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NCT call for clearer instructions on formula milk.

Parent information charity the NCT express concern over the mixing advice given by formula milk manufacturers.
Advice provided on formula tins, on company websites and through company 'Carelines' on how to make up a bottle is often unclear and could lead to serious illness for the baby. The advice also contradicts guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO)¹ and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Powdered formula milk is not sterile and can be contaminated with bacteria, which could cause illness such as meningitis and septicaemia. Although illness is very rare, WHO and FSA advise making up only one bottle at a time using water at or above 70degC to kill the bacteria and minimise the risk.

In practical terms this means using the water within 30 minutes of boiling (after this time the temperature drops too low) and throwing away any unused milk.

These instructions from formula manufacturers are not in line with recommendations:-
  • SMA Gold advises 'allow to cool to hand hot (30-40 mins)'

  • Hipp First Infant Milk advises 'boil and leave to stand until temperature reaches 50 - 60°C (30-40 minutes)'

  • Cow & Gate website advises 'leave kettle to cool' and 'you can put pre-boiled water into sterilised bottles and the water can then be stored, at room temperature, for up to 24 hours.'

  • Farley's website advises 'allow it to cool to hand hot (about 30-40 mins)'

  • Aptimal Careline advisor says: "Mothers can get out the number of bottles they will need for 24 hours, fill them with boiled water and keep them without refrigeration. They’ll remain sterile for 24 hours."

In fact, formula made with water at 50°C 'generally results in the greatest increase in risk', according to WHO, unless it is consumed immediately, because it encourages the growth of bacteria rather than killing them.

The latest Infant Feeding survey shows those who use formula are not always clear on what to do and do not always make up the products using the safest method. Four in ten mothers (40%) who had made up powdered formula were not using water that had been left to cool for 30 minutes or less. And seven out of ten (69%) mothers were not following recommended practice of making up one feed at a time.

The new NCT factsheet sheet 'Using infant formula: your questions answered' includes a straightforward, step-by-step photo guide to making up a bottle of formula and explains what temperature the water needs to be to kill the bacteria and reduce the risk of contamination.

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive, NCT, said; "We are very worried about the mixed messages and confusing advice given to parents and carers on how to make up a bottle. We want to see formula companies update the information on their products, websites and through Carelines so that it is clear and correct and reflects the FSA guidance."

"As the leading evidence-based parent information charity, the NCT has produced a factsheet to provide reliable and impartial information. Looking after a new baby can be stressful and parents who use formula need to feel secure in the knowledge they are using a technique that reduces the risks."

The NCT factsheet also provides parents with information on the different types of formula and their contents. In addition, it looks at the effect on breastfeeding if mothers are mixing breast and bottle feeds and the best way to offer a bottle. The information provided in the factsheet is in accordance with the FSA, Department of Health and UNICEF.

For a free copy of the NCT's factsheet 'Using Infant Formula: your questions answered', please call NCT Enquiries on 0870 4448707 or download from NCT website www.nct.org.uk/usinginfantformula.

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When my daughter was a baby seven years ago the advice was to make up six bottles of milk for a newborn then warm them in a bottle warmer! You were also told to start weaning at 3-4 months. I had my son 4 months ago and i make his bottles up fresh, but i've started weaning him already.
by loulou1980 11th Apr 2008, 8:41am

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