Prepare and Store Powdered Infant Formula in an Emergency

At a glance

If a family must use powdered infant formula but tap water is unsafe to drink, follow these steps to prepare and store the infant formula safely and correctly.

Mom kissing her baby.

How to prepare and store powdered infant formula

For families who need infant formula during or after an emergency, ready-to-feed (RTF) infant formula is the safest option. RTF infant formula is a sterile, liquid infant formula that is ready to feed without adding water.

During an emergency, tap water may not be safe to mix with powdered infant formula. If your tap water has been deemed unsfale, and powdered infant formula is the only option, follow these steps to prepare and store it safely and correctly.

PDF "How to Prepare and Store Powdered Infant Formula During an Emergency"
How to prepare and store powdered infant formula during and emergency

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STEP 1: Clean your preparation surface. Wash your hands with soap and water. If water is not available or not safe for handwashing, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Use a clean bottle or other food-grade safe container and a lid or cap to prepare the infant formula. Make sure the formula is not expired.

STEP 2: Use bottled water to prepare powdered formula until local authorities say the tap water is safe to drink. If bottled water is not available, learn how to make water safe by boiling or disinfecting.

STEP 3: Use the exact amount of bottled water and formula listed on the formula container instructions. If you do not have a measuring cup, use a disposable water bottle or other food-grade safe container that lists the total volume so you can estimate. Measure the water first and then add the infant formula powder with the scoop provided.

STEP 4: With the lid or cap on, shake infant formula in the bottle or other food-grade safe container to mix. Do not stir. You do not need to warm infant formula before feeding.

STEP 5: After feeding, thoroughly clean the bottle and nipple with soap and safe water or discard disposable cup. Learn about cleaning and sanitizing infant feeding items in emergencies.


Powdered infant formula is not sterile. If your baby is less than 2 months old, was born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system, it is especially important to use ready-to-feed infant formula in any emergency. Liquid infant formula is made to be sterile (without germs) and is the safest option for infants not receiving breast milk.

Use quickly and store safely

  • Use prepared infant formula within 1 hour from start of feeding and within 2 hours of preparation.
  • If you are not going to use the prepared formula within 2 hours, immediately store it in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours.
  • During power outages, you may not have access to a working refrigerator. In this case, prepare fresh formula for every feeding.
  • Throw out any formula that's left over after feeding your baby. Do not refrigerate it to save for later. The combination of infant formula and your baby's saliva can cause bacteria to grow.

Feeding tips

  • If you feed your baby with both breast milk and powdered formula, breastfeed or feed your baby breast milk first, then feed the formula.
  • Do not use a bottle to feed your baby anything besides infant formula or breast milk.
  • When mixing infant formula, make only the amount your baby will eat in the bottle. This avoids wasting your supply.
  • If you are using disposable cups, use a new cup for each feeding.

Did you know?‎

When safe water is not available, bottles and bottle nipples are dangerous to use because they are difficult to clean. If you're using a disposable water bottle or other food-grade safe container to prepare the formula, pour the formula into a disposable cup to feed your baby. After feeding, throw away the cup. Learn more about cup feeding.


  • Always mix formula in a food-grade safe bottle or container. Never use a container that has ever held any toxic substances or chemicals.
  • Always use the exact amount of water and formula listed on the instructions of the infant formula container. Adding too much or too little formula can make your baby sick.
  • Do not make or feed your baby homemade infant formula. Feeding homemade infant formula can lead to serious health problems.
  • If formula cans were exposed to unsafe water, have dents, rust spots, puffy ends or a broken seal, throw them away immediately.
  • Keep powdered formula lids and scoops clean and dry. Close containers of formula as soon as possible. Store the scoop inside the container.
  • Watch and listen for updates from local authorities regarding the safety of your water source.

Did you know?‎

If you warm the formula and have access to clean water, place the closed bottle into a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Avoid getting water into the bottle or nipple. This could contaminate the prepared formula. Test the temperature before feeding it to your baby by putting a few drops of formula on your wrist. It should feel warm, not hot.

Never warm formula in a microwave. Microwaving creates hot spots that can burn your baby's mouth.