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

Father feeding his baby

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Parents often wonder if they need to warm up baby food, which is typically first introduced around 6 months of age. Some worry that it must be heated before serving to make it is easier to digest. Others believe that heating is necessary to kill any lurking organisms in the food that could make your baby sick.

Medically speaking, it is safe to serve food that has not been warmed up. Whether you heat food or serve it cold is not so much a matter of health as it is one of your baby's preferences.

Food Safety

Modern food safety standards for commercial foods, including baby food, ensure that it's perfectly safe to take packaged baby food straight from the grocery 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.

You'll want to follow the same food safety rules that you use for any food, such as refrigerating perishables, properly wrapping leftovers, avoiding cross-contamination, cooking meats thoroughly, and discarding unused items that are no longer fresh.

If you follow these guidelines, your baby's food should be safe to eat, regardless of whether you choose to serve it cold, at room temperature, or warm.

Try a Variety of Food Temperatures

Offering your baby food at a variety of temperatures can help them explore food in a new way, which in turn can help them become more flexible eaters. Serving cool or room temperature meals can also make feeding your child much more convenient, cut down on preparation time, and streamline the serving of on-the-go meals.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it's especially crucial to introduce variety into your baby's diet early because life-long food preferences tend to form by around 9 months of age.

While this typically refers to a variety of types of foods, temperature variations can also be a fun way for your baby to explore their preferences and to experience the difference in food when it's cold versus when it's warm.

Some babies won't be bothered by eating cooler foods while others will protest. Both breastmilk and formula are warm, which leads some babies to develop a preference for a warmer temperature of food. If this is the case with your little one, opting for mostly warm food at a meal and offering one cooler item can be a great way to gently expose them to different temperatures.

To acclimate them to cooler food, try exposing your baby to the variation gradually. It can take trying the same food 12 or more times over several weeks for some babies to grow to like certain foods or meal temperatures. While it may be a challenge at first, if you persist, your child will usually soon tolerate, or even enjoy, eating food at a variety of temperatures.

Respect your baby's preferences and ease them into trying different temperatures. There might be some foods that they simply prefer eating at a warmer temperature (which is also the case for adults).

Encouraging your baby to become comfortable with a variety of food temperatures is not only helpful for expanding their palate but also for ensuring you'll have options when you're not home. For example, on an outing you might not be able to warm up their food, It can make life much simpler to have the option of feeding your baby food right out of the fridge or straight from the jar.

Sometimes, cold can be a good thing. For instance, when your baby is teething, chilled food can provide relief. A cold spoonful of applesauce or yogurt may help overcome some of the pain.

Knowing When to Warm Food

It's perfectly fine to decide to routinely serve certain foods warm. This is, of course, a matter of personal preference. But it’s worth considering that some foods may taste better warm than cold (and vice versa). While this tends to be less of a problem with commercially jarred foods, it may be a concern with certain home-prepared foods.

In addition, if you're using the baby-led feeding style of feeding, you're likely offering your baby something similar to what the rest of the household is eating. Other family member's preferences for the temperature of food might factor in, too.

These include starchy purees, like potatoes or rice-based foods, which can have an unpleasant grittiness or mealiness when served chilled. Gravy-based foods also tend to get gluey when refrigerated and can benefit from a bit of warming to make them more palatable.

If ever in doubt as to whether you should warm baby food or not, use your own food tastes and customs as a guideline. If you typically serve green beans warm, by all means, serve them to your baby warm. If your family prefers ham as cold cuts rather than baked, do the same for your baby. Again, these choices are up to you as you introduce your child to a world of cuisine options.

Heating Tips

Serving food cool or at room temperature has the added benefit of eliminating the risk of burning your baby's mouth. Since babies can’t test the temperature of their food before eating it, you'll need to do it for them.

Be aware that heated food might not be consistent in temperature and can contain hotspots. Always stir food thoroughly and let stand for 30 seconds before testing the temperature yourself. Hotspots in food are particularly common with microwaved food. It's especially important to stir very well after heating and let stand for 30 seconds before testing the temperature.

There are also some foods that should not be microwaved, such as meat, meat sticks, or eggs. In addition, pureed baby foods should not be microwaved in the jar but rather transferred to a microwave-safe dish.

Tips for Serving and Storage

Never feed your baby straight from the jar of baby food, as it can lead to bacterial contamination. Instead, put a serving of food into a bowl and feed your baby from the dish. Store the closed jar in the fridge.

Commercially prepared jarred foods are safe as 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 longer than 2 to 3 days, depending on the food. Strained meat and eggs can be stored for 1 day, strained fruits and veggies can be stored for 2 to 3 days, and meat and veggie combinations, as well as homemade baby food purees, can be stored for 1 to 2 days. Discard any unused food after these periods have passed.

Never serve leftover baby food that has changed in consistency, smell, and/or color—even if it's within the "safe" period outlined above. These changes can indicate that the food has been contaminated by bacteria and could make your baby sick.

A Word From Verywell

The key to deciding the right temperature at which to serve baby food is to listen to your gut and your baby. Convenience, culture, and personal preference all come into play but know that, aside from following basic food safety guidelines, no other rules matter except what works for you and your baby.

Enjoy this time to explore food through your baby's eyes. While they might not be talking yet, babies can certainly communicate that they are enjoying something! Explore a variety of foods with them is not only a great way to teach them how to eat but also to share some special time with them.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food Safety.gov. People at Risk: Children Under Five. Updated April 26, 2019.

  2. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Refrigeration and Food Safety. Updated March 23, 2015.

  3. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Once Baby Arrives from Food Safety for Moms to Be. Updated April 11, 2019.

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