Have you ever fed your baby only to find a few hours later they’re suffering from a wicked case of explosive diarrhea or projectile vomiting? It is possible you gave your baby food poisoning. Hey, it’s okay, it happens to the best of us. I assure you, you’re not a bad parent.
I’m sure you’ve read just about every book on the market and scoured the internet for all things related to baby care; however, sometimes the most obvious is often the one most ignored. Today, I’m going to assist you, and any other caregivers who may be watching your bundle of joy ways to prevent your baby from getting food poisoning.
According to the FDA, food poisoning has inflicted a little over 800,000 children under the age of 10 in the United States. Children over 5 have a better chance at fighting a foodborne illness; however, a baby’s immune system is starting to form and even the smallest of bacterial spore can cause detrimental harm to them.
The most important part of the prevention of giving your baby food poisoning is to always utilize proper handwashing techniques. I will be discussing that in detail at a later time, but in the interim, the first steps you need to take is to ensure you wash your hands with hot soapy water after the following:
- Cleaning or moving diapers that contain urine and feces.
- Touching raw meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs.
- Touching and/or petting all pets. That’s including snakes, turtles, and fish.
- Gardening, or touching anything with soil.
- Utilizing household cleaners. There are times the chemicals may adhere to your skin if you’re not using a latex glove.
The above list is not exclusive. Always use your judgment. If you think you need to wash your hands; then do so.
When to call your Pediatrician.
In my earlier post “How to prevent food poisoning in children,” I mentioned calling poison control. I would like to reiterate, your first line of action would be to call your Pediatrician; however, if it’s after hours, they may not call you back quickly enough. If you’re one to really freak out (like I’m known to be at times), just call Poison Control to set your mind at ease. National Poison Control Center (USA) at 800-222-1222 or 1-416-813-5900 (Canada).
If your baby experiences any of the following symptoms, there is a chance they’ve acquired a foodborne illness:
- Not drinking
- Not able to keep anything down due to vomiting
- Prolonged high fever
- Blood in diarrhea
If it’s after hours and your baby requires medical attention, please take them directly to the Emergency Department at your local hospital.
I’m so guilty of this when my children were small but did you know we should avoid feeding our children their baby food straight out of the jar?
I remember when my oldest was a baby, my mother and I were shopping at the mall and it was time to feed my son. He was always so hungry, so of course, we would stop to feed him. Since my mother loved feeding him, she would shovel the food into his mouth straight from the Gerber jar. He would down 1 1/2 jars.
So what would I do with the second jar he didn’t finish? You got it; I would cover it up, put it back in the diaper bag and give it to him later for his dinner.
I always thought it was the excitement of going to the mall that gave him a bad case of diarrhea later on that evening. You know, the kind that seemingly comes out of the top of the diaper and rolls down their legs. Now that I’m a Grandmother, it finally dawned on me. It wasn’t his excitement. I gave my baby food poisoning!
I feed him the remaining portion of the jar with his dinner. He liked his food at room temperature so I never heated it up.
I know, you’re cringing right now.
Let’s be real here, bacteria never ever crossed my mind!
Yep, I should have won the Mommy Dearest Award. I’m telling you my story, so you don’t feel bad if you’re doing the same thing. It’s okay, we all make mistakes. No one ever said being a parent was easy.
The problem with double-dipping from the baby food jar or saving what they didn’t finish from their food dish is, it introduces bacteria from your baby’s mouth to the spoon, then into the food. The bacteria could multiply and when it’s time to feed your child again, it can result in foodborne illness. If they don’t finish the food, throw it out. If you have food from a jar, that no saliva was introduced to, cover it up and refrigerate it to 40⁰F or below.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when preparing and handling your baby’s food.
Powder or canned formula: Do follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preparing bottles before filling them with formula or milk. Observe “use-by” dates on formula cans.
Expressing breast milk: Before you express milk, be sure to wash your hands with hot soapy water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at a minimum 60% isopropyl alcohol. Make sure the parts of the pumps are clean. You don’t have to wash your breasts and nipples before expressing milk, but feel free to if it will make you feel better.
Baby food jars: Always check to see if the safety button has been dislodged (the button is not flat with the lid). If the jar lid doesn’t “pop” once you open the jar, don’t use any of it, even if it’s the last jar in the house!
Discard any jars with chipped glass or rusty lids – regardless of the safety button has not been dislodged.
Going out for the day: Always transport your baby’s bottles of formula or perishable food in an insulated cooler or an insulated tote bag. Anything that’s perishable that is left out of the refrigerator or without a cold source for more than 2 hours SHOULD NOT BE USED.
Freezing baby food: If you’re planning on making frozen food pops by putting baby food in ice cube trays, make sure you cover it with heavy-duty plastic wrap before putting it into the freezer. Once they’re completely frozen, pop them out and put them in an airtight container or jar. They can remain in the freezer stored this way for up to 3 months. This is normally used for moms who make their own homemade baby food.
