- Put the correct amount of boiled water into sterilised bottles, let them cool and place them in the fridge. When it's time for a feed, reheat a bottle of water to the correct temperature, then mix in the formula. (But obviously this goes against the recommendations for mixing formula with hot water, the point of which is to kill bacteria.)
- As previously suggested, invest in the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine. It will make you a fresh bottle of formula at the correct drinking temperature in under two minutes. It has a filter system to remove impurities in the water, and delivers an initial hot shot of water to kill any bacteria that may be present in the milk.
- Ready-to-use liquid formula is sterile and is the safest, easiest alternative – simply add the formula to a sterilised bottle. But this option is more expensive than powder. If you can afford it, you may find ready-to-use formula handy for night feeds or for when you are out of the house.
With all this is mind and a bit of common sense, hopefully you can find a suitable, realistic method to prepare bottles that works for you, but that doesn't compromise the guidelines too much!