Can You Use Baby Formula After Its Expiration Date? Read This First!

No, you cannot use an infant formula that has gone beyond its expiration date. Baby formulas come with use-by or best-before date that pertains to their unopened package. After it expires, the nutrients in the milk will start to degrade. It may also enable the growth of molds that is harmful to the baby’s health. Thus, feeding your baby an expired formula will not give him the right nutrients needed for growth. Worse still, it will put the baby at risk for infections like Cronobacter

So how long before a formula expires unopened or after opening it? How about formulas that you have mixed that the baby failed to feed at once?

Will a formula go bad in an unconducive environment? Here’s all that you need to know about expiration dates. 

What does “use-by date” mean?

We were always told to check the label when purchasing anything. And more than the nutritional information, the expiration date is the first thing we look for.

An example of a food container with a manufactured and expiration date for the consumer to note

For parents, their top priority is their baby’s safety more than anything else. When it comes to expensive formula milk, will parents compromise? Is it necessary to check the label?

Use-by or expiration date is the shelf life of a product where it will retain its peak quality. It does not necessarily pertain to safety but more to quality.

Therefore, some foods are quite safe to eat even if it goes past their best-before date.

The food quality like color, texture, or odor may change. It is on the best judgment of the user whether to still eat it if the food has gone bad.

Food Product Dating is the information provided by the producer about the estimated time that the product is of its highest quality. It helps the retailers determine how long they can store and display the product.

There are two types of food product dating, but these are not required by Federal Regulations:

  1. Open Dating – It labels the calendar date or estimated time for the product to be in its best quality.
  2. Closed Dating – It consists of a code with a series of letters and/or numbers that identifies the date of production. 

Expiration date in infant formula

While product dating is not enforceable, the Federal Rule does not apply to infant formula milk.

The US Food and Drug Administration requires the manufacturer to label baby formula with a use-by date. They are doing close watch and inspection to ensure that it does not get violated. 

Past its use-by date, formula milk may not only change its texture, odor, and consistency to pass through a bottle nipple.

It will also lose the potency of its nutrients and defeat the purpose of why you are feeding your baby with it.

Giving your baby formula beyond the use-by date delimits his nutrition intake suitable for his body’s needs. 

What is the shelf life of formula milk?

A prepared bottle of baby formula milk next to a scoop of dry baby formula

Powdered formula

Infant formula will often keep for one year after its manufacture.

The use-by date is visibly written in the can or canister, and that’s what you need to check.

If only the manufacture date is written, which is uncommon, add a year to determine its expiration date. 

Liquid formula

Liquid baby formulas tend to have a different expiration date than their powdered milk counterpart.

Some can stay for 6 to 8 months, while others may keep for up to a year or two, depending on the type.

For example, concentrate forms can last for one to two years after manufacture. Single-serve packets may only have six months of shelf life.

Opened formula milk cans

Upon opening the formula milk can, the baby needs to consume it for no more than one month. But it is applicable only if the can is kept under desirable conditions.

It means storing it in a cool and dry place with the lid tightly closed and unmixed with another formula.

Check the label on the can regarding its shelf life after opening and its storing requirements.

Prepared or mixed infant formula

Once mixed, the CDC requires that formula should be used within two hours after preparation.

If the baby starts feeding on it, the leftover should be fed within an hour. In the fridge, the untouched prepared formula is good for up to 24 hours. 

How to safely buy and store infant formula?

A mom is getting a scoop of baby formula from the container to prepare some milk to feed her baby

Choosing the right formula for your baby may need the sound advice of a pediatrician. But mostly, the nutrients in every brand have an almost similar nutrient formulation, so there is less worry in it.

If you are in the grocery aisle looking for the best infant formula for your baby, here’s what you need to check:

  1. Check the expiration date
  2. Check if the container is sealed correctly and in good condition. There should be no dents, leaks, rust spots, or puffy ends. 
  3. Make sure that the label is for the appropriate baby age. Infants should not be fed with toddler milk. 
  4. Transfer the formula milk in tin cans into containers with tight lids. 
  5. Store the infant milk in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight. 

If you are thinking about switching to formula milk, check our post on the topic.

FAQs

Will a baby get sick from taking expired formula?

In some cases, yes, they may. Certain bacteria can multiply within the powder or liquid and give the baby an upset stomach. 

What should I do with expired formula milk?

In some local stores, you may exchange expired formula if it is unopened and you have proof of purchase. But if you cannot exchange it, here are some ways you can make use of it: cattle and pet feed, plant fertilizer, garden pest repellent, or donate to a local rescue for pet feeding.

Takeaway

Formula milk that has gone beyond the expiration date, even if its qualities remain unchanged, should not be used.

It will not only put the baby at risk for infection from the mold that may grow into it, but it will also delimit the nutrients that your baby can take, reducing the health benefits.

So, to be always sure, get back to the basics and check the labels.

Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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