Does Baby Formula Expire?

By: Suzanne Renee' - Updated November 15, 2023 - 7 Minute Read

Does Baby Formula Expire? | The Milky Box

Breastfeeding is not always an option for families with infants, and they may need to turn to alternatives such as baby formula or supplements. However, the quality of baby formula in the US has come under scrutiny recently due to the available supply's questionable and even dangerous nature. As a result, many parents have turned to European baby formulas as a safe and nutritionally superior alternative for their infants.

In this article, we are here to help put families' minds at ease. The Milky Box has taken it upon itself to investigate the expiration dates of European baby formulas and identify possible indicators that may signify that your infant's nutrition may not be at its optimal level.

Powdered Baby Formula

Breast milk is vital to a baby’s growth and development. However, there are some situations where breastfeeding is challenging or not an option. Therefore, families need a healthy alternative that will mimic nursing as closely as possible.

Families looking for the best option often turn to powdered formula rather than ready-to-feed because it is significantly cheaper and can be stored longer.

Unopened Baby Formula Cans

It is essential to always look at the unopened shelf-life expiration periods, which indicate when your baby formula will be at its peak quality. All nutrients must be present in their best form to provide cognitive and physical support.

With that in mind, the best, if used by date, is added to ensure your little one's powdered nutrition is of the best possible quality.

This date ensures that the container of the chosen European baby formula does not sit unused, allowing the ingredients to break down and start to separate. This variation can lead to uneven mixtures, making providing the best nutrition impossible.

European Expiration Dates

Expiration dates on European baby formulas are written differently than you may see in the US counterpart. You will notice the stamp as day-month-year.

For example, the American system will list May 18, 2023, or 05-18-23. On the other hand, European-designed powders will look more like 18.05.23 for the same date. 

European Date Format | The Milky Box

Where is the Expiration Date on European Baby Formula?

To find the expiration date, look on the bottom of the box or can and, in many cases, on the inside safety pouch as well. 

Does Baby Formula Powder Expire after Opening?

Most powdered formulas unopened have more than six months until expiration. However, it is essential to note that even when your container is stored under optimal conditions, an opened container expires much sooner than the printed shelf-life date.

Depending on the nutrients and manufacturing process, each baby formula brand has specific recommendations on how long the can or box should be used safely.

Check with your pediatrician and manufacturer for the latest update in the shelf life of open and unopened formula containers.

Shelf life of formulas graphic | The Milky Box

Store All Containers in a Cool, Dry Place

All powdered baby formula containers, open or unopen, should be stored with the lid tightly shut in a cool, dry indoor area. Never should your powdered nutrition be left in vehicles, garages, or outdoors.

Placing powdered baby formula in the refrigerator is not recommended for several reasons.

The change in temperature from the cold refrigerator to room temperature can cause water to form in the air surrounding the milk powder, which causes it to collect moisture speeding up the spoilage. The cold can also degrade nutrients and cause clumping.

Can You Still Use Baby Formula After Expiration Date?

Do not buy or use infant formula after its use-by date. The expired baby formula might still mix well and may even look fine, but nutrients degrade over time, and thus its ability to optimally nourish your infant will be compromised. There can also be unseen additional dangers such as bacteria growing.

How Does Expired Formula Look Like?

If your little one’s powdered nutrition is nearing expiry, families can start by checking the formula for an unusual smell, color change, or consistency difference. Other common signs include clumping or the baby rejecting a bottle.

We suggest stopping using those contents immediately at the first sign of worry or even a suspicion that your baby’s formula is off - even a little.

Signs of Expired Baby Formula | The Milky Box

What Happens if My Baby Drinks Spoiled Formula?

If your baby ingests spoiled formula, you may wonder what to expect. Do not worry too much. While certainly not ideal, it is improbable that feeding an out-of-date infant formula will result in any illness.

