Infant feeding bottles: how should they be prepared and stored?

Using dried infant formula

The conditions for preparing, handling and storing infant feeding bottles are essential to ensuring a healthy infant. They help prevent microbial contamination that can cause serious infections, particularly in premature or low-weight infants.

A mother’s milk is the gold standard when it comes to nutrition for infants. It is therefore recommended to breastfeed exclusively for the first full six months, and if this is not possible, then for at least four months. Even for a shorter duration, breastfeeding is still beneficial for the infant.

However, breastfeeding is not always possible or desired. Babies can then be fed with infant formulas whose composition complies with European standards.

These products may come in:

  • liquid form, which is sterile and ready-to-use;
  • powdered form, which must be mixed with water to reconstitute the milk. These powders are not sterile, and can on rare occasions contain very small amounts of microorganisms (microbes). Once reconstituted, the milk becomes very unstable because these microorganisms can proliferate in an unsafe manner over time.

Preparing the feeding bottle

Prepare the feeding bottle on a clean work surface. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap. Dry them with a clean tea towel or preferably with a disposable paper towel. Use the measuring spoon or scoop from the original powdered milk tin. This scoop must be kept dry and discarded when the tin is empty.

Ideally, feeding bottles should be prepared just before giving them to infants. At room temperature, the milk must be given within the hour, otherwise it must be discarded.

When going out, carry the water in the feeding bottle and the powdered milk in another container. Just before use, add the powder to the feeding bottle. Mix well.

In exceptional cases, the feeding bottle may be prepared in advance and stored in the coldest compartment of the refrigerator, at or below 4°C (not in the door of the refrigerator).

What type of water should be used for feeding bottles?

Tap water (from the public water supply) can be used to prepare the feeding bottle. However, some precautions must be taken:

  • let water run from the tap for a few seconds before filling the bottle with the desired amount;
  • use only cold water (water over 25°C can contain more microbes and mineral salts);
  • clean the tap head regularly (descaling particularly);
  • do not use filtered water (from a filter jug for example or any other type of home filtering treatment) or softened water as these systems can increase microorganism levels;
  • in older housing (built before 1948), the water pipes may still contain lead. Contact the town hall where you live or the Departmental Directorate for the Protection of Populations (DDPP) in your département to find out if you can use your tap water to prepare feeding bottles.

If you use bottled water, spring water or natural mineral water, check to be sure that it can be consumed by infants. In addition, once opened, a bottle must be refrigerated and consumed quickly.

Sparkling water is not suitable for preparing feeding bottles.

When travelling abroad, if there is no suitable drinking or bottled water, water that has been boiled and cooled can be used.

If reheating

The feeding bottle only needs reheating if it has been kept in the refrigerator. It must be reheated quickly, either in a bain-marie or a special bottle warmer. Once reheated, the contents of the feeding bottle must be consumed within thirty minutes to prevent microbes from developing.

Heating in a microwave is not recommended, as the temperature can rise sharply in the milk bottle causing severe burns to the baby’s mouth and throat. Whatever heating method is used, the bottle must be shaken well to avoid burns, and the temperature of the contents should be checked by sprinkling a few drops on the inside of your wrist.

Cleaning the feeding bottle

Once feeding has finished, rinse the bottle in cold water.

To clean, use hot water with washing up liquid and an elongated bottle-brush. Rinse well and turn the bottle upside down on the drying rack to dry in the air. Do not use a tea towel to dry the bottle or teat as it may contain microbes.

You can also wash the bottle, ring, cap and teat in the dishwasher. In this case, use the full cycle at a washing temperature of at least 65°C, with drying. Rubber teats cannot be machine-washed. They must be washed and rinsed by hand.

It is not necessary to sterilise feeding bottles and teats, as had been recommended in the past.