Feeding the baby is one of the biggest jobs for a mom, but unfortunately it's not as easy as it seems. Feeding the baby safely requires a lot of knowledge and skills. It doesn't take long for things to change in how mom feeds the baby — some moms go from nursing to formula to starting solids in just four months. And each stage has its unique challenges and questions. The questions can start with the first feeding — not just how to do it but how to be safe. And they keep coming.
There are questions about storing breastmilk and preparing bottles, and then again if moms want to make their own baby food about how to store the food and make sure the food is safe. It's such an important, essential part of motherhood: making sure the food that mom gives her baby is safe to eat, and it can be a bit tricky sometimes.
Moms need to know how to protect their babies from these big issues all the while making sure that they are giving their child the nutrition they need to grow and thrive, so we have some answers. Here are all your questions on the safety of baby food answered, from breastmilk to starters.
20 Can I Nurse After Getting Medications During Labor?
If moms choose to breastfeed, it's important to try to get an early start, since the baby's reflexes are at their highest in the first hour after birth. But many moms who use pain medications during labor are concerned about passing along the medication to the baby. But doctors generally don't stop a mom from nursing if she is able because of the meds.
In fact, the bigger concern is that the medication is passed on to the baby while she is still in the womb. When the mom has an epidural before delivery there is a possibility that the baby could be born a little sleepy and woozy, which can make nursing difficult at first. But if you miss the golden hour, moms can still have success with breastfeeding; they just might need to work harder at it.
19 Is Breastmilk Safe For Preemies?
If the baby comes early, he is likely going to struggle even more with breastfeeding. There are multiple reasons for that, including the fact that the baby is likely weak and going to struggle with sucking. But that doesn't mean that breastmilk isn't safe.
Mother's milk is full of nutrients and antibodies that can be helpful for a preemie, so many NICU doctors will recommend that mom tries to pump her milk for the baby. Pumping can be hard and the mom might not make enough milk, so it might be necessary to supplement with formula. But as much milk as the mom can provide is a blessing.
18 Safe To Let The Baby Sleep Through A Feeding?
The answer to this question depends on a lot. It's a definite no at the very beginning, when the baby is below his birth weight and very tiny. It's important to wake the baby for every two hours to make sure he gets the nutrients he needs, even though he's so tired that it's going to be tough to keep him awake. At this fragile time, the baby might not cry or even wake up to indicate he is hungry, so mom needs to be vigilant.
After the baby has reach his birth weight and is more active — and is thriving, according to the doctor — the feeding schedule can start to stretch out a bit. But the two hour schedule is likely to remain for the first month or so. When the baby is a three months old or so, he might skip an entire feeding to sleep for a five or six hour stretch at night, and that is technically sleeping through the night.
17 Is It Safe To Leave A Bottle In The Crib At Night?
Moms get a lot of warnings these days about the baby's crib. To reduce the risks, doctors recommend that a newborn doesn't have loose blankets or pillows or stuffed animals. So they might worry about leaving the bottle in the crib with the baby as well. But as long as the baby is able to drink on her back without choking, it's probably safe.
The biggest issue about leaving a bottle in the crib with the baby comes when they have teeth. As soon as the first tooth comes in, it's good to brush the tooth or use a washcloth to wipe it clean, especially before bed time. Leaving a bottle in might mean that cavities form earlier, but otherwise, it's safe.
16 Is Spit Up An Indication Of Allergies?
All babies spit up, so the answer to this question is a little harder to figure out. Most of the time, spit up is an indication of the baby's immature digestive system and burping in the middle of a feeding can help lessen it. Other babies can have severe reflux, and it might be because of their digestion or because of a food intolerance.
Moms who are nursing might need to eliminate things from their diet to see if the baby isn't handling it well. Dairy is one of the most common food issues for newborns, but most grow out of it with time. And if the mom is formula feeding, she might want to try some alternate formulas to see if the baby tolerates another kind better. Sometimes it's not an allergy and the mom just has to deal with spit up. But for most babies it gets better by the six month mark.
15 Is The Rice Cereal In The Bottle Suggestion Safe?
All moms want to have a good night's sleep, so it's no surprise that many of them pass along a suggestion to put rice cereal in the baby's bottle at night. The idea is that the extra calories can help him sleep for longer before waking up for the next meal. But many moms wonder if that is actually safe.
In general, doctors don't recommend it before 6 months, although some say it might be OK to start giving some solids at 4 months. Before that, the baby's digestive system doesn't handle it well, so the baby should be exclusively breastfed or bottle fed. After that point, some doctors say it is safe to try rice cereal, although you have to be careful to make sure that the baby can get the thicker liquid down without choking.
