Keeping your baby’s food safe

Infants less than a year don’t have fully developed immune systems, because of this bacteria that may not cause illness in an adult or older child, can cause serious illness in infants and consequently they are often susceptible to food-borne illnesses.

Infants are often susceptible to food-borne illnesses. Infants less than one year of age do not have fully developed immune systems and because of this bacteria that may not cause illness in an adult or older child, can cause serious illness in infants. Parents and caregivers can reduce this risk with safe food handling practices. It is always important to safeguard food for infants and youth Michigan State University Extension and Foodsafety.gov offer these guidelines.

The most important practice you can do to keep food safe is to wash your hands. Your hands can pick up harmful pathogens and bacteria from tasks like diaper changing, feeding the dog, going to the bathroom or preparing raw meat or eggs. Always wash your hands after completing any of these tasks and especially when preparing infant foods.

For infants under six months old, the safe storage times for formula and expressed breast milk are between three to eight days in a refrigerator at 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees F. Breast milk can be frozen for up to six to 12 months at 0 degrees F. However, do not freeze formula. If you plan to give an infant water, it should be boiled water during the first three months of the infant’s life. Milk and formula for six to 12 month old babies may be stored for 48 hours in the refrigerator. The same three to eight day time limit applies for milk, and the “do not freeze” rule applies to formula.

  • For unopened cans of formula observe and follow the “use by” dates. For baby food, check “use by” dates when storing unopened jars. Check to see that the safety button on the lid is down before opening. If the lid does not “pop” when the jar is opened or if the jar is not sealed, do not use the food.
  • For plastic pouches: Discard any packages that are swelling or leaking.
  • Don’t feed your baby directly from the jar of baby food. Instead, put a small serving of food on a clean dish and refrigerate the remaining food in the jar. If the baby needs more food, use a clean spoon to serve another portion. Throw away any food in the dish that’s not eaten. If you do feed a baby from a jar, always discard any remaining food. The baby’s salvia mixed with the unused food in the jar can start producing bacteria.
  • When traveling, keep milk and formula cold (less than 41 degrees F) by transporting bottles in an insulated cooler with an ice pack
  • For microwave heating, transfer food from unopened jars to bowls or dishes. For adequate heating, heat four ounces of food on high for 15 seconds, stir, and let stand for 30 seconds. Stir again and check the temperature (more than 140 degrees F) before feeding food to the infant.
  • Never allow opened jars of food to sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Solid baby foods that have been opened may be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of three days. Strained fruits and vegetables can be refrigerated for two to three days and stored in the freezer for six to eight months. Strained meats and eggs may be stored one day in the refrigerator and one to two months in the freezer. Meat and vegetable combinations are good for one to two days in the refrigerator and one to two months in the freezer.
  • Homemade baby foods will keep for one to two days in the refrigerator and three to four months in the freezer.
  • Please remember that once commercial formulas or foods are opened you need to use them immediately and refrigerate the unused portion quickly after you are done. When you use the refrigerated leftovers, heat them quickly to 165 degrees F to prevent growth of bacteria.

Following these food safety practices will safeguard your baby’s food, keeping them safe from potential pathogens that cause food borne illness. 

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