What Kind of Water is Best For Baby Formula? (2023)

All water essentially looks the same, but not all water sources are created equal. It's not just a matter of taste—it's also true in terms of drinking water safety. You can use tap water If you are mixing infant formula at home, provided your tap water is safe for your baby. Or, you may need to use boiled or bottled water for formula.

Tap Water Fluoride Levels

The American Dental Association (ADA) has issued concerns about water that contains higher concentrations of fluoride (greater than 0.7mg/l). Fluoride can be protective for dental health, but higher levels can cause fluorosis on developing teeth.

Fluorosis is not a tooth disease. Rather, it appears as discoloration on your baby's developing teeth, which may appear as white spots or streaks on the enamel. This imperfection of coloration develops on your baby's permanent teeth while they are still forming in the gums.

Most powdered infant formulas contain fluoride. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if an infant is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water, parents should use de-fluoridated bottled water part of the time. This will help reduce the risk of too much fluoride.

If you are using tap water, the ADA suggests checking with your local water companyto make sure that the fluoride level in your water is less than 0.7 mg/L. This information is also available online via the CDC's My Water's Fluoride tool.

If you are mostly breastfeeding, and only using an occasional bottle that may have a slightly higher concentration of fluoride, ask your pediatrician if the limited exposure is acceptable.

Combining Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

Well Water Safety

If your home is supplied by well water rather than by a public water system, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends having your water tested for nitrates every 3 months for a year to make sure it is safe for your baby.

Nitrates naturally occur in plants and are used in fertilizers. They can also make their way into groundwater. When ingested regularly by infants (such as through formula) nitrates can lead to methemoglobinemia, a dangerous and potentially fatal condition that causes interference with the circulation of oxygen in the blood.

Boiling water will not reduce the nitrate concentration and could even increase it as the water evaporates. Mechanical filters also do not remove nitrates.That means that if the nitrate level in your well water is too high, you should use bottled water for formula preparation.

Choosing Bottled Water

If you are in a situation where you do not want to or cannot use tap water (whether at home or in public), the other option is to buy bottled water. You'll find some "nursery water" products that are marketed specifically for babies, but these are not necessary.

You can also choose low-fluoride bottled water that's labeled as purified, deionized, demineralized, distilled, or prepared by reverse osmosis. By law, any bottled water you purchase in the United States must meet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s standards of water quality.

(Video) What's The Best Water To Use For Baby Formula? | Water for Formula: Which Type Should You Use?

When to Boil Water

Product packaging used to state that all water used to make infant formula should be boiled. However, if you read the label on an infant formula today, you will most likely see a statement urging you to ask a healthcare provider whether or not you should boil the water before preparing formula for your baby.

The AAP instructs parents to use water from a safe source to mix infant formula. If you are concerned about your water source's safety, use bottled water or boil your water for 1 minute and allow it to cool for up to 30 minutes before using it to make the formula.

However, keep in mind that boiling water will only address bacterial contaminants, not chemicals. Powdered infant formula is not sterile and therefore it runs a risk of bacterial contamination.

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for preparing formula state that all water (whether tap or bottled and purified) should be boiled before it is used, and mixed with the formula before the temperature drops below 70 degrees C (158 degrees F).

The WHO also states that if boiled water isn't available, a safe water source can be used to mix formula, but the reconstituted formula should be used immediately and not stored.

How to Use Water to Mix Formula

When preparing your baby's formula, follow the instructions on the formula labels. You also can check with other reliable sources like local WIC agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some tips from the AAP for mixing your baby's formula with water.

  • Add water first, then powder.Always put the water in the bottle first, then add the powder, not the other way around.
  • Boil your water if needed.According to the AAP, infants under 3 months of age, those who were born prematurely, and those who have a weakened immune systems, should be given formula that is prepared with hot water in order to kill any microbes. Water should be boiled and cooled for 5 minutes before adding it to a clean bottle.
  • Test the formulatemperature. To make sure the prepared formula is not too hot before feeding it to your baby, shake a few drops on your wrist. It should be cooled to body temperature before feeding. You can run a prepared bottle under cool water or place it in an ice bath if it is too hot.
  • Discard leftover formula. After feeding your baby prepared formula, discard what is left within 1 hour of the feeding. If you prepare the formula and do not feed your baby right away, you can store the formula in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Never add water to premade (ready-to-feed) formula. Feeding your baby diluted formula is dangerous.

