You’ve lovingly prepared your own homemade baby food into little frozen cubes, and now you’re wondering how to serve it up to baby. It’s important to follow basic food hygiene and safety rules, as babies’ delicate immune system are more sensitive to food poisoning.
Freezing baby food will help to preserve it to be used at a later date. The freezing process doesn’t kill bacteria, so when food is thawed you need to prevent or destroy bacteria growth. To ensure that your homemade food is safe for your baby, follow these simple thawing and heating steps.
Thawing Frozen Baby Food
Frozen food always needs to be thawed (defrosted) before you heat for baby to eat. Defrosting frozen foods ensures it:
- Keeps texture
- Keeps flavour
- Heats evenly
- Retains nutrients
Recommended Methods of Thawing
This is the easiest method of thawing as you simply take the food from the freezer and leave in the fridge until thawed out. This is the best method for even thawing and maintaining the taste, texture and nutrients in foods.
The drawback of this method is that it take can take up to 12 hours to thaw thoroughly. If you’re good at planning ahead simply take the food out the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. This method may not suit you if you’re a bit disorganised.
Fridge thawed food does not need to be heated straight away. It’s also the safest method as the cold temperature will keep bacteria at bay and safe store in an airtight container for up to 72 hours.
This method works baby placing the frozen food into a watertight pot or bag and submerging or running under cold tap water. Hot water is not used as this can cause bacterial growth on the outer layer.
This defrost food quickly but you’ll need to monitor the progress regularly to ensure there are no leaks in or out of the container. If you are defrosting large batches the water need to be changed every half hour to ensure the water stays cold.
Baby food defrosted this method should be heated when completely thawed.
Other Thawing Methods
The following methods can be used to thaw your baby food, however we recommend them as a last resort when you need food in a hurry. We do not recommend these methods for daily use as they put your baby’s food at a higher risk of contamination.
Some baby food steamer or food makers such as the Beaba Baby cook have a defrost setting. Place the frozen food in appropriate container and steam to thaw.
This an extremely quick method of thawing as it will take around 10 minutes per 2oz cube. This method is suitable for fruit and vegetable purees, however we don’t recommend it regularly for meat based baby foods. The drawback is that if you thaw the food this way it must be heated straight away due to the risk of rapid bacteria growth.
If your microwave has a ‘defrost’ setting you can use it to defrost your frozen baby food. Place your baby food in a microwave safe container and heat for a minute at a time.
This is the quickest thawing method and great if you’re in a hurry. The downside of using a microwave id that it can cause uneven thawing, so some food may start cooking whilst other parts are still frozen. Food thawed this way need to be heated immediately.
How Not to Thaw Baby Food
- Leaving it out – Never leave your food at room temperature on a kitchen counter. It may be faster than the fridge but it create a perfect environment for bacteria to grow fast.
- Warm/Hot Water immersion – Thawing in hot water raises the food to a temperature perfect for bacteria to multiply for long enough to be unsafe.
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Heating Frozen Baby Food
When heating baby food it’s important the food is cooked to piping hot all the way through. This ensures any bacteria which has grown is destroyed. Simply warming the food won’t achieve this. Once the food is heated thoroughly, allow to cool down to a temperature safe enough for baby to eat.
Food Heating Methods
The traditional way to heat baby food is in a pan over with heat from the hob. Place thawed food into the pan and heat until piping hot.
The problem with stove heating is that it not the most convenient method for tiny 1oz portions. You should consider buying a small milk pan so you don’t lose half the portion to the pan, and need to clean a larger pot. Another solution is a gadget like the LillyPots heater which fits over the top of a regular pan and heats baby food as three 1 oz potions.
There are electric food warmers available which will heat your baby food with the turn of a dial. These machines often double as a bottle warmer. Don’t assume your bottle warmer will do the job, remember the food has to be piping hot through and not warm.
These machines are handy if your busy and don’t want to tend to the food too much as it heats. The downside is that the machine can be temperamental.
You can place your thawed baby food into a feeding bowl (glass or plastic) and into a steamer. The steamer will cook the food through. This is a great method for maintaining the nutrients which are often lost by other heating methods.
There has been a lot of debate about the safety of microwave heating. Some parents love the speed and convenience, whilst other think it can cause serious health issues.
To heat food in a microwave, always use a glass container as studies have shown plastic chemical can leech into food when microwaved. It’s important to make sure the food is thoroughly mixed through when heated. Microwaves create ‘heat pockets’ which can cause part of the food to cool and other part to remain scalding hot.
Tips to Heat Food Safely
- All baby food needs to be heated to at least 60°C-100°C
- Heated food should never be used after sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours
- If frozen baby food is thawed at a temperature over 5°C is must be heated and eaten immediately.
- Do not store leftover reheated food as saliva can cause further bacterial contamination.
Keeping Food Warm on the go
If you are out and about with no facilities to heat baby food look to buying a travel baby food warmer. It’s pretty much like a baby version of a flask which will keep food hot for a few hours.
We also recommend trying your baby with chilled or room temperature thawed food. Some babies are quite happy to eat food unheated. We only really recommend this is the food has been thawed in the fridge and hasn’t been sitting out for more than 4 hours.
Planning ahead can save you a headache regarding heating food out of the house. Prepare meals which don’t need heated such as mashed banana or avocado. If you’re out for lunch you can give baby a cut up or mashed portion of your own meal.
If you are choose to wean you baby before 6 months old, official advice states you should sterilise all feeding equipment before serving baby. After 6 months it’s still good practice to give bowls and cutlery a good clean in hot soapy water. You may still wish to sterilise baby food equipment after 6 months if your child is known to have a compromised immune system.