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Homemade baby food safety

January 19, 2017
Basia Drilling , MOV Parent

Introducing solid foods is a monumental step in growth and development and babies often show signs of readiness for pureed foods around 4-6 months. Expressed interest in eating solid foods they see others eating, the ability to stabilize their head in a high chair and the loss of the tongue-thrust reflex are a few character signs that baby might be ready for the next step.

However, throughout the introduction of solid foods, breast milk should remain the baby's primary nutrition source, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding until 6 months of age.

It is very common for babies to spit out new foods because they are not accustomed to the different textures and flavors that they are being exposed to, but don't give up! A baby may need up to 15-20 exposures to a single flavor before that baby develops a liking to it. During this exciting time of introducing solid foods, remember that introducing new foods can potentially present allergic reactions. It is advised to try one new food at a time every few days in order to monitor the signs of potential allergic reactions.

Introducing solid foods is a great way to start your baby down the path of making life long healthy eating habits. By preparing your baby's food on your own, you can be sure of the ingredients being used in the food that your child is consuming and it's a great way to save money.

Babies' immune systems are not fully strengthened which places them at higher risk for foodborne illness, so there are many safety measures that need to be followed when preparing, storing and enjoying homemade baby food. Always begin preparation by thoroughly cleaning hands, equipment and countertops with warm soapy water and an unused towel. Carefully rinse and trim all fresh fruits and vegetables that will be used. In order to maintain a high nutrient content in any fruit or vegetable puree, choose fresh produce and steam them on the stovetop. Other cooking methods, like boiling, reduce the nutrient content.

If fresh produce is unavailable, frozen and canned foods without added salt or sugar can also be used. Remember to use separate equipment and wash hands thoroughly after prepping any raw meat products. It is vital to cook foods to a safe temperature to ensure all potentially harmful bacteria are eliminated.

Puree food in a blender or food processor, adding breast milk or water to reach the desired consistency. You can also try mixing different foods together for added flavor once food allergies have been ruled out. Spices can also be used for additional flavor if verified by a doctor, but never add salt or sugar.

Homemade baby food should never be left out for more than 2 hours. After this window of time it reaches the "danger zone" temperature range of 39-140 degrees Fahrenheit, during which bacteria will multiply rapidly in this environment. Refrigerate any remaining baby food immediately after use, to prevent the growth of bacteria. Discard or freeze any refrigerated puree after 2-3 days. Many parents utilize ice cube trays to freeze baby food into approximately 1 ounce servings, which is a great time saver! Once frozen, transfer the frozen cubes of baby food to a freezer-safe bag or container. Always label the container with the date and content description. Frozen baby food should be discarded after one month.

When it is feeding time, frozen purees should never be thawed out on the counter. This method allows the product to reach the danger zone temperature range, increasing the risk for foodborne illness. Instead, thaw the desired amount of food in the fridge overnight or heat it using the stovetop or microwave. Ensure that the food reheats to the appropriate temperature, and is then cooled enough to eat. Always serve baby food out of a separate dish than it is stored in. A used spoon placed back into the storage container will introduce bacteria from the mouth into the food. The leftovers could provide a great environment for the bacteria to multiply, thus potentially harming the baby. For this reason, discard any puree that is left in the feeding dish and store any other leftovers in the fridge for no more than 2-3 days.

Babies' immune systems are not fully strengthened to fight off foodborne illness efficiently. It is vital that any homemade baby food is prepared, stored and enjoyed safely to prevent illnesses from occurring.

Follow these guidelines to ensure your baby stays happy and healthy.

Basia Drilling is a Children's Hunger Alliance Dietetic Intern from The Ohio State University.



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