How Long Is Formula Good For in the Fridge?

Knowing how to store and properly handle baby formula is key to keeping your little one healthy. But with so many rules around fridge time, heating, and more, it can get confusing. This article breaks down everything you need to know about the question: how long is formula good for in the fridge?

Formula Fridge Life and Storage Tips

Once opened, it's generally safe to store prepared baby formula in the fridge for up to 24 hours. However, be aware of these fridge storage tips:

  • Keep the fridge temperature at 40°F or below. Store formula toward the back and away from vents or doors where temperature fluctuates.
  • The 24-hour time frame is for opened containers. Unopened, ready-to-feed formula can last 2-3 days in the fridge. Unopened powder formula can last much longer unrefrigerated.
  • Let formula cool to room temp before refrigerating to prevent curdling. Don't freeze or microwave bottles.
  • Put the date and time on bottles so you know when 24 hours is up. Discard any unused portion after 24 hours.
  • Never save leftovers from baby's bottle to avoid bacterial contamination. Always make fresh bottles.

Signs Formula Has Spoiled

It's important to carefully check baby's bottles of formula for any signs of spoilage before feeding. Look for:

  • Change in color - Formula that is still good should be consistent in color throughout the bottle. Yellow, brown, or gray discoloration could indicate spoiled formula.
  • Change in texture - Good formula is uniform in thickness and consistency. Clumps, curdling, separation, sliminess, or chunkiness are red flags for spoilage.
  • Unpleasant odors - Formula should have little to no odor when fresh. Foul, sour, or strange smells like curdled milk, rotten eggs, or chemicals point to spoilage.
  • Mold - Check the inner bottle walls and formula surface for fuzzy mold spots or film. This likely means bacteria has multiplied.
  • Gas bubbles - Bubbles on the formula surface or fizzing when shaken could indicate fermentation due to bacteria.
  • Past expiration date - Always check formula can or bottle labels and do not use any past expiration.

When in doubt, throw it out. Any signs of spoilage mean the formula is no longer good to give the baby. Bacteria and toxins multiply rapidly in expired and spoiled formula, and it's simply not worth the risk. Trust your eyes and nose - if the formula seems "off" in any way, do not feed it to your infant. Stay vigilant when storing and preparing bottles to detect problems before feeding.

Risks of Spoiled Baby Formula

Feeding a baby spoiled formula can be dangerous. Here are some of the potential risks.

  • Food poisoning
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Digestive issues
  • Weakened immunity
  • Kidney problems 
  • Poor growth and development

Be vigilant about proper formula handling and storage and you’ll have nothing to worry about. As always consult your pediatrician with any issues.

Storing Formula When Travelling

Travelling can be stressful enough, you don’t need to worry about your formula too. Here’s how to safely travel with baby formula.

  • Take powder formulas for easier transport and storage.
  • Pre-measure powder formula into bottles before leaving.
  • Use insulated bottle bags, small coolers, and ice packs to keep bottles cool.
  • Discard any bottles that sit out for over 1 hour, or 2 hours if refrigerated.

Proper Formula Preparation

Make sure to practice good hygiene when preparing baby formula.

  • Always wash hands and sterilize bottles thoroughly before mixing baby formula.
  • Don't let your baby drink directly from the formula container to avoid contamination.
  • Prepare only what your baby will consume in one feeding. Don't save leftovers.

Thoroughly Sterilize Bottles and Equipment

Properly sterilizing all bottles, nipples, caps, and equipment before making formula is critical for killing harmful bacteria. You can sterilize using a steam sterilizer, boiling water, or the dishwasher. Always allow items to fully air dry after sterilizing before use. Never reuse bottles or equipment without washing and resterilizing.

Heating Formula Safely

Here’s how to heat the formula carefully.

  • Use a bottle warmer or warm water bath. Never microwave bottles!
  • Test temperature before feeding. It should be lukewarm, not hot.
  • Never reheat a formula bottle once the baby has drunk from it. This can breed bacteria.

Storing Unopened Formula

Don’t forget about proper storage! Do the following when storing baby formula.

  • Unopened powder formula can be safely stored in a cool, dry place until the expiration date.
  • Unopened ready-to-feed formula can be stored in the fridge 2-3 days before opening.
  • Don't freeze unopened formula, as this can damage nutrients.
  • Write the date you opened the can on the label and discard any leftover powder one month after opening.

Storing and Using Breast Milk

For comparison, here are CDC guidelines on breastmilk storage.

  • On the countertop: Up to 4 hours
  • In the fridge: Up to 4 days
  • In the freezer: 6-12 months

Breast milk should be stored in clean bottles or storage bags designed for breastmilk. Limit storage times and don't refreeze thawed milk.

Play It Safe

Always be safe with your practices when it comes to baby formula. Know how long the formula is good for both inside and outside the fridge. Refrigerate the formula only for the recommended limit of 24 hours. Discard any formula that has been outside the fridge for 2 hours or is past the 2-hour preparation time limit. Observe the other recommendations for safe formula use, and you and your bub can stay happy and healthy.