Does Baby Formula Expire? Safe Unopened, Opened, And Prepared Formula


Babies have been fed with baby formula for many generations. It’s a wonderful alternative to breast milk since it contains all of the essential elements to help your infant thrive. The last thing you want to do is risk your child getting sick from their formula, though.

To ensure that your child is well cared for and protected from germs, you must be aware of the warning signals that formula has gone bad. It is important to consider food safety rules, and make sure you take note of the use by date on the packaging.

Does baby formula expire?

Baby formula does expire. The tin or container is labelled with a use-by or expiration date. The unpacked formula should be used within a month after opening, and any prepared formula should be consumed within an hour if left out for longer than two hours, or refrigerated in less time after mixing.

Read on to learn the precautions you should take while feeding your infant formula, as well as when it’s time to put the formula in the bin.

Can baby formula expire if it hasn’t been opened?

There are many different varieties and kinds of baby formula, each with its own storage requirements. Baby formula is available in ready-to-serve liquids, as well as powder and liquid concentrate that you mix with water at home.

Unopened baby formula still has an expiration date, and should be disposed of after this time. The ingredients used will degrade over time, and will not provide the appropriate and safe nutrition your baby needs. Manufacturers stand by the quality and safety of their products up until the date printed on the packaging.

If you use expired baby formula after its expiration date, you run the risk of making your baby sick through unstable ingredients, or insufficient nutrition over time. The nutritional quality of the formula is an important part of your baby’s development.

You could also damage any baby bottles that come into contact with the formula. It’s best to throw expired baby formula out once it has reached this unopened shelf life, even if it hasn’t been opened.

What is the shelf life / unopened life of powdered baby formula?

Each container of powdered baby formula has an expiration date. In most situations, you’ll use up the product long before the expiration date arrives, but if you live in a more rural area or purchased from a smaller store, the product may have less time than this.

Powder baby formula may typically be kept on the shelf for a year. Some stores, however, might keep the product on their shelves for an extended period of time, so it’s a good idea to check expiration dates to ensure you have enough time to use it all up before then.

As a reminder, once you have opened a container of powdered baby formula it should be used within a certain period of time. (most often 30 days) If the product has already been mixed with water or milk at this point, any unused portion must be thrown away immediately after your child is done using it.

Does powdered baby formula expire after opening?

We generally consider powdered baby formula as a long-lasting staple in the family pantry. This might be true of unopened formula, but once you break the seal the expiration date is set, and it is sooner than the expiry date printed on the packaging.

Most powdered baby formula brands advise that you use it up within a month after opening the container, provided it is stored appropriately. To reach that 30-day expiry, make sure you store the baby formula out of direct sunlight and moisture.

This shortened expiry is because of the formula’s exposure to light and air, both of which will cause the formula to start to deteriorate. The longer it is after a package has been opened the more the ingredients aren’t at their best, and you may lose the benefits of all the nutrients the formula powder contains. Follow the manufacturer instructions on how to store the baby formula. Many parents have said that their doctor has told them that formula is typically safe as long as it isn’t clumping. It’s not worth the risk. It’s better safe than sorry when it comes to your child’s health.

Where is the expiration date on formula?

The printed expiration date can be placed in different positions on the packaging, and will often be different from brand to brand. Here are some common places expiration dates can be found:

  • On the metallic seal under the plastic lid
  • On the paper label (often on the back of the tin)
  • On the top of the lid
  • Embossed into the tin (most often on the bottom)

Before you buy baby formula, take a walk around the store and inspect it carefully. Never purchase formula that has passed its expiration date, and be sure you have enough time to use it all up – since formula (most commonly) expires 30 days after opening it, try to give yourself a few months after purchase before the unopened expiry date.

Can I exchange expired formula?

If you bought baby formula that has passed its expiration date, you may be able to get another package in exchange. This is determined by the shop and the date you purchased the expired formula; however, most places will allow you to return or exchange your formula if it is unopened and you can prove it was already expired when you purchased it.

