Water Quality Considerations for Preparing Baby Formulas

When it comes to our babies, we all want what’s best for them. This is especially true when it comes to nutrition. However, we have to take into account that the baby’s gut is not as strong as ours. We should be careful what we feed our babies. This rule applies to their formula as well. We have to be very careful what we put in it and what we use to prepare it. Since baby formula contains a significant amount of water, we should be mindful of the quality of the water that we would use to prepare the baby formula. What kind of water should you use? Can you use purified water? If so, what is the best kind? How about tap water? We shall answer these questions in detail as we discuss some special considerations with regard to water quality for your baby’s formula.

Why use baby formula?

Before anything else, let’s get this out of the way. If water quality is a concern when preparing baby formula, why not just breastfeed your baby? Isn’t breastfeeding superior to baby formula? Those are solid arguments for breastfeeding and it's true that breastfeeding is superior to baby formula ‘most of the time’. Studies have shown that breastfed babies were more resistant to infections and had less hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. This is all because our mothers would share their antibodies to us through their breast milk. We should all thank our mothers, because of them our immune system was strengthened and we became more resistant to diarrhea, respiratory infections, ear infections, and even meningitis. Other studies have also shown that breastfeeding can lessen the chances that a baby may develop allergies, obesity, diabetes, asthma, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Moreover, research has shown that breastfeeding is especially important for premature babies.

Since breast milk is so much more superior than baby formula then all mothers should just breastfeed their babies right? Well, I wish I could say yes but it's not that simple, there are a lot of reasons why a mother wouldn’t be able to breastfeed their baby. Some mothers may have inverted nipples, can’t produce enough milk, some mothers can’t even produce milk at all or have delayed production of their milk. If mothers with these conditions would breastfeed their babies exclusively, then the baby may not get enough nutrition. Aside from these conditions, other factors such as inadequate support from partner or family, busy work schedules, and inexperience can also hinder a mother from breastfeeding their babies.

In essence, although breastfeeding is superior, there is no shame in feeding your baby with a baby formula. With that said, if you can manage to breastfeed your baby, it is best to alternate between breastfeeding and giving a baby formula.

Microorganisms that are Especially harmful for your Baby

Since babies are still developing their immune systems they are more susceptible to certain diseases compared to older children and adults. Common waterborne gastrointestinal pathogens that you should be wary of includes: Campylobacter, Cholera, Cryptosporidiosis, Cyclosporiasis, E. Coli, Giardiasis, Hepatitis A, Leptospirosis, Listeria, Norovirus, Salmonellosis, Shigellosis, and Typhoid fever.

The Simple Act of Boiling the Water

Boiling water to destroy pathogens present in it is very effective. The standard recommendation for boiling water is a “full rolling boil” for one minute. Don’t forget to let it cool before using as you might scald yourself. In fact, boiling water is so effective that health agencies would sometimes order households to boil their water when there is a potential for biological contamination in the tap. To boil water, you need to raise its heat to 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures, the heat is enough to mess up or denature the proteins present in viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and other pathogenic microorganisms.

Boiling water is not sterilization, some bacterial spores that are usually not associated with waterborne diseases may survive the heat. Research has shown that pasteurization begins at temperatures as low as 55 degrees Celsius or 131 degrees Fahrenheit. Other studies have shown that heating the water to 72 degrees Celsius or 162 degrees Fahrenheit for one minute is enough to make Cryptosporidium oocysts non-infectious. Furthermore, heating water to 65 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes will kill or inactivate most pathogenic organisms including Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Endameba, Giardia, Hepatitis A virus, worm eggs, Vibrio cholera, Rotaviruses, Salmonella, and Shigella.


Boiling water is easy, just get a clean pot or kettle and fill it with water. Place the pot or kettle on the stove and turn it on. Adjust the flame to the highest setting. Wait for large bubbles to appear. Once, the water is bubbling, let it boil for a minute. Some kettles are designed with a whistle. Once the kettle would start to whistle it has been boiling for a couple of minutes so you don’t have to let it whistle for a minute. Before using the water, let it cool to about body temperature.

Some safety tips that you should keep in mind:

  • Use two hands when handling the kettle to avoid accidental spills and to avoid scalding yourself.

  • Don’t hold your baby when you are handling the kettle.

  • After you are done preparing the baby formula, sprinkle some of it on your wrist to check the temperature. If it's too hot for your wrist then it is too hot for your baby.

What’s the best kind of bottled water for your baby?

For most developed countries, bottled water is a bit of an overkill. Usually, your tap water is already good enough. However, if you want to be on the safe side, the best kind of bottled water for your baby are those that are especially made for babies. They undergo specialized treatment to ensure your child is not exposed to harmful microorganisms, on top of that the minerals present in it is balanced so that your child doesn’t consume too much of a certain mineral. Furthermore, harmful toxins and heavy metals are removed.

Other types of bottled water is okay but even though they undergo additional treatment you should ALWAYS BOIL WATER THAT IS TO BE USED FOR PREPARING BABY FORMULA. There is still a level of uncertainty with the quality of your bottled water, it could be that it was contaminated while it was waiting on the store shelf.

Can you use tap water for formula?

If you are confident with the quality of your tap water then you can use tap water. Most developed countries have tap water that is safe for consumption even for babies. If you live in an area with questionable tap water quality then you should consider using bottled, purified, or distilled water.

Once again, ALWAYS BOIL WATER THAT IS TO BE USED FOR PREPARING BABY FORMULA. Even if your tap is safe for consumption, you want to be 100% sure that it is free of harmful pathogens.

One problem of tap water is the variable amount of minerals present and the possibility of toxin or heavy metal contamination. Toxins and heavy metal contamination can easily be solved by installing filters in your tap. However, there is nothing you can do with the variability of the amount of minerals present. Fluorine, in particular, is a cause of concern because it can cause dental fluorosis in babies. It is recommended that you alternate between tap and distilled water to minimize the chances of your child developing fluorosis.

Can you use well water to make your baby’s formula?

It is not advisable to use well water as there are a lot of uncertainties with regards to its use. Wells are not subject to regular testing and may contain pathogens, toxins, heavy metals, or harmful levels of certain minerals. However, if you can have your well water tested regularly and the tests would indicate that it is safe for your baby then you can use well water. Just remember to ALWAYS BOIL WATER THAT IS TO BE USED FOR PREPARING BABY FORMULA.


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