How Long Is Baby Formula Good For?

spoon with infant formula
Infant formula in a can. (Image: DimaSobko/iStock/Getty Images)

For many parents, baby formula is a life-saver. The ease and convenience of giving your baby infant formula can be a huge relief, particularly when you're away from home. However, formula can only last so long before going bad and improper handling of baby formula can lead to illness, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Benefits of Formula

Though most experts agree that breastfeeding gives your baby the best nutrition possible, formula feeding is the next best thing. If you're unable or unwilling to breastfeed, formula can give your baby the nutrition he needs quickly and easily. Formula manufacturers produce many different varieties of formula, so there's likely one that will meet your baby's unique needs.

Ready-to-Feed Formula

You can purchase formula pre-made, or ready to feed, or you can buy formula powder or liquid concentrate and mix it yourself. If you buy ready-to-feed formula, you must refrigerate unused formula within two hours upon opening the package, warns Infant Feeding and Nutrition. The refrigerated formula must be used or discarded within 48 hours of opening, and any formula you feed to your child can't last more than an hour in the open without being consumed.

Mixed Formula

The ideal solution for parents on the go, powdered or concentrated formula gives you the option to make formula only when you need to. When you make formula this way, as is the case with ready-to-feed formula, your baby has an hour to consume the formula from the moment it is mixed. If it stays out any longer than this, you'll need to discard it, according to Baby Center. You can prepare bottles for your baby ahead of time, but you must refrigerate them immediately and serve them within 24 hours.

Refrigerated Formula

If you wish to give your baby refrigerated formula, either from a pre-made bottle or a mixture you're preserving, warm it before serving by using a bottle warmer or running it under hot water. Again, your baby must drink it within an hour before it's no longer good, notes Kids Health. In addition, your refrigerator must be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, according to the USDA food safety guidelines.

Containers of Powdered Formula

Because babies go through formula so quickly, you'll likely empty a container of powdered formula long before it hits its expiration date. But these containers do eventually expire, which could be an issue if you buy your formula in bulk quantities. Most formula containers are good for at least a year. Do not use formula past the expiration date marked on the packaging.

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