Safely Providing Breast Milk and Formula to Infants

Safely handling breast milk and formula is critical when feeding infants. Their immune systems are still developing which makes them more susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Always wash your hands before preparing, handling, and feeding.  

Follow these tips to serve safe breast milk or formula and protect the health of little ones.

Feeding baby

Breast Milk Preparation and Storage

Breast milk storage: If milk will be used within 4 days, it can be stored in the refrigerator. Otherwise, date and freeze milk storage containers and use within 6 months. To avoid potential defrosting, store frozen milk in the coldest area of the freezer. See CDC’s guidelines below:

Breast milk storage guidelines
Adapted from:

*Thawing breast milk: Thaw the oldest breast milk first. Thaw in the refrigerator, or in a container of warm water, or under lukewarm, running water. Do not thaw breast milk at room temperature or by heating in the microwave or in boiling water. Only thaw the amount needed to prevent waste, and do not refreeze thawed milk. Milk thawed in the refrigerator should be used within 24 hours of when it is completely thawed. Once milk is warmed to room temperature after freezing or refrigerating, use within 2 hours.

Bottles in fridge

Formula Preparation and Storage

Purchasing formula: Do not purchase formula containers with dents, leaks, bulges, or that appear damaged or opened. Check the use-by date, and store containers in a cool, dry place.

Preparing formula: Wash your hands before preparing formula, use clean bottles, and follow instructions on the formula container. Use the indicated amounts of liquid and formula to prevent dehydration and allow for proper development and growth. If using water to prepare the formula, make sure it is from a safe source.

Formula storage: If you will not use prepared formula within 2 hours, store the bottle in the refrigerator and use it within 24 hours; do not freeze. Throw away any formula left in the bottle 1 hour after starting to feed because of germs that may have been introduced into the bottle.

Cleaning baby bottles

For more information on cleaning and storing feeding items like bottle nipples, rings, and caps. For more information, check out:

Feeding Breast Milk and Formula

Bottle feeding: Use bottle nipples appropriately sized for the age of the infant. Before feeding, hold the bottle upside down to check that milk falls in drops in close succession, but not a stream. A stream indicates the hole in the bottle’s nipple is too large, which can allow milk out too quickly. This may cause an infant to choke or drink more than desired. Hold infants upright when feeding milk, but not straight up.

Heating: Although breast milk and formula do not need to be warmed, many people heat baby bottles before feeding. If you decide to warm milk, do not microwave because it can heat milk unevenly and cause hot spots. Instead, you can safely heat a bottle by warming water on the stove or in the microwave, removing the water from the heat source, and setting the bottle in the heated water. Or, heat the bottle under running warm tap water. Then, shake the bottle to even the temperature, and test it to make sure it is not too­ hot. It should be lukewarm (only slightly warm) to prevent burning the baby’s mouth.

Purchasing Breast Milk  

  • If you are searching for an alternative source for breast milk, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America maintains a list of licensed human milk banks.
  • Serious health risks have been associated with feeding infants breast milk acquired though online milk sharing communities that include exposure to illness, pharmaceuticals, toxins, and alcohol.

Remember, infants and toddlers depend on adults to practice safe food handling. You play a key role in keeping young ones healthy!

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