You’re walking down the formula aisle and see (overpriced) nursery water and wonder “Is this the best water for my baby’s formula?” As if choosing a formula wasn’t complicated enough (especially with a shortage), now you must figure out what to mix with it. Formula is already so expensive, does the water need to be too?
While the best water for your baby formula depends on a few different factors, most of the time, you don’t need to pay a premium. For most people, tap water or distilled water (affiliate link) works best.
No matter which water you choose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to mix powdered formula with hot water to kill a rare, but deadly bacteria that can be found in powdered formula (1).
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For many people, tap water should be fine. Check with your local health department to see if you should boil the water before making formula. If you need to boil it, you should do so for about a minute. More than that and you can increase the concentration of impurities in the water.
The American Dental Association recommends against extra fluoride in the water when mixing formula (which already contains fluoride). If your water is fluorinated, you may want to consider a low fluoride option. Once your baby is drinking plain water, the fluoride is perfectly safe.
If you have a well, you will want to get it tested prior to using it for formula. You may need to boil the water or opt for an alternative.
Standard Bottled Water
The bottled water that we usually drink can be used in a pinch, but often still has extra minerals in it. These minerals in and of themselves aren’t harmful, but your baby’s formula already has the ideal mineral content for your baby, there’s no reason to add any extra.
Distilled Bottled Water
Distilled bottle water will have the impurities and the minerals removed. It’s not great for drinking by itself, but it works well for mixing with formula. You can use tap water or a different water choice when you introduce plain drinking water to your baby.
There’s nothing wrong with using nursery water, but generally, you’re just paying for the marketing. There’s no reason to pay extra for nursery water when another option will work just as well.
Is nursery water the same as distilled water?
No. Distilled water has the minerals removed and nursery water will still contain some minerals. The formula for your baby will have minerals in it, so the extra minerals in nursery water usually aren’t necessary.
Assuming your water source is safe, the reason some agencies recommend boiling water is to kill a bacteria that could be in the powdered formula. This is why you may need to boil distilled or nursery water as well as tap water.
There are conflicting guidelines on boiling water in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Food and Drug Administration recommend cooling water before mixing formula whereas the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend mixing formula while the water is hot and then cooling it (2).
The reason for the conflicting advice is where the agencies put their focus: on preventing cronobacter infections or preventing burns. Adding boiling water to the formula is intended to kill the cronobacter bacteria, however there is a risk of serving too hot formula to a baby. If you mix formula with boiling water, it is very important that you let it cool prior to feeding your baby.
So which water is the best for your baby’s formula?
Tap water or plain distilled water tends to be the best water for baby formula. Both are relatively inexpensive and should be safe to use (check your local health department for the status of your tap water).
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Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.