Why Does Baby Formula Need Boiling Water

We may earn commission from links featured in this post. Read more.

For first time parents who intend to bottle feed their baby, they may have a few questions around the preparation and safety. One of the most common questions is in regards to the temperature of the water and why formula needs the intervention of boiling water.

This article aims to explain why boiling water is essential in making sure the baby formula is safe to consume and we offer some tips on how to make it less confusing.

Formula powder can contain harmful bacteria

Formula milk is a biological product – this means that it contains ingredients which are organic, natural and ‘live’. As a result of this, bacteria can live in the formula which can be extremely harmful to babies, especially newborns. In short, formula powder is not sterile.

The most common germ which can be found in baby formula powder is Cronobacter. Cronobacter lives in dry places and isn’t just in baby formula – it can be found in dog food, protein powder, rice and similarly dry ingredients. Cronobacter can cause serious illnesses in babies and even death as their immune system can’t cope with it at such a young age.

Cronobacter infections can cause sepsis and meningitis which have a mortality rate of 80%. This is a scary statistic that every bottle feeding parent needs to know.

Cronobacter infections are rare as the formula powder industry is exceptionally clean and great measures are taken before they leave the manufacturer. However, this can’t stop the presence of Cronobacter every single time. This is where boiling water comes in.

Why does baby formula need boiling water?

Formula feed should be blended with hot water so that it kills any bacteria which may present in the formula. The exact temperature needed is unknown but a scientific paper by the School of Pediatrics in Triesta in Italy suggests it should be 70°C. A household kettle generally boils to 100°C so there is some leeway but you may need to wait up to 30 minutes before it reaches 70°C. It is OK to just use water which is at 70°C if you have a precision temperature kettle.

Automatic baby bottle makers inject a shot of boiling water initially before it takes care of the cooling down for you.

It could be argued that the process of boiling the water and then mixing it with the formula is the most important step of preparing a baby bottle.

Remember, if you don’t use boiling/hot water you could be putting your baby at risk of a serious infection!

Secondly, water which hasn’t been boiled can also contain bacteria even if the powder doesn’t. Water Tech Online has a great article on bacteria which can be found in drinking water.

Tips Using Boiling Water And Baby Formula

  1. Use the water as soon as it’s 70°C

The water needs to be at least 70°C to kill the bacteria and not all kettles reach the same temperatures therefore we advise to use the water as soon as it’s ready and to not leave the water standing in the kettle for too long. However, do not start to mix the formula when it’s boiling. You may need to invest in a water temperature device for this.

Do not put boiling water into the bottle to cool – let it cool down in the kettle or in the pan. Boiling water can warp and damage the bottle and pose a burn risk for you.

  1. Do not use a microwave to boil water

Microwaves can boil the water unevenly which can make the temperature cooler than it needs to be.

  1. Regularly clean the kettle you use to boil the water

Limescale can build up in kettles which can release sodium chloride (salt) which can be harmful to babies in large quantities or if they’re exposed to small amounts over a prolonged period.

Related Articles