14 How Long Can I Store Breastmilk Safely?
Moms who breastfeed these days often need to pump some milk for the baby to have later. It enables them to go out and have some time with friends or for working moms to continue to provide breastmilk for their little one after they go back to the office. But storage is essential to keeping the baby's milk safe.
Freshly pumped milk is OK at room temperature for up to four hours, and it's OK in the fridge for up to four days. For working moms, it's good to have a supply in the freezer, and there it can be safe for up to six months, so moms are encouraged to label the milk that they pump. Thawed milk is OK for an hour or two, but after that it's safer to throw it out.
13 Does A Bottle Have To Be Heated To Be Safe?
The short answer to this one is no. A bottle doesn't have to be seated to be safe, but many times the baby will reject a bottle that isn't at least room temperature. Breastmilk comes out at body temperature, which can be about 20 degrees warmer than that, so it's a natural preference.
The biggest concern here is making sure that you heat the bottle safely. The milk shouldn't be too hot, and it's not a safe idea to use a microwave. Doctors recommend placing the bottle in a pot of hot water on the oven or in a special bottle warmer. And you should test it on your own wrist to make sure it isn't too hot.
12 Will The Baby be too warm If I Nurse Under A Blanket?
Many women like to cover up when they are nursing in public, and that is perfectly acceptable if it makes them feel more comfortable. But some worry that it isn't safe to cover their baby with a blanket because they could get overheated. And that worry is justified — it can happen, so you have to be helpful.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors that can determine if it's unsafe, including if the temperature in the room or outside is too hot. You also have to think about the thickness of the blanket. There are cover ups you can buy that are thin and have a design that allows mom to see inside — and for airflow. Those are generally safe, but mom has to pay attention and be careful.
11 When Is It Safe To Switch To Cow's Milk Or Soy Milk?
Breastfeeding is hard and formula is expensive, so a lot of women are curious when they can start giving the baby some cow's milk or soy milk instead. The answer does depend on a lot of factors, but for most, it's generally not safe for the baby's tummy until after the first birthday at the earliest. The World Health Organization says it is ideal to breastfeed until the age of 2, although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least nursing for a year, if you can. Breastmilk and formula have a lot of fats, amino acids and vitamins that aren't contained in cow's milk, so you need to make sure they are healthy enough first.
Babies tend to be very sensitive to cow's milk, so some may not be ready by the time they are 1. It might be easier on their tummy to try goat's milk first. While some vegan moms might want to go for soy milk, there are concerns from doctors that go beyond allergy issues, so it's important to talk to a doctor before switching. In fact, it's good to get the doctor's go ahead before trying any milk other than mom's or formula to make sure all is well.
10 Baby Food Vs. Finger Foods To Start?
Most babies are interested in starting solids around 6 months old, but there is some debate these days about whether it's safer and smarter to start with baby food versus finger foods. The biggest risk with finger foods is choking, and allergies can be an issue with either. So the chose is really up to mom in terms of safety.
These days, most moms start with baby food, since they can start a little earlier and be sure the food isn't too big. But natural parenting proponents like the idea of waiting until the baby can grasp his own food and chopping it into tiny bites or making sure it will dissolve inside. Moms should definitely be there watching to make sure the food goes down safely, but otherwise, that's a perfectly safe plan.
9 What Is Wrong With Honey?
Many moms are interested in all natural foods these days, so they might be tempted to give their baby the natural sweetener of honey. But it can be very troublesome to do so in the first year of life. The substance contains spores of a natural bacterium, which we can process as adults, but an infant's immature digestive system can't handle it.
Feeding your baby honey too soon can result in botulism, so moms should do all that they can to avoid it. Usually it's OK to have a commercial baby food with the ingredient because it's been heated to really high levels, but moms shouldn't try doing that themselves because it is difficult to kill the spores and it's not worth the risk.
8 How Do I Make Sure Homemade Baby Food Is Safe?
Another trend for moms who want their babies to have natural foods is to make baby food yourself. It's easy to mash a banana, but prepping baby food is more complicated, and it might not be safe. Moms have to be really careful to make sure that their child's food remains safe while it is stored so they don't get sick when they ingest it.
Moms need to use clean cooking techniques like using different cutting boards for meats versus fruits versus vegetables to avoid cross contamination. They need to wash their hands and the food before preparing and cook any meat they are including to the proper temperatures. When canning, they have to make sure that the seal is proper and the cans don't get damaged, and if they freeze the food, they should use it within a month. Consulting experts and researching food safety is definitely a good idea.
