ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – Infant powder formula has been in the news a lot lately.

Ed Herman from Brown and Crouppen joined us today to discuss the topic of what happens to parents when their kids commit crimes.

Meningitis and Baby Formula

Powdered infant formula has been in the news recently when contaminated formula caused Cronobacter infection. This type of infection can turn into meningitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Signs of meningitis in newborns include:

  • High fever
  • Constant crying
  • Excessive sleepiness or sluggishness
  • A bulge in the soft spot atop the baby's head
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Seizures

Because of their underdeveloped immune systems, very young infants—premature babies and babies under 2 months old—are at the greatest risk. In infants, the illness generally starts with fever. It usually includes poor feeding, crying, or listlessness. Babies with these symptoms should be taken to a doctor.

The reported cases of infection have come as a result of powdered, not bottled or canned, baby formula. The reason for this is because it isn't possible to sterilize the powder like it is the liquid. The Center for Disease Control[1] recommends that parents and caregivers take the following steps to prevent a Cronobacter infection:

1. Breastfeed. Almost no cases of Cronobacter infection have been reported among infants who were being exclusively breastfed. Plus, breastfeeding help develop a baby's immune system to help fight off numerous other infections.

2. Liquid formula. If you aren't breastfeeding, use liquid formula, especially if your infant is a premie or under two months of age. Liquid baby formula is sterile and should not transmit Cronobacter infection.

3. Precautions if you do use powdered formula.

a. Practice good hygiene. Use clean work surfaces. Wash your hands with soap and water and make sure you sterilize the bottles before filling them with formula.

b. Keep powdered formula lids and scoops clean (be careful about what they touch)

c. Close containers of infant formula or bottled water as soon as possible

d. Use hot water (158 degrees F/70 degrees C and above) to make formula. This is hot enough to kill the bacteria.

e. Carefully shake, rather than stir, formula in the bottle

f. Cool formula to before feeding your baby. Test the temperature by shaking a few drops on your wrist

g. Use up quickly, within 2 hours of preparation. If the baby does not finish the entire bottle of formula, discard the unused formula.

h. If you do not plan to use the prepared formula right away, refrigerate it immediately and use it within 24 hours. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth and increases safety.

When in doubt, throw it out. If you can't remember how long you have kept formula in the refrigerator, it is safer to throw it out than to feed it to your baby.


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