Reports linking the deaths of two infants from a bacterial infection to the formula they drank last winter were heartbreaking. Fortunately for bottle-feeders, the formula was found to be safe. Two other babies were also sickened but recovered, and none of the cases have been found to be related—all four occurred in different states. “Neither the powder nor the water used to mix it was found to be contaminated, so it's unknown how this bacteria, called Cronobacter sakazakii, got into the bottle,” explains Steven Abrams, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, and a member of the AAP's Committee on Nutrition. “We do know, however, that babies, especially those under a month of age and those born prematurely, are very susceptible to certain germs, so the proper preparation of formula is critical.” The bottom line? Whether you buy the powder, concentrate, or ready-to-drink kind, formula is safe. But since the powder is most affordable, many parents go that route. How to mix it right:
1. SQUEAKY CLEAN It goes without saying: Wash your hands well with soap and water before each feeding. Consider sterilizing new bottles and nipples by boiling them the first time you use them; after that, washing in a dishwasher will do.
2. ONE AT A TIME
It's tempting to prep a day's worth of bottles or to save leftovers for later. But to be on the safe side, nix both ideas. Mix only the serving your baby's about to drink and use it right away. Toss any leftovers and start with a fresh bottle the next time (bacteria from your baby's mouth can contaminate the leftover formula).
3. WATER WORKS
Only mix powder with plain tap or bottled water that's been boiled for a minute, then cooled down. (Contrary to popular belief, bottled water can contain bacteria.) Boiling the water first sterilizes it and removes anything harmful.
4. THE FINE PRINT
Follow the directions on the formula container carefully. The powder and water must be measured exactly so your baby gets the nutrients he needs.