OBJECTIVES. Our goal was to assess the extent to which mothers learn about proper handling of infant formula from health professionals and package labels; mothers' beliefs about the likelihood of germs being in infant formula and the importance of following safe-use directions; whether they take measures while handling infant formula to prevent foodborne illnesses and injury to their infants; and maternal characteristics associated with unsafe infant formula–handling practices.

PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS. The study cohort consisted of mothers participating in the 2005–2007 Infant Feeding Practices Study II who fed their infant formula. We conducted frequency and multiple logistic regression analyses. Sample sizes for the analyses ranged from 860 to 1533.

RESULTS. The majority of formula-feeding mothers did not receive instruction on formula preparation (77%) or storage (73%) from a health professional. Thirty percent did not read some of the safe-use directions on the formula package label; an approximately equal percentage (38%) thought that both powdered (which is not sterile) and ready-to-feed (which is sterile) formula were unlikely to contain germs; and 85% believed that following safe-storage directions was very important. Among the mothers of the youngest infants analyzed, 55% did not always wash their hands with soap before preparing infant formula, 32% did not adequately wash bottle nipples between uses, 35% heated formula bottles in a microwave oven, and 6% did not always discard formula left standing for >2 hours. The prevalence of these unsafe practices was similar among mothers of older infants. No consistent pattern of maternal characteristics was associated with unsafe practices.

CONCLUSIONS. Many mothers do not follow safe practices when preparing infant formula. Additional research is needed to understand why more mothers do not follow safe formula-handling recommendations.

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