Technology – what would we do without it! Today we have appliances designed solely to brew our coffee, to shuck an ear of corn, and to open soup cans. I’ve even seen countertop appliances designed to cook frozen pizzas that do nothing else! And really, who can blame us. We’re busy. We have full-time jobs, busy families, full social calendars, and no free time. Add a new infant to the mix, and you need 24 hours to get things done with no time left over to sleep.
It’s a given, then, that we look for ways and devices to help simplify parenting. If you’ve ever had to prepare a bottle of formula in the middle of the night while trying to comfort a crying infant, you know how challenging this can be. Companies know this and have come up with ways to simplify tasks that come with parenting infants. There are now appliances that can steam and puree baby foods, wash and dry baby bottles, and also prepare bottles of infant formula.
Which begs the question: Can you trust an appliance from an independent company to prepare any infant formula? And how about specialized formulas, like Neocate? Today, we’ll walk through some points to consider and share our perspective on this question.
Infant formula prep appliances
What are they, and what do they do? Appliances that are designed to prepare infant formula were introduced in the United States several years ago. The premise? They make bottle prep much simpler. They save you time by reducing the number of steps you have to take when you’re in desperate need of a bottle.
How do they work? There are several types of appliances available. Here is a basic rundown of the functions they perform:
1. Some baby formula prep machines are designed to work with very specific capsules of infant formula, and not with any other infant formulas. That appliance clearly cannot be used for any other off-the-shelf powdered infant formula. It’s similar to some of the automatic coffee and espresso appliances available these days, which have pods.
2. Other appliances are designed to be very simple to operate too. Whenever you need a bottle of formula you press a button and, in no time at all, you have a bottle of warm, prepared formula ready to go – no muss, no fuss. These appliances are designed to be universal – used with almost all powdered infant formulas:
An enclosed container holds infant formula powder.
A reservoir holds water
The appliance heats water to a certain temperature
The appliance is intended to dispense the right amount of powder and warm water to prepare formula at the standard concentration
3. Still other appliances will dispense heated water into a bottle to which you manually add powdered infant formula, saving you the step of warming and measuring out the water. These appliances are designed to be universal – used with any powdered infant formula.
An enclosed container holds water.
You place the bottle under a dispenser
The appliance dispenses a small amount of very hot water.
You add the powdered infant formula.
The appliance then dispenses the remaining water
All of these “universal” appliances - not the very specific type that we described first with the formula pods - are meant to remove some or all of the hassles of measuring the powder, heating water, measuring the water, and/or mixing the formula. What’s not to love?
A perusal of online reviews shows that these appliances haven’t always worked as well as buyers might hope. Some models also seem to have been discontinued in the US in the past. Another drawback is that some of the appliances require regular and, in some cases, pretty comprehensive cleaning.
These appliances offer a number of different volume options, for example as little as 2 to as much as 11 ounces. The ones that dispense powder also have instructions for settings designed to dispense the right amount of formula powder. This is important, because too little or too much powder can lead to formula that’s too dilute or too concentrated. This can pose serious health risks for infants.
What we recommend
Nutricia cannot recommend the use of automated infant formula prep appliances to prepare Neocate. As a company that makes specialized formulas for infants with unique medical conditions, we take the health and safety of our customers and your little ones very seriously.
Factor 1: Mixing accuracy
Nutricia cannot ensure that the amount of Neocate powder dispensed by any of these appliances is accurate. The manufacturers of these appliances may state otherwise. The scoops that we provide with our Neocate formulas are validated for use with these formulas. (Even more accurate than the scoops provided are scales that measure in grams.) Just as important is the volume of water, which should also be measured accurately and can affect formula concentration.
Factor 2: Temperature
Some of the infant formula prep appliances dispense a small amount of water that is very hot (about 158°F, or 70°C). This is based on recommendations followed in some parts of the world to use very hot water when preparing powdered infant formula. However, this is not standard practice in the United States.
For now we cannot recommend using water above 122°F (50°C) when mixing powdered Neocate products. (For Neocate Syneo Infant this is 104°F, or 40°C.) Following questions about higher water temperatures, we conducted small-scale tests on a few specific heat-sensitive nutrients mixing Neocate with water at the high temperature of 158°F (70°C).
We found the high temperature had an impact on those nutrients. While the effect during these tests did not lower the nutrient levels below the amounts stated on the label, at this time we cannot recommend exposing Neocate powders to water above 122°F, or 50°C (104°F, or 40°C, for Neocate Syneo Infant). Aside from the potential impact on heat-sensitive nutrients, there is also the possibility that using such hot water can slightly affect the taste, smell, and ability to remain in solution (i.e. to not separate).
While these are our recommendations, we understand that automated infant formula prep appliances seem incredibly convenient. Our best guidance if you are interested in using one of these appliances is to check with your healthcare team. Share the information we’ve outlined above with them. While we don’t recommend these appliances, your healthcare team can assess the potential drawbacks to help determine if any of them might be appropriate for you.
We hope this helps, but feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments, below!