Rare bacterial infections linked to baby formula and breastfeeding equipment

We take great pride in protecting our babies from germs by cleaning their bottles, sterilizing pump parts, and sanitizing everything we touch. But unfortunately, there are little germs called Cronobacter sakazakii that can get in our way. The CDC recently put out a report linking this germ to two rare infant bacterial infections linked to baby formula and breastfeeding equipment. 

What Is Cronobacter Sakazakii?
The CDC says Cronobacter sakazakii is a germ found naturally in the environment. It can live in dry foods like powdered infant formula, powdered milk, herbal teas, and starches. It can also be found in contaminated feeding items like breast pump equipment.

How Does It Impact My Baby?
Infections from Cronobacter are extremely rare, but it can be deadly, especially for babies younger than two months or those born prematurely. There are about two to four reports to the CDC every year about infants infected with Cronobacter. So, yes, it is extremely rare. But most hospitals and labs aren’t required to report it to health departments. The germs can cause sepsis or meningitis. The illness usually shows up as a fever and poor feeding, excessive crying, or low energy. Seizures can also be a symptom. If your baby has any of these symptoms take them to your doctor as soon as you can.

Where Does Cronobacter Come From?
In your home, you can accidentally get Cronobacter in powdered formula after you open it. It can live on your kitchen counters or sinks, and in your water. If you put the formula lid or scoop on a surface that’s contaminated, when it touches the formula, it’s contaminated. It also could get mixed into the formula when you mix it with contaminated water or a contaminated bottle. The same is true for a processing facility. It can get into powdered formula if the manufacturer uses contaminated ingredients or if the formula powder touches a contaminated surface.

How Can I Protect My Baby?
Breastfeeding is the best way to protect your baby because very few infections have been reported from infants who only get breast milk. However, we know that’s not always possible. Make sure to clean, sanitize, and store your feeding items safely. These are things like baby bottles, breast pump parts, nipples, caps, rings, valves, pacifiers, and teethers. If you simply rinse your bottle and then add breast milk or formula, germs can grow quickly. Be sure to wipe down countertops and sinks with soap and water or a cleaning product. It’s also smart to keep feeding items out of the sink since germs can also contaminate them. Keep your hands clean too. Soap and water is best before you touch your baby’s mouth, their pacifier or before and after changing a diaper. You can also use hand sanitizer as long as it has at least 60% alcohol.

Preparing And Storing Formula Safely
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the container when using powdered infant formula. If your baby is at higher risk, there are a few extra steps you should take. Be sure to mix the formula while the water is still very hot so it kills germs. Be sure to use a clean bottle. Add the exact amount listed on the container. Don’t use a different utensil, be sure to use that scoop and keep it off of surfaces. Cool the formula to body temperature so it’s not too hot for your baby. Use the infant formula within an hour from the start of feeding and within two hours of preparing it. If your baby doesn’t finish the formula, throw it away. It’s not a good idea to refrigerate it and save it for later, it could allow germs to grow. That being said, if you don’t plan to feed your baby right after you’ve made the formula, put it in the fridge immediately and then use it within 24 hours. If you can’t remember how long it’s been in there, throw it out. The CDC has an entire section dedicated to safe preparation and storage. As always, if you have questions, talk to your doctor. It’s always better to be safe.

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