Infant formula, even in powdered form, does not keep indefinitely. It can become contaminated with bacteria that are dangerous to your baby. Make sure to be aware of formula expiration dates so that you are always feeding your baby a safe bottle.

Expiration Dates of Powdered Formula

The can of powdered formula will have a “use by” date stamped somewhere on the surface. This is the date after which the formula, even if unopened, should be discarded. When purchasing formula, check this date before you buy to make sure you will be able to use it prior to the expiration date.

Once a can of formula has been opened, it should only be used for one month and then discarded. When you open a new can, mark the date of opening on the lid so that you will know when it’s time to get a new can and throw away anything left in the old one. While many parents are a bit lax on this dating, it can be dangerous to baby to go much past the one month date. Formula is perishable baby food and is subject to the same rules as other perishable foods.

To prevent formula from being contaminated sooner, be sure to use only the provided scoop to measure your formula, and wash your hands thoroughly prior to handling it. If the scoop becomes dirty, you can wash it carefully in hot soapy water, and let it dry before returning it to the can. Every time you open a new can you should discard the old scoop and use the one included with the freshly opened can.

Prepared Formula Shelf Life

Ready to use formula will also be stamped with an expiration date beyond which it should not be used even if unopened. Once opened, any formula not being fed to baby should be refrigerated immediately and used within 48 hours.

Whether ready to use or prepared with water, formula should not be left out at room temperature for more than an hour, and should be discarded after that time. Prepared bottles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Always discard any unused portion of your baby’s formula that has been left behind after a feeding. Bacteria from the baby’s mouth may contaminate the formula and even refrigeration may not stop it from going bad.

Special Considerations for Formula

Formula may go bad even faster under certain circumstances. If your house is hot during the summer, or you have been out in the sunshine, the time in which the formula may become no longer safe to consume will be shortened. When you take a prepared bottle of formula along with you for use on an errand, you should use in ice pack to keep it cold. A better choice is to bring the water in the bottle and a pre-measured portion of formula powder to be mixed when baby is ready to eat.

If your baby likes to graze on the bottle and does not finish it all in one sitting, it will be necessary to take it away and replace it with fresh formula after one hour has passed. Try to encourage baby to drink as much as possible right away at feeding time to prevent a lot of waste.

Use caution and pay close attention to expiration dates so that your baby’s bottles will always be safe for consumption.