Freezing/Refrigerating breast milk: Store breast milk in the back of the freezer and not the freezer door, as that’s the warmest spot in the freezer. If you are refrigerating your extra expressed milk, use it within 3-to-5 days, and keep the expressed breast milk in the back of the refrigerator, as the door stays the warmest.
Washing: Make sure you wash bottles, blenders, choppers, mixers, food processors, can openers etc…with hot soapy water. Make sure to rinse everything well.
Don’t Do This:
Formula: Don’t make more formula than you will need as there is a possibility it can become contaminated during the preparation process. If you make a large batch and it’s not refrigerated immediately, bacteria can form quickly and can contaminate all the bottles. Always follow the labels on the ready-made and powdered formula set forth by the manufactures.
Do not leave formula out a room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria can grow at rapid speeds while it’s room temperature. If you find the bottle has been left out for longer than 2 hours; discard it.
On another note, do not constantly heat and reheat the same bottle of formula (guilty as charged), as a lot of nutrients can be destroyed during the heating/reheating process.
Bottles: Oh man, was I ever guilty of this. Never, ever, put a used bottle of formula back in the refrigerator if the baby doesn’t finish it. The bacteria from the baby’s mouth can be introduced through the nipple, and contaminate the remainder of the bottle. It’s hard to believe those adorable lips and mouth harbor bacteria.
Double-dipping: Never feed your baby directly from the baby food jar or baby dish THEN put the unused portion back in the refrigerator for later. The saliva from the spoon may contaminate the remaining food. If there is leftover food on the baby’s plate; throw it out.
Dirty diapers in the diaper bag: If you’ve never done this; I’m so proud of you. Once again, I’m guilty as charged. Sometimes when you’re out and you need to change the baby, you may not want to throw the diaper away in your friend’s trash can, or wherever you are. When and if this happens, put the soiled diaper in a plastic bag and find a place to disregard it. The reason you never want to put it back in your diaper bag is, if you have food in the diaper bag, the bacteria from the baby’s feces or urine can contaminate the food; regardless if it’s in a plastic bag. Sometimes plastic bags have microscopic holes in them. Let’s be safe than sorry.
Star Anise: I never heard of this one before, but I found it in my research. If you are giving your baby “infant teas” brewed from star anise, these have been associated with illnesses affecting infants which range from serious neurological effects, such as but not limited to seizures, jittery eyes, rapid eye movement to vomiting.
What’s the proper way to heat formula or breast milk?
I’m so glad you asked because I have the answer! If you’re heating either formula or breast milk, my first choice would be to use a bottle warmer. You can get them from Amazon, or any place that sells baby items. If you’re not into buying a bottle warmer there are two other options for heating a bottle:
In hot tap water. Run the hot tap water over the bottle until the desired temperature is reached. This usually takes 1-to-2 minutes.
On the stove. Heat some water in a pan, then place the bottle in the hot water (not on the stove) until it reaches its ideal temperature. Once again, that should take 1-to-2 minutes.
When heating the bottle, always shake the bottle to ensure it’s been heated evenly and test the temperature on the top of your hand NOT YOUR WRIST. Believe it or not, our wrist is the least heat-sensitive part of our body.
NEVER EVER heat the bottle in a microwave. It may feel warm in spots, even after you shake it, but items cooked and/or reheated in the microwave continue to cook for a few minutes after heating.
Reheating baby food
Microwave: When microwaving baby food, remove it from the jar and place it in a microwaveable dish. If you’re using baby food from a jar and heating it in the microwave, there is a possibility it will not heat evenly. Although the outside of the jar is hot to the touch, the food itself may be cold in some areas. Always stir and test the temperature.
Solid foods should be reheated for 15 seconds then left to sit for an additional 30 seconds. The food should be luke-warm before feeding it. It’s okay if you try it. Baby food is yummy! (except for strained meats)..ick!
Speaking of meat baby food, don’t reheat the meat sticks, as these have a really high-fat content and will splatter and may burst upon your baby eating it, causing them to be scalded with hot fat.
Important tips to remember to prevent food poisoning in babies.
- Never leave solid baby food or liquid out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Never put a bottle or baby food back in the refrigerator if the baby doesn’t finish it.
This may be “old hat” to you, and then again you may be learning this for the first time. Regardless of which one it is, it’s so important to follow the manufacture’s guidelines when it comes to preparing your baby’s food.
I wish you a wonderful life with your new adorable baby. I know he/she is in the best hands and family ever! Please remember if you ever accidentally give your baby food poisoning, it doesn’t make you a bad parent; it makes you human.
I’d really love to know if this article has taught you how to prevent food poisoning in babies, or maybe it was something you weren’t aware of. Please drop me a line down below.
Until we meet again,
For further reading, you may be interested in How to Prevent Food Poisoning in Children.
For more information about food safety and foodborne illness, please visit the Food and Drug Administration.
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Images provided by Spencer Selove and by Alexander Dummer photography and Pixabay retrieved from Pexels