In short, baby formula is carefully designed and thoroughly inspected before hitting supermarket shelves in most countries. Because of this, it can be considered a safe option for those who don’t or can’t breastfeed their babies.
That being said, because it is produced in bulk, from many different ingredients, there are factors every parent should be aware of before using it for their infants. Different products may provoke allergic reactions in individual infants, and some parents will find they have to try several brands, or try soy based formulas before they find a product that their baby can take without discomfort. If your baby seems unhappy drinking formula, don’t hesitate to talk to a health professional about it. A doctor, family health nurse or pharmacist can all give good advice.
As babies are so sensitive and vulnerable to illness, proper care must be taken in making and storing formula to make sure it is suitable for use. When proper preparation and hygiene procedures are followed, while it does not provide all the benefits of breast milk, formula is an adequate replacement.
Dos and don’ts of using formula safely
DO wash your hands properly and sterilize all bottles and other nursing accessories before first use. For subsequent uses, wash with warm soapy water and air dry completely before feeding baby.
DO check the used-by date on the formula, and always discard any product not used before that date. In most countries it is illegal to sell near or past date formula at discount prices, but always check your can, particularly if you are someone who likes to stock up.
DO carefully follow the instructions on the formula label. Different brands may vary, so read it each time to be sure.
DO shake or mix prepared liquid formula to be sure it is evenly mixed and an even temperature.
DO date and refrigerate bottles of prepared formula if baby is not having them right away. They will keep for 24 hours.
DON’T refrigerate unused portions of formula after baby has had some. Although it might be tempting to avoid waste, discard of unused milk after two hours, or untouched refrigerated milk after 24 hours.
DON’T offer a bottle of formula that has been out for more than two hours. At room temperature bacteria can grow, and by that time could be at harmful levels.
DON’T be tempted to give baby more to drink if they are refusing. They often will not need to finish the bottle and should not be forced.
DON’T attempt to water down the formula. Water intoxication is a real issue for newborns. Always read the baby formula instructions carefully.
When proper procedures are followed, formula feeding is a safe alternative to breastfeeding. Be aware that labeling laws differ from country to country, and if you want to find out exactly what is in your baby’s formula you may need to do some additional research.