7 Planning In Case Of Allergies
Food allergies are really serious these days, and moms might be worried about their child's safety when they are introducing solids. It's definitely a good idea to have a plan in mind before a child tries anything new, just in case the baby has a reaction. And because it might be hard to figure out what caused a reaction, only introduce one new food at a time.
Allergic reactions can be as small as a red rash around the mouth, or it could include a little swelling. In the most severe reactions, the baby might not be able to breathe within minutes. It's really important to watch for a reaction for up to an hour or so after introducing a new food — and keep in mind that some reactions only happen the second time. Be quick to get to an emergency care facility if the baby starts to have a lot of swelling or starts to turn blue, and if the parents or the baby has known allergies, it might be a good idea to have an appropriately sized epipen available. Talk to the doctor about any concerns, as they would be happy to help make a good plan.
6 Is Seafood OK?
While any baby might have an allergy to foods, there isn't a reason to restrict a baby's diet beyond what you would for any other kid — other than the honey issue that we have already mentioned and making sure that there are no large pieces. While it might seem unusual to give the baby seafood, there is no reason to worry about it unless you have a seafood allergy yourself.
Fish is a very healthy meat, as it contains a lot of the good fats and proteins that help with brain development. But moms should be aware that some types of fish are at risk of having high levels of mercury, so it's better to avoid things like shark altogether and limit others to once a week.
5 How Do I Avoid pieces that are too big?
One of the biggest concerns for feeding babies is not being able to swallow. Some babies are so vulnerable that they can even have this problem with formula, so moms definitely need to talk to the doctor or therapist about how to avoid it. For most, though, a few simple strategies can cut down on the risks. The No. 1 thing is to supervise while eating to make sure that the baby is OK.
There are a number of high risk foods that moms should avoid for a while, possibly through the toddler years. Things like hot dogs, chunks of meat and fruit and grapes should be cut up into small pieces so that they don't get stuck. Things like seeds, nuts, popcorn and hard candy should be avoided altogether until you are certain that your child can chew and swallow them correctly. That might be long past the baby stage, but it's safer to wait.
4 Most Common Food Allergies To Watch Out For
We've already mentioned that moms should have a plan when introducing new foods to the baby because of a concern about an allergic reaction. But there are some foods that are more likely to cause an issue. It might help to be aware of those, since 90 percent of food allergies in children are related to just six different types of food.
Among the most common is a sensitivity to milk, which often are revealed with symptoms of colic, eczema, gassiness or even vomiting or hives. A number of kids are also allergic to eggs, which can impact their ability to get common vaccines as well. Soy and wheat can also be problems. Of course, the one thing that many parents fear is an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts and that is among the most common and most severe of the food allergy types. We'll get into that more later.
3 Is Food Poisoning Possible?
Yes. Babies can get food poisoning, and it's not just unpleasant, but it can also be very dangerous. Babies can end up with blowout diapers and upchuck, but their little immune systems are so fragile that it could mean that they end up in the hospital with dehydration or severe infections.
One of the best ways to prevent foodborne illness is to be careful to make sure the seal isn't broken on baby food. And it's probably safest to just throw away any leftover baby food in a jar instead of trying to feed it again later. In addition, be aware of recalls and be sure to wash hands after you handle food and change diapers, since those germs can get transferred to the baby when you feed them.
2 Peanut Butter Predicament
As scary as it is to try peanuts, many moms just want to avoid giving it to the baby. And doctors used to recommend waiting until the child turned 2. However, the latest research shows that introducing peanuts earlier to the baby could possibly help avoid them developing a serious allergy.
Kids at high risk of getting peanut allergies were found to avoid the life-threatening danger if they ate peanut butter before age 1 and continued to eat it often after that. Please note that giving peanuts to babies is definitely not recommended because they're too big, so moms need to introduce the food through peanut butter or another smooth treat.
1 What Should I Do If The Baby can't swallow?
Babies can have trouble swallowing just about anything when they start eating solids — and there is a risk if any small objects are nearby such as dropped coins or tiny toys. Moms need to be prepared to handle an incident, since things can get scary in an instant.
If the mom can't see any food in the mouth, she needs to place the baby facedown on her forearm or leg and then push on the baby five times in the middle of the back to try to get the food out. If it doesn't work, give a few chest compressions and then try again. If it doesn't work call 911 and start CPR. It can help to take an infant CPR class during pregnancy to be prepared in case something goes wrong.