If you can demonstrate that the baby formula was expired when you purchased it, most stores will allow you to exchange it. Many will also allow you to exchange opened formula. (if you’d opened it accidentally before realizing it had expired)

Contact the manufacturer of the baby formula if you are unable to return your product. They may replace it for your themselves.

How do you know if formula has gone bad?

If you don’t have the original packaging, or if you’re not confident about how it has been stored, you might be best not to use it. If you believe it’s getting old or spoiled, avoid feeding it to your baby and throw it out!

Formula that has gone bad may smell off, clump unusually, or have separating ingredients. You may also find that your baby refuses to drink the prepared formula, or seems sick after feeds.

When feeding your baby formula, remember to practice excellent hygiene to avoid foodborne illnesses. Before preparing your child’s milk, wash and dry your hands properly. Be on the lookout for signs of deterioration, and throw out the formula if you’re not confident that it is safe.

Can expired formula make baby sick?

So you’ve just realized that you have fed your baby outdated baby formula. Will baby get sick?

If you feed your baby expired formula, or formula which has spoiled, your baby can get sick as a result, particularly if they have a weakened immune system, or were born premature.

Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea might signal that your baby was fed expired formula. If they were fed a lot, or were already unwell, they may also develop a fever. (Just like you might with food poisoning, for example) Most babies will be just fine and recover after everything has passed through their system.

If you are concerned, reach out to your baby’s doctor who can provide medical advice specific to your child, and what they’ve consumed.

Does mixed baby formula go bad?

Treat your baby’s formula like you would any other type of milk. Once out of the fridge it starts to warm, it starts to separate, and bacterial growth becomes an issue. (not to mention the taste change!) You wouldn’t drink milk that has been left out on the bench for hours on end! Why should your baby?

You can consider mixed baby formula has gone bad, and is unsafe, after 2 hours at room temperature have passed since it was prepared. Throw it out after this time.

If you want to prepare formula in advance, refrigerated formula generally lasts for 24-48 hours. This does not apply to partially consumed formula – once the bottle has hit baby’s mouth, that 2 hour expiry timer starts. Throw out any unused formula after this time. Empty baby’s bottle and clean it before using it again.

If you’re preparing bottles in advance try to only prepare one bottle, but where possible it is safest to prepare baby formula immediately before you will feed them.

As with the opened powder tin, harmful bacteria presents one of the biggest risks to how safe baby formula is for your little one to consume. When your baby drinks from the bottle, germs from their mouth may get into the container and begin to spread. You could put your infant at risk for food poisoning if you feed them with the same bottle. Make sure baby’s bottles are cleaned after each use, even if your little one didn’t completely finish the bottle’s contents.

Why does formula expire after an hour? (or two)

Baby formula is a food, and like anything you put inside your body, it can go bad.

Baby formula is unsafe for babies if has been more than an hour or two after being prepared. Within a few hours in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) bacteria grows at an exponential rate.

If you’re using a pre-prepared formula, be sure to store it in the fridge within two hours after opening it. After that, you have 48 hours to use the refrigerated formula.

In conclusion – it is better to be safe than sorry

While it may be tempting to save money by purchasing short-dated formula, there are plenty of reasons why you should avoid this. Expired or spoiled formula can make your child sick and does not offer the same nutritional benefits as fresh milk does. By following manufacturer instructions on storage and preparation, and knowing what expiration date to look out for when shopping around at different stores, you’ll have safe milk to feed your little one.

Learn how to safely store mixed baby formula, and know when to throw it out. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your little one. Never feed your baby expired or spoiled formula.

If you leave it out of the fridge after preparation or opening, bacteria will grow exponentially and make your baby sick! It’s best to follow manufacturer instructions on how long prepared bottles last in different temperatures.

Carly Wight

Mother of two young boys (6 and 3!) and an avid "Googler", Carly is the kind to research something to the nth degree. Be it about products, hacks, or techniques, she shares what she finds out at her website - Fairy Good Mommy.

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