Powdered Formula’s not STERILE?!

Making a bottle one morning, I grab a bottle that I steam sterilized the night before from the (unsterile) bottle rack where I put all clean bottles on.  I grab a(n unsterile) clean spoon from the (unsterile) dish rack, put it on the table that my husband cut raw chicken on last night unbeknown to me, it picks up some e. coli. As I open the formula jar and scoop just the right amount out, I tap, tap, tap (the e. coli) to rid of excess formula powder on the spoon, and pick up the cover off the table where it also picks up some more e. coli and place it tightly back on the jar.  The e. coli is doing a happy dance in the formula jar!  It’s found TONS of nutrients and it is having a buffet!  Every time I grab a spoonful of formula, I am adding a stronger dose of e. coli, which is growing by the minute, into each new bottle I make.

Are you sick to your stomach yet?  How many unidentified diarrhea episodes do you think were misdiagnosed as something other than formula contamination? For this very reason, many hospitals, if not all, no longer use powdered formula in their NICU’s and nurseries. Powdered Formula is NOT sterile! Wow, that totally blew my mind when I found that out.  ANYTHING powder can never be sterilized fully, there by can’t be sterile.

While I have only breastfed my children, I have many friends and family who do feed their children formula.  Ready-to-feed and concentrated liquid baby formulas ARE commercially sterile but more often than not, it’s powdered formula that’s being used. Simply for the fact that it’s the cheapest form of formula you can get and it’s convenient/portable.  My beloved nephew was a formula-fed baby.  Imagine the horror I felt finding out that the powdered formula we had been feeding him was probably a big GIANT bottle of bacteria! and he drank many many bottles!

Preparation of powdered infant formula requires careful handling to prevent contamination and minimize growth of microorganisms.  Most parents are educated about proper breastfeeding techniques in the hospital, but most parent’s don’t get education on how to properly prepare formula.  What’s a parent to do?  They are simply left to follow the directions on the manufacturer’s label. YIKES!

Like many uninformed parents, I thought I was being safe when I made sure to reconstitute my nephew’s formula with boiled water and we sterilized EVERYTHING!  After all boiling kills any bacteria in the water.  What didn’t cross my mind was that I needed the boiling water to kill the bacteria in the formula.  There is bacteria everywhere, it’s unavoidable for sure and some bacteria is good, and some bad ones are good in minute quantities as well to build your immune system.  But where can it go wrong?  What’s a mom to do?

Here is a few basic tips for a Safe & Sterile Feed

  1. The FDA suggestd that you boil water up to at least 150° F and reconstitute your formula with this hot water.
  2. Allow it to cool to an acceptable temperature before feeding your infant.
  3. Before that though, when taking the powdered formula from it’s container, it’s recommended that you wash your hands thoroughly or use a sterile glove.
  4. Use a true sterile measuring spoon, that has not be moved to a non-sterile (contaminated) container or rack.
  5. Open the container with your clean or sterile gloved hand and extract the appropriate amount of formula and pour it into a sterile bottle, attaching to it, a sterile nipple.

Here is the FDA’s information on preparing formula:


FDA’s statement on Enterobacter sakazakii infections associated with the use of Powdered Infant Formulas

Baby Center’s article on Formula Safety: How to prevent Food Borne Illnesses