Back in July, we told you the report made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a preemie who died after contracting Cronobacter sakazakii infection. It caused her to develop sepsis, spastic cerebral palsy, and global developmental delay.
After a thorough investigation, the CDC found traces of the bacteria in the breast pump, breast milk, and the kitchen sink. The mom reported that she would usually leave the breast pump parts soaking in soapy water in the sink and rinse them some five hours later without scrubbing or sanitizing them. (Read the rest of the story here.)
We're sharing this story to emphasize a point: It pays to be OC, but there is a proper way to be maingat when it comes to handling our baby's food. Aside from washing your hands before and after feeding your baby and cleaning all his bottles and eating tools well, there are other safety precautions a parent needs to keep in mind when it comes to baby milk and food.
“Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illness because their immune systems are not developed enough to fight off foodborne bacterial infections,” said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To keep your baby safe and healthy, remember these tips from FDA's baby food safety guide when preparing, storing, and transporting baby milk or food, and during meal times.
1. Get only as much as you need. If you’re feeding your baby food from a jar, scoop out a serving size and place that in separate bowl. Don’t feed your baby directly from the jar and then put the leftovers in the refrigerator. “Saliva on the spoon may contaminate the remaining food,” says the FDA. If your baby doesn’t finish what’s in his bowl, throw the rest away.
2. Follow safe storage instructions. Baby food in jars, once opened, shouldn’t stay in your refrigerator for long. Label baby food with a date to let you know how long it can stay there. This handy chart, which you can print and place on the fridge, should help you out:
If you’re making baby food in bulk, store it in the freezer. Portion into serving sizes using an ice cube tray and cover with plastic wrap, then freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes into an airtight container and label with a date.
For breast milk, the FDA recommends storing it in the fridge for three to five days and in the freezer for three to six months. Formula milk can be stored in the fridge for up to two days, but it's not recommended to be stored in the freezer.
3. Don’t leave anything at room temperature for long. Forgot to place the milk in the fridge? “Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in food at room temperature,” says the FDA. If your baby’s milk or food has already been left out at room temperature for two hours, it’s best not to feed it to her anymore.
4. Don't put honey or star anise on baby food or liquid. These two food ingredients have been associated with illnesses in infants. “Honey isn't safe for children less than a year old. It can contain the Clostridium botulinum organism that could cause serious illness or death,” said the FDA.
Star anise, on the other hand, particularly brewed teas flavored with the spice, have been shown to cause serious neurological effects in babies, as well as symptoms like vomiting, jitteriness and rapid eye movement.
5. Follow proper ways to reheat milk and baby food. If your baby likes his milk warm, there are couple of ways to do it. First is to run the bottle under running hot water for a couple of minutes. You can also heat water in a pan, remove it from the stove and place the bottle in the water until it's warm. After you've warmed the bottle, shake it to make sure the liquid's temperature is even throughout. Don't heat your baby's milk in the microwave as this can create “hot spots” in the liquid that can scald your baby's mouth and throat.
When reheating solid food, the FDA recommends placing a serving size in a dish (don't microwave baby food in a jar) and setting the timer for only 15 seconds. Then, stir the food (to make sure the temperature is even) and let it stand for 30 seconds before taste-testing.
6. Transport baby food and milk in a cooler. “Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying, says the FDA. So, when you're out and about or traveling with your baby, keep perishable milk and baby food in an insulated cooler with frozen ice packs especially if you have breast milk with you. 7. Don’t make more formula than you need. It’s rarely done, but it’s still worth mentioning that parents should not make a big batch of formula milk. When you have a large quantity of anything that bacteria can breed in, this makes it easier for them to multiply in huge numbers. “The more bacteria there are, the greater the chances for foodborne illness,” said the FDA.