Should You Warm Baby Formula?

Mother feeding baby with bottle on sofa

Blend Images - Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

You don't need to warm an infant's milk or formula. However, many parents do warm their baby's bottle. It is more a personal preference than anything else. Many infants do just fine drinking formula (or expressed breast milk) at room temperature or even when it is a little cool. After all, once they switch to whole milk, you likely won't be warming it up anymore and will offer it right out of the refrigerator.

If your baby is used to you warming their formula bottles, they protest at first if it's served at a cooler temperature. However, other babies may not be bothered at all. So, you can certainly give it a try if you like. Besides, not having to warm the bottles of the formula is much more convenient.

Reasons to Heat Formula

While there are no nutritional or health advantages to drinking heated formula, some babies do show a preference for drinking it that way. Babies often seem to like what they're used to, so if they have been fed warm bottles previously, then cold or room-temperature formula may be less tolerated. Additionally, some babies who are used to breastfeeding (and drinking warm breast milk) may also prefer formula to be warm.

Note that even if a baby initially doesn't seem to like cold or room-temperature formula, they may grow to like it after repeated exposure. You can also try gradually reducing the temperature you serve it to help you baby acclimate to unheated formula.

However, if you do choose to heat your baby's bottles, note that caution should be taken to avoid overheating. If formula gets too hot, the high temperature can break down the enzymes in the milk. Even more worrisome is that overheating can also result in scalding the baby's mouth.

How to Heat Formula

There are several ways to safely heat up a bottle of formula. Most importantly, always follow the instructions from the manufacturer of the formula you are using. Additionally, never heat formula in the microwave as this can result in tiny hot areas in the formula that can burn your child. Instead try one of these safe heating methods:

  • Place the bottle in a pan of hot water
  • Run the bottle under hot water
  • Use a bottle warmer

Risks of Heating Formula

When warming up infant formula, there are a few points to keep in mind.

Do Not Use a Microwave

Because of the risk of scalding burns, remember to not use a microwave to warm your baby's bottles of formula. A microwave heats things unevenly and can lead to superheated pockets of formula in the bottle, which can scald your baby's mouth. For this reason, it is important to remember to not use a microwave to warm your baby's bottles of formula.

If you still prefer to use a microwave to heat your child's bottles, vigorously shake the bottle and test the formula before giving it to your baby. But remember, it is much safer to warm the bottle using a baby bottle warmer or by placing the bottle in some warm tap water.

Go BPA Free

The type of bottle you use to feed your baby makes a big difference. BPA stands for bisphenol A, which is a chemical that has been used since the 1960s in manufacturing many hard plastic food containers, including baby bottles and sippy cups, in addition to the lining of metal cans used for liquid infant formula, according to the FDA (the U.S. food and drug administration).

When hot or boiling foods (including water, infant formula, or other foods and liquids) come in contact with containers made with BPA, then traces of BPA get transferred into the food or liquid.

Manufacturers decreased their reliance on BPA in baby bottles as early as 2008, when it became apparent that BPA exposure could increase the risk of certain cancers and negatively impact on brain development and the reproductive system (including the early onset of puberty). In 2013, the FDA supported the end of the use of any BPA-based epoxy resins in the lining of formula cans.

The FDA recommends boiling water in a BPA-free container. Then allow it to cool to lukewarm and mix with powdered infant formula.

  • Discard baby bottles, sippy cups, and other food containers that are scratched, since scratches in plastics can harbor germs and release small amounts of BPA (if they were used in the manufacturing of the container).
  • Check labels on bottles and containers for the recycle codes on the bottom—In general, plastics marked with recycling codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA. Some (but not all) plastics marked with recycling codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
3 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. Kids Health from Nemours. Formula Feeding FAQs: Preparation and Storage.

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application.

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Indirect Food Additives: Adhesives and Components of Coatings.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.