Safe Handling for Baby Food

girl eating breakfast

Your child’s health is your first priority and the food he eats from birth through his adult years plays a tremendous part in his health, growth and well being. Along with the food selections your make, you must also pay careful attention to the way you handle and prepare it to avoid illness and upset tummies.


Breastmilk fed directly from the breast is ideal for many reasons, and there is no preparation necessary. The only times breastmilk would not be the ideal choice is following alcohol, medications that aren’t approved for breastfeeding or if the mother has a condition such as HIV or AIDS that can be passed through the milk and contaminate the baby.

Stored breastmilk, on the other hand does have a few additional handling requirements. Pumped or expressed breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for up to ten hours. Once baby starts a bottle of breastmilk, it is best to discard the bottle after an hour as bacteria from baby’ saliva can grow rapidly in the milk. Breastmilk can be stored in ice, such as an ice chest for up to twenty-four hours.

Expressed breastmilk can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer as well. In either case, avoid storing the milk in the door compartments as this is an area that has much temperature fluctuations. Instead, store the milk in the back of the compartment to keep the temperature as steady as possible.

Breastmilk can be stored in a closed bottle in the refrigerator for eight days if stored after pumping. Thawed breast milk should be stored no longer than twenty-four hours in the refrigerator. Breastmilk can be frozen for three to six months and deep frozen for up to a year.


There are three types of formula available to be used to make baby’s bottle. Ready-to-use formula is stored at room temperature until opened. Once the container is opened, the formula is poured directly into baby’s bottle and the remaining portion must be refrigerated. The formula should be used within forty-eight hours.

Concentrated formula works in much the same way. A can is opened and the right amount of concentrated formula is poured out. The matching amount of water is added to the formula and the bottle is shaken to mix the water and formula properly. It is then ready for baby. The remaining concentrated formula is placed into a closed container and stored in the refrigerator for up to forty-eight hours.

The only style of formula that does not have to be stored in the refiderator after opening is powered formula. Powdered formula is scooped into a bottle after water has been added. It is usually one scoop per two ounces of water. The bottle is sealed and shaken to mix the formula before serving to baby. The powdered formula can be stored at room temperature so long as the lid is in place.

Once a bottle of formula has been created, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to twenty-four hours. Prepared formula should not be frozen. The bottle should not be left out for more than two hours after it is prepared and once baby begins to eat from the bottle, it should be discarded after an hour to prevent bacteria growth.

Baby Foods

Once your child has graduated to eating bona fide baby foods, preparation instructions vary a bit. Commercially prepared baby foods, excluding yogurt, are stored at room temperature until they are opened. Once the seal has been broken, the food can be stored in a closed container for up to forty-eight, possibly seventy-two hours, in the refrigerator.

When you serve your child baby food, it is important to realize that the spoon traveling from the container to your child’s mouth introduces a large amount of saliva to the container. This introduces bacteria and the container and the remaining portion of food should be thrown out after an hour or two. If you child is not yet eating a full container of food at a sitting, this can be a terrible waste as you’ll have to throw out almost full containers.

Rather than feeding your child directly from the container, pour small amounts of baby food into paper bath cups or a small bowl and use that to spoon from into your child’s mouth. The original container stays free of bacteria and you can always pour a bit more into the small cup if your child eats more than the original serving. When the meal is finished, throw the small cup away or wash the bowl and save the rest of the container for his next meal or snack.

Be sure to clean the highchair thoroughly including the tray and underneath all surfaces to remove bacteria laden food splashes and smudges. New foods should be introduced slowly under the supervision of your child’s pediatrician. Wait 3-5 days between new foods to check for the possibility of allergies or other strong reactions to certain food items.

Table Foods

Your child’s next step will be a graduation from baby foods to table foods. When your child first begins eating from the table, choose things that can be spooned into her mouth such as yogurts, mashed vegetables and warm soups. Your little one wont’ likely have all of her teeth for some time, so avoid items that require a great deal of chewing, such as steak or celery, in lieu of foods that are easy to chew using just the gums. This is a surprising variety of foods when you begin considering different cooking methods.

Avoid using bold spices and flavors in table foods your child is eating and keep things as simple as possible to be weary of potential reactions. Remember, too that certain food items should not be given to children under one year to help prevent allergic reactions. These foods include egg whites, chocolates, citrus fruits, peanut butter and strawberries. Other foods such as hot dogs, popcorn, hard candy and nuts should be held off until closer to five or six years as they represent serious choking hazards to young children.

Feed your child small bites of mashed and soft foods. These foods will be harder for him to process in his mouth initially, and the smaller bites will keep him from gagging and choking as he tries to chew and then swallow. As he becomes more adept, he will be able to handle larger bites and more textured consistencies.

Finger Foods

When your child is ready to start self feeding, always feed him under your close supervision. He is still learning the finer arts of chewing and swallowing and even a small bite can cause a bit of gagging or choking if it hits his throat in the wrong way. Start with large crackers that dissolve as he chews then or small pieces like oat cereal rings that also dissolve as he works to swallow them.

As your baby becomes more familiar with feeding himself, you can introduce him to a wider range of foods, but continue to follow the guidelines about introducing foods with a 3-5 day wait and avoiding potential choking hazards and allergy foods. Finger foods will be a staple of your child’s diet for years, and the more better your variations on different finger food options, the more balanced his diet will be.

When it is time to serve foods that are round, such as hot dog slices or grapes, be sure to cut the round section into quarters when possible to make the pieces easier for baby to chew and to avoid the risk of the food becoming lodged in your child’s throat. Round foods are often the most dangerous as they can block an airway and be near impossible to remove thanks to their dimensions.

Safe Food Practices

Always watch your children when they eat and check all expiration dates on food items – especially milk products. You should wash your hands before serving and your child’s hands before mealtime – a good swipe with an antibacterial baby wipe will be far easier for most young toddler than a scrubbing at the sink. Clean and sterilize all feeding equipment after each feeding and wash and possibly boil all new bottle parts, cups, bowls and utensils before they are used by baby.

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