Preparing a bottle for baby

Your guide to preparing baby formula

Once you have cleaned and sterilised your baby’s bottle, teats and other feeding equipment, you will need to prepare the baby formula. On the surface, preparing a bottle of infant formula may seem like a simple task, but when it is your child’s sole source of nourishment and you have no previous experience, it is understandable that it might feel overwhelming. This is why we have prepared a useful guide on how to prepare a bottle of baby formula.

A note on washing your hands

Before the global coronavirus pandemic you could be forgiven for not knowing how to “wash your hands like a doctor” but nowadays most us know that good hand hygiene requires us to wash our hands for at least 20 seconds (roughly the amount of time it would take to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). If you need reminding, simply follow the advice below:

  1. Thoroughly wet your hands with running water.
  2. Apply half to one teaspoon of liquid soap to your hands.
  3. Rub your hands together to create a good lather.
  4. Rub the back of one hand with the other hand and clean in between all your fingers; repeat on the other side.
  5. Rub the back of your fingers against your palms.
  6. Using one hand rub the thumb of the other; repeat on the other side.
  7. Rub the fingertips of one hand on the palm of the other, being sure to get under the nails; repeat on the other side.
  8. Rinse your hands with running water to remove all the soap.
  9. Dry your hands well with a blow dryer, clean towel or disposable towel.

Note: if you are out and about and do not have access to soap and water, use a suitable alcohol-based hand rub. However, soap and water kill more germs than hand sanitisers and are more effective at eliminating cryptosporidium, norovirus, and clostridium difficile among other things, while hand sanitiser is not nearly as effective when hands are noticeably dirty or greasy.

Furthermore, it is important to use enough hand sanitiser to completely cover your hands, to rub for at least 20 seconds and to wait until your hands are dry before touching any feeding equipment.

A note on using the right water for powdered baby formula

Tap water is fine. Bottled water is not recommended as it may contain too much salt or sodium. You can use filtered water but be sure that you still boil it and that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions as written on your tin or packets of formula. You should use your kettle to heat the water.

Preparing a baby bottle with powdered formula — a step-by-step guide

Be sure that your milk is not past its expiry date and that it has not been open for longer than the manufacturer recommends – most opened tins of formula powder should be disposed of after one month. In between making up feeds, keep it tightly sealed so as to avoid contamination.

According to the NHS you should follow the basic steps below in order to make up infant formula milk:

  1. Fill the kettle with at least one litre of fresh water (you should not use water that has been previously boiled).
  2. Boil the water and leave to cool for up to 30 minutes (it should be at least 70˚C but not too hot).
  3. Check to make sure your prep surface is clean and disinfected.
  4. Wash your hands (see our hand washing guide above).
  5. If you’ve sterilised your equipment with a cold-water steriliser, give each item a good shake to remove any excess solution and then rinse with cooled boiled water from the kettle. Do not rinse with tap water.
  6. Place the bottle upright on the sanitised surface.
  7. Follow the formula manufacturer’s instructions and pour the correct amount of water into the bottle. Double check the water level to ensure it is correct.
  8. Loosely fill the scoop with formula powder, in line with the manufacturer’s instructions, and level it with the formula-specific leveller (or the flat edge of a sterilised, dry knife). Different formulas come with different scoops so make sure you use the correct one.
  9. Count carefully – it’s important that you use the right number of scoops for the amount of water in your bottle.
  10. Hold the edge of the teat and fit it into the bottle’s retaining ring. Once you are sure that it is secure, screw the ring onto the bottle.
  11. Place the cap securely over the teat and shake the bottle until all the formula is dissolved.
  12. The formula must be a safe temperature before giving it to your baby or putting it into the fridge (if you put hot bottles into the fridge it can reduce the effectiveness of the unit to cool stored items). Speed the process by holding the body of the bottle, with the lid on, under the cold tap.
  13. Before feeding to your baby, test the formula’s temperature by squeezing a drop onto the inside of your wrist. It should be body temperature, which means it should feel lukewarm at most.
  14. The bottle is now ready for your baby.
  15. When your baby has had enough of the bottle, throw away any leftover formula milk.

Extra tips for giving infant formula

It is important to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to not vary the ratio of powder to water – it should be the same strength every time. Using extra formula could cause your baby to become constipated or dehydrated, while not enough powder could mean your baby becomes undernourished. Never add sugar, cereals or any other additive to a formula feed – the manufacture of formula is highly regulated in the UK and the ingredients (or formula) is nutritionally balanced and carefully prepared.

It is recommended that you prepare one bottle at a time. However, sometimes it may be necessary to prepare bottles in advance. In such cases, bottle feeds should be stored below 5˚C within 1 hour of preparation and used within 24 hours. The fridge door is not recommended for baby bottle storage as this place is much warmer than the back of a fridge shelf, where the temperature is coolest.

Transporting formula

Ideally, you should take both your powdered formula and your cooled boiled water with you when you travel and mix them as and when needed. However, this is not always convenient. As such, if you must travel with a bottle you’ve already mixed with water, be sure that it is kept ice cold during transit and carried in a suitable cool bag. In theory, it can be safely kept below 5˚C for up to 24 hours.