Published June 14, 2023

How to Make a Formula Bottle

Something they don’t teach in those newborn classes before birth? How to make a formula bottle! While the process isn’t complicated, it is important to know how to safely and accurately make a baby bottle because an infant’s health and development depends on it. 

Let’s discuss the different types of formula and the steps parents must take to know how to make a bottle appropriately.

How to Make a Formula Bottle with Powdered Formula

Many first-time parents may not know that there are several types of formula on the market— powder, liquid concentrate, and ready-to-feed— and how you make a bottle depends on the formula type. Powdered baby formula is the most widely available and is the most cost-effective; it’s also the most common formula type used by parents!

A key fact about powdered infant formula? It is not sterile! This is perfectly fine for most infants so long as they don’t have a weakened immune system and/or weren’t born prematurely. In these cases, pediatricians typically recommend that parents use liquid concentrate or liquid ready-to-feed formula as these options are sterile. Following the six formula preparation steps below is the best way to promote health when using powdered formula and avoid contamination with bacteria.

Step 1: Wash Your Hands

This is one of the most important steps for safe formula preparation and one that parents often overlook! The goal as we prepare, store, and serve baby formula is to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. As much as we’re able, we want to limit the possibility that bacteria is introduced to the formula and allowed to multiply as this can make babies sick. By washing hands before touching formula or feeding equipment, we minimize this risk! It’s also important to have a sanitary workspace and clean bottles, nipples, and nipple collars while preparing infant formula.

Step 2: Add Water to the Bottle

Water should always be added to the bottle first! Parents should defer to the instructions on the back of their formula container which instruct that water goes first. Why? Because if powder is added first, displacement from the powder can increase the bottle’s volume before the appropriate amount of water has been added. 

Often parents have questions about what type of water to use to make their baby’s bottle. The American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that room temperature tap water is fine for most infants provided they are full-term and do not have a weakened immune system. Parents can check with their local health department if uncertain about the safety or quality of their tap water! If using tap water is unsafe or undesired, gallons of distilled or purified water may be used. And no, you do not need specially-labeled “baby” or “nursery” water! Store-brand water is perfectly fine. Bottled water should also be used in place of well water, as well water can contain large volumes of naturally-occurring minerals that infants do not need (as formula is nutritionally-complete)!

If your pediatrician indicates that either water or formula must be sterilized before serving, you can boil the water according to CDC guidelines:

  • Bring distilled or tap water to a rolling boil 
  • Boil the water for 1 minute
  • Take off of heat and let cool for 5 minutes
  • Mix the cooled boiled water with powdered formula

Parents should be conscious when sterilizing water regarding the risk of burns. If hot water is used to mix formula, always test the temperature on the inside of your wrist before serving to ensure you do not burn your baby (or yourself)!

Step 3: Scoop and Level the Powder

The instructions on most formula containers advise caregivers to use a level, unpacked scoop– typically 1 scoop per 2oz of water, but occasionally 1 scoop per 1oz or 30mL of water. A level, unpacked scoop can be done by pulling the scoop through the powder, giving one light tap to remove any large pockets of air, and then using a built-in leveler (if your container offers one) or a clean utensil such as a knife. Tapping excessively is not recommended as this can cause the formula to pack! If your formula requires packed scoops (as is the case with some hypoallergenic formulas), please defer to your child’s care team about the correct way to pack each scoop.

Step 4: Add Powder to Baby Bottle

This step is easy! Add the correct number of scoops to the baby’s bottle depending on the volume of water it contains according to the instructions on the container. Nothing else should go into the bottle; no baby cereal, oatmeal, or purees. Consult with a pediatrician before adding supplements such as vitamin D drops, gas drops, or probiotic drops or powder to a formula bottle.

Step 5: Mix the Bottle

Shaken or stirred? Or swirled? Any method for mixing baby formula is fine so long as your hands and any equipment pieces used are clean. Some parents find that if they shake the bottle to mix, the formula becomes bubbly or foamy. In this case, stirring with a clean knife or gently swirling the bottle instead of shaking can help. 

It can also help to use warm water (similar to body temperature) when making a bottle as this tends to increase solubility; it helps the powder dissolve more easily. If you still notice foam or bubbles after mixing, allow the bottle to sit for a few minutes to allow bubbles to dissipate. Any leftover foam will get broken up as the milk goes through the nipple.

Step 6: Store or Serve the Bottle

There are specific food safety rules about how long a bottle is good for that parents must follow! If you serve a newly-prepared bottle right away, the formula must be used and discarded within one hour of the start of the feeding. If you prepare a bottle and don’t offer it right away, it can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. If the bottle has been warmed using a bottle warmer, the feeding must be completed within an hour and the bottle cannot be placed into the fridge and rewarmed for later use. Following these food safety guidelines reduces the risk of bacterial contamination!

Tips for Preparing Infant Formula

Formula feeding doesn’t have to be a struggle! Here are some tips and tricks to make those middle-of-the-night, on-the-road, or day-to-day feedings easier:

  • Premeasure the water: Fill each bottle you will need for the day (or night!) at one time, and keep on the counter for easy access. You’ll just need to add the powder and mix!

  • Pre-portion your powder: Use a formula dispenser to portion out the correct amount of powder to use for each feeding. When the baby's hungry you can simply pour and mix!

  • Use a formula mixing pitcher: Many parents find it helpful to make a day’s worth of formula at once in one large batch. Whenever you need a bottle, it’s as easy as unscrewing the lid of the pitcher or jar and pouring in the volume of formula you want.

  • Set up a feeding station near your baby’s sleep space: No one wants to stumble down to the kitchen at 2am to make a bottle. Create a clean, accessible feeding station in the same room as you and/or your baby to keep bottles, formula, water, and burp clothes.

  • Purchase an adequate number of bottles: Babies eat a LOT in their early weeks, and not typically on a predictable schedule. Having a sufficient number of bottles and nipples can help avoid an “oh crap!” moment with a hangry baby and a sink full of dirty dishes!

How to Make A Bottle? Check!

By following these steps and tricks, using a bottle can become an easy, safe, and pleasant way of feeding your baby if that’s what you choose. Happy feeding!

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

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