Play It Safe Warming Babys Bottle and Food

Babies enjoy breast milk, infant formula, and baby foods either warm or cool. Unlike most adults, babies have no physical or emotional need for warmed liquids and warmed foods.

  • If you want to serve foods at warm temperatures, play it safe so your baby won't get burned. Warm bottles of formula or breast milk in a pan of warm water that's removed from the stovetop, or under a stream of warm tap water. You can do the same with frozen breast milk, or defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Avoid heating milk to a boiling temperature. Boiling temperatures destroy some nutrients, and for breast milk, some protective properties.
  • Shake the bottle during and after warming to evenly distribute the heat. And always test a few drops on the back of your hand, not your wrist; the back of your hand is more sensitive. The formula or milk should be tepid, or just slightly warm to the touch.

Microwave Warming: Be Very Cautious

Be very cautious if you heat formula or baby food in a microwave oven. Microwaving creates uneven heating, or "hot spots," that can burn a baby's mouth, throat, and skin. A bottle or food may feel cool on the outside while the inner contents reach scorching temperatures. And since food doesn't heat evenly, microwaving may not destroy bacteria that cause food-borne illness. Another problem: sometimes plastic bottle liners explode if their contents become too hot.

Better yet, avoid using the microwave oven to warm breast milk or infant formula. Besides the chance of burning your baby, microwave heating produces high temperatures quickly; some vitamins and protective factors in breast milk may be destroyed.

Infant Feeding Plan: A Basic Guideline

Babies differ in their size, appetite, and readiness for solid food. This guide offers a general time frame for introducing baby foods and table foods into an infant's eating pattern.

However, some babies may be ready for certain foods a little sooner; others, somewhat later. Your baby's doctor, pediatric nurse, or a registered dietitian will recommend an eating pattern to meet your baby's individual needs.

What Are Your Baby's Developmental Signs?

Newborn/Head Up Supported Sitter Independent Sitter

Physical Skills

Eating Skills

Appropriate Foods and Textures

What You Do to Help

  • Newborn: need head support
  • Head Up: has more skillful head control
  • Newborn: establishes a suck-swallow breathing pattern
  • Head Up: tongue moves forward and back to suck
  • Newborn & Head Up: breast milk or formula
  • If breast-feeding, eat a wide variety of healthy foods to teach your baby flavors, tastes, and aromas through your breast milk
  • Sits with help or support —On tummy, pushes up on arms with straight elbow
  • May push food out of mouth with tongue -Moves pureed food forward with tongue to swallow
  • Recognizes spoon and holds mouth open as spoon approaches
  • Breast milk or formula -Infant cereals -Thin pureed foods, such as single-ingredient baby foods
  • Enhance baby's acceptance of cereal by mixing it with breast milk or formula
  • Respect baby's hunger and fullness cues-stop feeding when he/she indicates he/she is full
  • Sits independently -Can pick up and hold small objects in hand -Leans toward food or spoon
  • Able to keep thick purees in mouth
  • Pulls head downward and presses upper lip to draw food from spoon -Rakes food toward self in fist
  • Can transfer food from one hand to another -Can drink from a cup with help
  • Breast milk or formula -Infant cereals -Thin pureed foods, such as single-ingredient baby foods -Thicker pureed foods, such as more advanced pureed baby foods
  • Soft, mashed foods without lumps, such as cooked potatoes and carrots, 100% juice
  • Introduce one new food 2 to 4 days in a row before starting a new one -Give baby a variety of thin and thick textures to help develop the skills needed

Source: Copyright 2005 Gerber Products Company. Reprinted with permission.

For solid foods... warm foods in the microwave oven until only just lukewarm.

  • Warm food in a microwave-safe dish. As in baby bottles, food heated in jars can develop hot spots.
  • Heat only the amount you'll need. Less food heats faster than more food, and some ovens heat faster than others. Fifteen seconds on high (100 percent power) for 4 ounces of baby food are enough. Heat higher-fat foods such as meat and eggs on the stove, not in the microwave oven. They heat faster and splatter or overheat more.
  • Read warming guidelines on baby food labels. And remember that baby foods can be served cold, at room temperature, or slightly warm.
  • After microwaving, allow food to "rest"; food will continue to heat through. Stir the food to distribute the heat. Let it stand for at least 30 seconds.
  • Test the temperature of the food before feeding it to your baby; the food should be just lukewarm. Use a clean spoon to feed the baby.

For more about the safe use of a microwave oven, see "Play It Microwave-Safe" in chapter 12.

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