Can you use bottled water to mix baby formula?

One of the reasons why formula feeding is not encouraged is due to the high rate of sickness due to incorrectly mixed formula, the use of unsterile water and non-sterilised bottles, which can result in harmful bacteria.

At times I have thought about trying to eradicate the issue of using unsterile water and immediately my question was: Is it safe to use bottled or mineral water instead of boiled water from a water source? I’m sure you’ve used bottled water when travelling for the sake of convenience and thought it was okay. However, there are mixed views and we wanted facts, so we took some pointers from the brand manager of a leading formula brand, who stressed that “the mom/caregiver should always follow the mixing instructions as per the label on the packaging of the product”. These label instructions happen to be legislated and state that only safe, drinkable, previously boiled water should be used. But why is this?

“General industry thoughts on bottled water are that it contains minerals which vary between brands and therefore it is difficult to determine its impact on the formula composition. Even though it is bottled water, it is still not sterile.”

“Unless the bottled water is guaranteed as ‘microbial free’ water, the chance of microbial/bacterial contamination might be a risk. It is safer not to use this water even though it is sealed and seemingly cleaner and safer,” pointed out the brand manager.

We contacted SANBWA (South African National Bottled Water Association) for guidance on this and their response was as follows: “By definition, Natural Bottled Water does contain variable levels of naturally occurring bacteria. These are not pathogens, i.e. they do not harm humans, with the possible exception of some immune-compromised individuals. To be safe, use only properly sealed bottles and not a bottle that has previously been opened. If previously opened, then boiling is a must. And to be safer still, boil water as per normal, even if from a properly sealed and unopened bottle. The big advantage of using bottled water is that there will be no trace of pesticides and other man-made chemicals that are often found in our municipal water supply.”

General industry thoughts on bottled water are that it contains minerals (such as sodium) which vary between brands and therefore it is difficult to determine its impact on the formula composition. Even though it is bottled water, it is still not sterile.

I believed that bottled water can also contain fluoride and continued exposure to fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which leaves white streaks on a baby’s teeth during enamel formation. However, SANBWA have confirmed that bottled water in SA “contains negligible amounts of fluoride. Our ground water by nature of geology does not yield fluoride-rich water” and nothing is added to it when bottled. I was always also under the impression that the chemicals from the plastic bottles can leach into the water and contaminate it, but SANBWA have confirmed that this is a “popular urban myth and has been debunked by many credible scientific sources in recent years.”

So, there you have it. Don’t cut corners or seek convenience at the expense of your baby’s health. The experts suggest that it is always safest to boil the water you intend to use to mix with your baby’s formula (even if it is bottled water) and let it cool down before using it.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines http://www.who.int/topics/infant_nutrition/en/. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.

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