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It’s easier, faster, and you can control the temperature. But is it safe? Experts weigh in.

by Bridget Reed, Milk-Drunk Contributor and Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann, Board Certified Pediatrician and Milk-Drunk Medical Affairs Team

When it comes to preparing baby formula, it’s expected for you to have several questions. One crucial question moms ask is, can I use tap water for baby formula? This critical question will be covered in detail below. We want to ensure that we provide a sound information base in regard to this priority question. 

In short, yes you can use tap water for baby formula, once your water is safe. Now, what does safe mean, and are there other elements to consider? We will discuss this below and also include a few steps that you can take to prepare baby formula. 

How To Know If Tap Water is Safe

If you are unsure if your tap water is safe, then it is always a great idea to check. In order for you to know if your tap water is safe, you will need to contact your local water supplier. Your local water supplier is always the best person to get information about the safety of your water from. The EPA also provides information on water safety in your area on the site www.epa.gov/safewater.  

Water may be contaminated by many different things that can negatively impact babies, and so accuracy is a must. In cases where your home is supplied by well water, you will also need to get that checked for safety by using a private water management or testing company–you can also request it from the public health department in your town or county. In fact, it is recommended that you check every three months, in order to check for nitrates

Once you have verified the safety of your water, you may consider some other ways to ensure safety with your water as needed for formula feeding. One of the most common ways is boiling tap water before using it.

Should I Boil Tap Water Before Using It?

The idea of boiling tap water before using it is not a new idea, nor is it one specific to formula feeding. Many people do this on a regular basis simply to have drinking water. In some cases, if you are unsure of the safety of your tap water, you may consider boiling it before use. Usually, water only needs to be boiled for one to two minutes. After boiling, you will need to cool the water to room temperature before using it to make your infant formula. 

An exception to boiling water before use usually comes if there is knowledge or any possibility that your tap water contains lead or nitrates. Water containing lead or nitrates will not become safe for drinking after boiling. In fact, it will be somewhat harmful because as the water boils, the concentration of the above-mentioned chemicals will only be more dense

As such, it’s always a great idea to reach out to your local water supplier just to ensure water safety. 

How to Enhance Your Tap Water or Use an Alternative

Enhancing your tap water or simply using an alternative is the best choice if you feel overly concerned. There are many ways that you can do either option. Below is only a small example of the options available to you.

Get A Water Filter

A water filter is, by far, one of the best ways to enhance your tap water. You can get a water filter hook up to your pipe, or you can purchase a water filter pitcher. Either system will work to remove several contaminants and help to provide safe water for formula making.

Use Bottled Water

If the above option is not suitable to make for you, then you can consider buying bottled water for making your baby formula. You can buy water simply listed as purified, deionized, demineralized, or prepared by reverse osmosis. Or, you can purchase water sold specifically for preparing baby formula. Either option is okay. 

You may also want to get water that is labeled as low fluoride, as this can impact teeth in a negative way. We will cover more on this in the next section.

What About Fluoride In Water?

Some tap water may contain fluoride and, as such is fluoridated water. While the CDC says that fluoridated tap water can be used to prepare infant formula, they also caution against its use. 

Water containing fluoride has been linked to dental fluorosis, which is the appearance of faint white lines on teeth. This condition occurs when children eight years and younger consume or ingest too much fluoridated water. 

To avoid this, it may be best to use bottled water or water that has been purified. Also, check for labels with low fluoride. Once fluoride is in any bottled water, the FDA requires that information to be disclosed. 

Now, this is not to say that some fluoride is not good for helping babies to develop strong teeth. 

By six to twelve months, most babies will start to develop teeth. It is true that fluoride can be used as a strengthening agent and help to ensure that teeth continue to develop strong and healthy. However, this is best in the case of toothpaste that can be rinsed and spat out. 

This is important to note because it is recommended that babies should begin using toothpaste from the first tooth.  As such, you should ensure that the baby does not ingest tooth care items. 

How To Prepare Baby Formula With Tap Water

Preparing baby formulas can be really simple once you have a good guide. If you are using powdered formula made from organic cow’s milk or other, then you will need to mix with water. You may also need to mix liquid concentrate formula with water. And preparation should be similar. 

As discussed above, this water needs to be safe for drinking. Once water safety is confirmed, you can begin preparing your formula.

Some babies will prefer a slightly warmed formula, while some will prefer room temperature or even chilled.

How to Prepare Baby Formula With Boiled Water

Here are a few steps and pointers for preparing baby formula with boiled tap water or other. 

  1. Start with clean hands and supplies. Then, place water in a pot and bring to a boil, usually one to two minutes. 
  2. Remove from heat and allow the water to cool for about 30 minutes.
  3. Once cooled, pour the required amount of water into the baby bottle. Use the guide provided on your formula container to know how much water to use. 
  4. After pouring water, add the required amount of scoops of formula to the bottle. Pack away formula safely. 
  5. Next, cover the baby bottle, pinch the nipple to avoid squirting the mixture, and shake well. 
  6. Once evenly mixed, you can double-check the temperature and feed if it’s cool enough. If it is not cool enough, you can allow it to cool in the fridge or under the tap. If you are not going to feed your baby right away, then ensure to keep the prepared formula safe in the refrigerator. 

With Room Temperature Tap Water or Other

  1. If you prefer to prepare your baby formula at room temperature, then that’s fine. You can use bottled water, safe tap water, or filtered water. Here are a few steps and pointers. 
  2. First, you’ll need to ensure that your hands, supplies, and space is clean. Then start by pouring the required amount of water into the baby bottle. Your formula container should have a guide of water to formula ratios. 
  3. Next, add the required amount of scoops of formula. Pack away supplies after use. 
  4. Cover your baby bottle, then pinch the nipple top as you shake the bottle well. 

Once evenly mixed, you can feed immediately or place it in the refrigerator for later use within 24 hours.

Summary

When it comes to preparing baby formula, safety is a priority. Many new moms are often concerned about the use of tap water for infant formula. Hence, many ask, can I use tap water for baby formula? 

To this question, we say yes, as long as the tap water is safe for drinking. Tap water as well as well water can contain contaminants that can harm babies. In order to truly know water safety, it is recommended that you contact your local water supplier. If you are supplied by well water, then you should consider getting your water checked every three months to ensure safety, as well water can be tainted by nitrates. 

If those above options aren’t comforting to you, then bottled water or filtered water is always a great option. You may also boil water before use if you are unsure of your water safety. However, if you think your water may contain lead, do not boil. It’s also important to note that while using fluoride toothpaste can help babies to develop strong and healthy teeth, ingesting fluoride can be harmful to babies. Hence, be careful of using fluoridated water. 

When it comes to making baby formula safely, you are already doing your part by seeking feeding information to satisfy your curiosity!

Sources:

https://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation/fluoridation-faq?_ga=2.268447094.66882062.1597876697-578013411.1597876697

https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/faqs/infant-formula.html

https://www.verywellfamily.com/nitrates-and-homemade-baby-foods-284422 https://www.ewg.org/node/11588

Jacqueline Winkelmann
Author

A board-certified pediatrician, Doctor Jacq has been on staff at CHOC Children’s and CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital in Orange County, California since 2001, where she has held many leadership positions, most recently as Chief-of-Staff and Member of the Board of Directors. Highly accomplished, she was selected as a Top Pediatrician by the International Association of Pediatricians: Leading Physicians of the World in 2018. A national and international speaker on Sports Nutrition, pediatric and adolescent health, Jacq is also a mom of two that supplemented and believes a pediatrician’s role is to support mothers during their most vulnerable time.

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