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Caring for your baby when there is a ‘boil water’ or ‘do not drink’ notice

From time to time parts of Australia may receive water alert notices. It is important to follow the advice of the authority issuing the notice. The following information is provided to help you manage the situation when you are looking after a baby.

Notice to boil water

If a notice to boil water has been issued, unboiled mains water should not be drunk. Instead, cooled boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, cooking, washing raw foods, making ice, cleaning teeth and in any other situation where your baby could get water in their mouth.

How to make mains water safe

Water should be heated to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute using a stove or kettle and then allowed to cool. Once it has cooled it should be placed in the fridge in a clean container with a lid. Appliances that are connected to mains water (eg ice makers in fridges) should not be used.

Making up powdered infant formula

Cooled boiled water should be used for making up powdered infant formula but if there’s no electricity, use bottled water (still water, not mineral water).


When washing your baby, be careful to avoid getting water into their mouth or eyes. Many families find it easier to give babies and children sponge baths rather than trying to keep the water out of their mouths. Using cooled boiled water in a baby bath can also be done.

Washing dishes

Dirty dishes can be washed in ether a dishwasher or with hot soapy water. However, some families may prefer to use disposable dishes for a short time.


If you are expressing you can continue to use the same equipment for up to 24 hours, but it should be stored in a large plastic container inside a fridge in between sessions and then washed in hot soapy water.

Do not drink notice

In the situation a ‘do not drink’ notice has been issued, bottled water should be used for all drinking and cooking including food preparation and for hygiene such as brushing teeth.


Water should not be used for showering, bathing, washing hands or brushing teeth. If the ‘do not drink’ notice is only for a short period of time, it may be appropriate not to wash your baby during this time. However, if necessary, a sponge bath using bottled water could be used. If too cool, this water could be heated on the stove for a short period of time to warm to a suitable temperature while stirring to ensure even heating and testing the water temperature is not too hot before washing your baby with it.

Baby bottles

You should not use tap water to wash your bottles or other baby equipment. You can heat bottled water for washing. If you do not have enough bottles to last for the alert period, you can make formula up following the cup feeding method outlined here by the World Health Organization.


If you are expressing you can continue to use the same equipment for up to 24 hours but it should be stored in a large plastic container inside a fridge, in between use. Heated bottled water can be used to clean the equipment every 24 hours. If you do not have access to a fridge or enough bottled water for cleaning you can hand express into a clean container. Disposable cups can be used for feeding the expressed breastmilk to your baby. For tips about hand expressing, you may find it helpful to speak with a breastfeeding counsellor.

For more information

If you are concerned that you will not have access to enough clean water for you and your baby during this period, you should make contact with your state emergency services for assistance.

 © Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed December 2020

Last reviewed: 
Dec 2020