Families can watch closely for signs of discomfort, including vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, stomach cramps, fussiness, abdominal swelling, and poor appetite. Call your pediatrician immediately if there are one or more of these worries, especially if there is a fever as an accompaniment. 

How Long Is a Prepared Bottle Good for if Left Out at Room Temperature?

It is important to note that prepared powdered nutrition, such as infant formula, can spoil quickly if left at room temperature. This means handling it with care and following the recommended guidelines is crucial.

Once mixed, the infant formula must be used within 2 hours of mixing, and within 1 hour of feeding. This ensures that the baby gets fresh and safe nutrition, reducing the risk of any health problems that may arise from spoiled food. 

Can I Save Leftover Formula in a Bottle After a Feeding?

Throw out any infant formula left in the bottle after feeding your baby. The combination of infant formula and your baby's saliva can cause bacteria to grow.

Proper cleaning and sanitization of each baby bottle before subsequent use will ensure no cross-contamination.

Suppose your baby does not start to eat the prepared infant formula within 2 hours. In that case, some manufacturers allow the immediate storage of the bottle in the refrigerator to be used within 24 hours.

What to Do with Expired Baby Formula?

Families that do not want to waste formula may ask what to do with expired baby formula.

Please let us say again- it is not safe for your baby. The risks of feeding your baby expired formula without necessary nutrients and causing stomach issues, such as diarrhea and vomiting, are too significant.

That said, there are some practical, safe, and cost-effective expired formula uses.


The lack of nutrients might not meet the daily needs of your growing baby, but all preserved nutrients in expired baby formula will work well in compost for your plants. 

Animal Shelters

Expired ready-to-feed, or powdered formulas are safe to donate to animal rescue shelters if the products are not way past their expiration date.

Kittens and puppies can benefit from the nutrients in the formula. Workers can distribute the formula as soon as you bring it and use it before it goes to the point where it isn’t safe to use.

Contact your local vet, shelter, or rescue group for more information.

Pest Repellent 

Proteins in the baby formula have an antiseptic effect, mainly when applied in the bright sun. Prepare the powdered nutrition with a 40:60 water ratio in a spray bottle.

Spray your plants on a warm day to prevent pest infestations and repeat the process every two weeks.

What to do with expired baby formula | The Milky Box

Organic Baby Formula

The Milky Box works diligently with our distributors to have the freshest European baby formula available for your family. We work to guarantee your little one's nutrition is of the highest quality possible when delivered to your door.

For questions on any of our powdered baby formulas, expiration dates, or other formula-feeding inquiries, feel free to contact our staff of parents, caregivers, and European formula experts. We look forward to hearing from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does baby formula expire unopened?

Unopened cans of formula generally last at least six months and often longer. Beyond that use-by date, the nutrients in the procedure will degrade, and bacteria growth is possible

How Long Can a Bottle Keep at Room Temperature?

Throw out any prepared formula sitting out for 2 hours or more or within 1 hour from feeding.

Can I Save Leftover Formula to Give to My Baby Later?

No, throw away any leftover formula. Harmful bacteria can multiply since the last feeding, which could make your baby sick.


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

Suzanne Renee' is an accomplished professional with extensive expertise in the area of infant nutrition, dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. She started this journey as a foster parent. Suzanne has emerged as a strong proponent of the European baby formula and has become a full time writer of the subject. In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking and going to church.

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Reviewed by Dr. Eric Wood, ND, MA

Dr. Wood is a licensed naturopathic doctor, with a doctorate degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Canada. He received his post-graduation certification in Mind Body Medicine at Harvard University.

With 15 years of experience, Dr. Wood is an Associate Professor of Holistic Nutrition at the American College of Health Sciences in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Wood is an educator, clinician, author, media figure, consultant, and owns his own holistic (naturopathic) medical practice in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Wood is currently researching and drafting books on cancer and pediatrics.

Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Wood loves singing with the Miami Lyric Opera and is an avid musician in South Florida. He also loves spending time with his wife and kids.