Ask Your Pediatrician

Discuss your plans for making formula with your pediatrician and find out what they recommend as the safest option. In addition to talking with your baby's doctor, the AAP also recommends checking with your local health department to find out if you can use unboiled tap water in your baby's bottle.

Remember that the WHO recommends boiling all water and using the hot water to reconstitute the formula to kill bacteria that could be lurking in the formula itself. Recommendations and water safety vary by location. This is why it's important to talk to your pediatrician about what is best for your family.

The AAP also stresses that parents should never water down infant formula—either to give their baby extra water or to make formula last longer and save money. Giving babies too much water can be dangerous and may lead to water intoxication.

Watered-down formula also delivers fewer nutrients in each feeding, which can slow growth and development and result in electrolyte imbalances that could cause seizures.

(Video) The Best Water to Make Baby Formula

A Word From Verywell

Choosing the right water for your baby's formula should begin with a conversation with their healthcare provider. Because water sources and quality vary by region, your situation may be different than those in other communities. The key is to ensure that you are mixing your baby's formula with the best quality water available to you.

Can Babies Drink Water?

7 Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Hujoel PP, Zina LG, Moimaz SA, Cunha-cruz J. Infant formula and enamel fluorosis: a systematic review. J Am Dent Assoc. 2009;140(7):841-54. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2009.0278

    (Video) Is it okay to use tap water to make my baby's formula?

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infant formula.

  3. American Dental Association. Fluoride: Topical and systemic supplements.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Where we stand: Testing of well water.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Bottled water everywhere: Keeping it safe.

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to safely prepare formula with water.

  7. World Health Organization (WHO). Safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.

FAQs

What kind of water do u use for baby formula? ›

You can use any type of clean water — tap or bottled — to prepare liquid-concentrate or powdered formula. If you're concerned about the purity of your water supply, talk to your baby's doctor or your water provider. Many public water systems will test drinking water upon request.

Do you use distilled water for baby formula? ›

Do NOT use well water. Use distilled or purified water in place of well water. You may use city water or regular bottled drinking water to make formula if you boil it first as outlined below.

Can I use bottled water for formula? ›

You can use any bottled water to make baby formula. Yes, you still need to boil it. While bottled water is safe to drink for adults, it might not be as safe for babies.

Is distilled water the same as baby water? ›

The main difference between Nursery water and regular distilled water is the lack of minerals in distilled water. Nursery Water is basically distilled water with extra minerals. These minerals are naturally present in tap water but are removed during the distillation process.

Is distilled or purified water better for babies? ›

Both purified and distilled water for baby formula are good choices. Distilled and purified water are similar in that they have almost all of the impurities and minerals removed from them.

What bottled water is safe for babies? ›

If you do have to use bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure the sodium (also written as Na) level is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre. The sulphate (also written as SO or SO4) content should not be higher than 250mg per litre.

What happens if you don't boil water for formula? ›

Powdered infant formula milk is not sterile. Even though tins and packets of milk powder are sealed, they can still contain bacteria. Water that hasn't been boiled can also contain bacteria. Formula therefore needs to be made up with water hot enough to kill the bacteria, which is at least 70 degrees C.

Is spring water OK for baby formula? ›

Spring water is generally not recommended for infants on formula. Spring water contains minerals and when mixed with formula could lead to mineral overdose. Purified water or distilled water is recommended for infant formula feeding.

Why can't babies drink cold formula? ›

Baby formula doesn't have to be warm. It's fine to feed your baby cool or even cold formula. It's all up to your baby's preference – they may prefer it warm, at room temperature, or even chilled, and all of those options are just fine.

Is purified water the same as distilled water? ›

Both purified and distilled water are very healthy for you and are essentially the same. The main difference between the two is that purified water doesn't necessarily get rid of all of the healthy minerals that can be found in water, which isn't the case with distilled water.

Can Cold formula upset baby's stomach? ›

Is it safe to feed babies cold milk? Yes, it's safe to feed your baby cold milk. In fact, frozen breast milk can be used as a form of pain relief for teething babies!

