Should I Warm My Baby's Food Before a Feeding?

Mother feeding baby
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There is the perception among some parents that baby food must be warmed before serving either because it is easier to digest, is far more palatable, or kills any lurking organism that may make your baby ill.

Generally speaking, none of these concerned are warranted. Whether you heat your baby's food or serve it cold is not so much a matter of health but one of preference.

Industry health today are such that it's perfectly safe to take commercially packaged baby food straight from the shelf and feed it to your baby. The same applies to any prepared food you make so long as it has been thoroughly cooked and properly stored.

Offer a Variety of Different Temperatures

While many babies have a preference for warmed food, they usually get used to eating it cold if you expose it to them gradually. While it may be a challenge for fussier babies, it’s not a bad idea to get your child used to a variety of temperatures.

After all, you won’t always able to warm foods while on outings and may benefit from popping a jar or two into your diaper bag.

Sometimes cold can be a good thing. Certainly, when your baby is teething, a cold spoonful of food may help overcome some of the pain. In cases like this, a jar of chilled applesauce or yogurt can be a godsend.

Knowing When to Warm Food

It’s also important to remember that some foods do taste better warm than cold. While this tends to be less of a problem with commercially jarred foods, it may be a concern with certain home-prepared foods.

These include starchy purees, like potatoes or rice-based foods, which can get an unpleasant grittiness or mealiness if chilled. Gravy-based foods also tend to get gluey when refrigerated and really do need a bit of warming to be palatable.

If ever in doubt as to whether you should warm food or not, use your own food as a guideline. If you typically serve green beans warm, serve them to your baby warm. If your family prefers ham as cold cuts rather than baked, do the same for your baby.

Heating Tips

Since babies don’t test the temperature of their food before eating, you need to do it for them. As obvious as this may sound, people often forget that food nearer to the heating source will be hotter than that further away.

One such example is heating a jar of baby food in a pot of hot water. When doing so, the ambient heat from the bottom of the pan can create a hotspot you need to watch out for. The best way to test this is by plunging a metal spoon to the bottom of a jar, holding it there for three seconds, and placing the spoon on your lower lip. If it’s uncomfortable for you, it’s too hot for the baby.

You also need to watch out for microwaves. Microwaves can cook food unevenly and create hot spots that are often extreme. Placing the jar or dish in the middle of the microwave may sometimes help, but not always. Always be sure to stir food thoroughly after microwaving and test the temperature on your lower lip;

Tips for Serving and Storage

If you've ever fed your baby straight from the jar and put the leftover back into the fridge, you may have noticed that it can sometimes become watery and thin after a day or two. This is because the food has been inoculated with your baby’s saliva. Saliva, whether baby or adult, contains enzymes that can break down food and enable bacterial growth.

As such, it is best to avoid feeding your baby from a jar unless you are absolutely sure he or she will finish it. Instead, dish out what you need into a bowl and put the closed jar away in the refrigerator until the next feeding.

Remember, too, that commercially prepared jarred foods are safe so long as the vacuum seal is intact. Before opening a jar, always check that the vacuum seal has not been popped and listen for the slight whoosh of air entering as you open the lid. Once opened, any leftovers should be refrigerated for no more than two to three days.

Most importantly, never serve any leftover baby food that has changed in consistency and/or color.

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Article Sources

  • Calabretti, A.; Calabrese, M.; Campesi, B. et al. "Quality and Safety in Commercial Baby Foods." Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2017; 5(8), 587-593. DOI: 10.12691/jfnr-5-8-9.