Baby formula is a life-saver for many parents. It is a safe and convenient alternative to breast milk and helps caregivers, besides mothers, to nurse a baby.
However, formula can get pricey, especially for branded, ready-to-drink products. But parents should think twice about ignoring that expiration date on the box. Like other food products at the store, baby formula can spoil, especially if not stored correctly.
But what if you accidentally give your baby old formula? Is there a limit on when a pack of baby formula is still fresh or not?
Table of Contents
- How Long Does Baby Formula Last?
- What Happens if My Baby Drinks Old Formula?
- How Do I Prepare and Store Formula to Avoid Wastage?
- What Can I Do with Expired Formula?
How Long Does Baby Formula Last?
Baby formulas vary depending on how it is manufactured. Some brands might have products that last longer than others.
Powdered formulas are a fantastic option for parents on a budget or who are environmentally conscious. While expiration dates vary, an open can of powdered formula can last within one month. Parents should also be careful with the bacteria cronobacter and salmonella, which can find their way into powdered formula if prepared incorrectly.
Concentrated and ready-to-feed formulas are more expensive but also more convenient. Concentrated formulas only need to be diluted in water. Meanwhile, ready-to-feed baby formulas, as the name suggests, do not require preparation.
Concentrated and ready-to-feed formulas should be consumed immediately once opened. If covered by not drunk, they can be kept inside the fridge for up to 48 hours.
Powdered, concentrated, and ready-to-feed formulas should not have leftovers. Even partially drank milk should be discarded. Milk that has been touched by your baby’s lips can start formulating bacteria, and it is too risky to give leftovers to your child.
What Happens if My Baby Drinks Old Formula?
Let’s say you accidentally left your baby’s bottle out for more than two hours. Or maybe you prepared a formula mix with an expired product. What can happen to your baby?
Best case scenario: nothing! Your baby will continue doing their thing after drinking old formula. They might not get as much nutrition as fresh formula, but that is about it.
On rare occasions, however, your child might contract a foodborne illness and experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. While rare, the risk increases the longer the milk is left out. And unlike adults, babies are more sensitive and sickly, so the infection might hit harder and longer.
What can you do when your baby gets sick? The best call for action is to bring them to your doctor. Dehydration is the biggest issue you will deal with a foodborne illness, so always keep your baby hydrated with small amounts of liquid.
If nothing happens to your baby after feeding them old formula, keep a steady eye on them. It is most likely that the bottle of formula that they drank is not yet spoiled, but you can never be sure about food poisoning.
How Do I Prepare and Store Formula to Avoid Wastage?
Preparing baby formula requires care and proper hygiene. It is always important to thoroughly wash your hands and your baby’s bottle to avoid contamination. While warming the bottle is unnecessary, some parents might choose to do it for their baby’s comfort.
Powdered milk requires clean and safe water to avoid food poisoning. Follow your formula’s instructions to avoid putting too little or too much milk.
Always store unopened baby formula somewhere cool and dry inside the house. Opened containers should also be put somewhere cool and dry with their lid shut tight. Do not put powdered milk inside the fridge.
You should avoid bulk buying your formula, even if you save a few dollars and grocery trips. Buying more than two boxes of formula makes it harder for you to track expiration dates. Plus, what do you do with the extra milk once your baby transitions to solid food?
What Can I Do with Expired Formula?
Any formula past its expiration date should not be used for your baby. As mentioned above, expired formula can increase your baby’s risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Expired milk can also contain bacteria or mold that is dangerous for human consumption.
Baby formula is biodegradable. You can use it as part of your gardening soil or compost pit. Others prefer to discard their baby formula straight into the trash.
Sometimes, baby formula can still be fresh past its expiration date. Some parents use the extra formula for soap making or as a milk bath. (Avoid accidentally consuming it while in the tub!) You can also donate them to an animal shelter.
There are many ways you can reuse your baby formula once it is past its expiration date. But make sure it does not come close to anybody’s lips, especially your baby’s.
What are the signs of expired formulas?
Do formulas last longer if put in the freezer?
Freezing baby formula is not recommended since freezing and thawing change the components of the ingredients, degrade the nutritional value, and make the drink taste unpleasant.
How long can I leave a bottle of formula at room temperature?
Buying formula can be a convenient way to feed your baby. But it can get very pricey, especially if you buy from branded producers. However, as expensive as it can be, you should not use it beyond its expiration date.
If your baby does accidentally drink old formula, there is a chance that nothing terrible will happen to your tot. But there is a risk that your infant can contract food poisoning and become sick.
It is crucial to always store your baby formula properly and consume it immediately once opened. Milk has a very short shelf-life and can easily be contaminated by different bacteria and mold.
It is a shame to see a box of infant formula expiring. But look at the bright side: at least you have an easy batch of fertilizer in your kitchen cupboard.