How do you prepare water for formula? ›

Understand if boiling water to prepare infant formula is necessary.
...
Using boiled water to prepare powdered infant formula
  1. Boil water from a safe source. ...
  2. Allow the water cool to no less than 158 degrees F (70 degrees C) before pouring into the bottle. ...
  3. Carefully pour the water into the bottle you will use to feed baby.

When do you stop boiling water for formula? ›

6 Sterilizing water for healthy term infants has historically been recommended until infants are four months of age. By four months infants are commonly putting many non-sterilized objects in their mouths. Therefore four months has been chosen as the age for discontinuing the sterilization of water.

Do you need to use boiled water for formula? ›

Yes. You should always boil water before using it to make formula milk. Powdered infant formula milk is not sterile. Even though tins and packets of milk powder are sealed, they can still contain bacteria.

Is it OK to use tap water for baby formula? ›

You can safely use fluoridated tap water to prepare infant formula. Exposure to fluoride during infancy helps prevent tooth decay.

Do you have to use boiling water for formula? ›

To reduce the risk of infection, it's best to make up feeds 1 at a time, as your baby needs them. Use freshly boiled drinking water from the tap to make up a feed. Do not use artificially softened water or water that has been boiled before. Leave the water to cool in the kettle for no more than 30 minutes.

Can I use cooled boiled water for formula? ›

Use fresh water from the cold tap to fill your kettle every time you make up formula. Do not use water that has been previously boiled or artificially softened water. Bottled water is not recommended to make up a feed as it is not sterile and may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate.

Which bottled water is best for babies? ›

Evian and Volvic are two examples of brands that are suitable. This water must still be boiled before use. Up until the age of 12 months all water offered to a baby should be cooled boiled water.

How do you prepare a bottle for night feeds? ›

Night-time feeding hacks (Sponsored) - YouTube

What bottled water can babies have? ›

If you do have to use bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure the sodium (also written as Na) level is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre. The sulphate (also written as SO or SO4) content should not be higher than 250mg per litre.

When can I stop using distilled water for formula? ›

You can start giving your baby bottled water after six months, though. Mineral water for babies is fine as long as the level of dissolved minerals (such as sodium and fluoride) in it are low.

Can you use bottled spring water for baby formula? ›

Spring water is generally not recommended for infants on formula. Spring water contains minerals and when mixed with formula could lead to mineral overdose. Purified water or distilled water is recommended for infant formula feeding.

Is purified water safe for babies? ›

PURIFIED OR DISTILLED WATER is not recommended for infants or children. According to Zoltan P. Ronan MD MSc, distilled, purified or reverse osmosis water leaches minerals from the bones and teeth (Read his article Why purified water is bad for you).

Why can't babies drink cold formula? ›

Baby formula doesn't have to be warm. It's fine to feed your baby cool or even cold formula. It's all up to your baby's preference – they may prefer it warm, at room temperature, or even chilled, and all of those options are just fine.

How do you prepare water for formula? ›

Understand if boiling water to prepare infant formula is necessary.
...
Using boiled water to prepare powdered infant formula
  1. Boil water from a safe source. ...
  2. Allow the water cool to no less than 158 degrees F (70 degrees C) before pouring into the bottle. ...
  3. Carefully pour the water into the bottle you will use to feed baby.

Will cold formula hurt babies stomach? ›

Yes, it's safe to feed your baby cold milk.

How do you prepare bottles for a day out? ›

Fill empty sterile bottles with water above 70 degrees. Place them into the insulated bottle carriers. Measure out the milk powder into dispensers before going out and then add the powder into the water when needed and cool if needed.

What did babies drink before formula? ›

Although artificial or formula-feeding of infants is presently much safer than it has been in decades, breastmilk is still considered the best source of infant nutrition (Leung & Sauve, 2005). Throughout the ages and until the end of the 19th century, animal's milk was the most common source of artificial feeding.

Can you use bottled water for baby bottles? ›

always boil the bottled water before using it to make up feeds. it is best not to use bottled water labelled as 'natural mineral water' as it can have higher levels of sodium and other minerals. It can be used if no other water is available, for as short a time as possible, as it is important to keep babies hydrated.

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