Safely Feeding Babies – 10 Important Tips (plus 1 you already know)

From Lisa Barnes

I see many questions and myths shared about food for babies on parenting websites and blogs.  The ones that are most alarming to me are those regarding food safety and proper food handling, and all the “my grandmother used to_______” (the ______ was something like “put Brandy in a bottle” or “put honey in the cereal”.

Babies usually triple their birth weight the first year. That’s why nutritious and safely handled food, served in an age-appropriate way, is so important.  Being aware of safe food handling practices and potential feeding dangers are the best ways to protect your family from food illnesses and accidents, while also giving your child a healthy start on development and growth. Here are a few important tips and reminders.  (of course you know the final one – that’s why you’re reading it on this blog)

1. Wash Hands. It’s important to wash your hands before preparing food or beverages, especially when feeding babies. According to a Penn State University study of mothers with infants less than 4 months old many moms said they routinely forget to wash their hands after changing baby’s diaper, and using the bathroom. Not washing hands could result in infant diarrhea from the bacteria transferred while engaging in these activities.

2. Handle Bottles Carefully. Although some babies will drink a bottle straight from the refrigerator, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises most babies prefer milk warmed to room temperature. Warm the bottle by holding it under a running hot-water faucet or putting it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Shake well and test milk temperature to make sure it’s not too hot before feeding. Microwaves can heat unevenly. Children’s mouths and throats can be severely burned by bottles heated in the microwave.  Always discard leftover milk in bottle to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria.

3. Cow’s Milk. Avoid serving regular cow’s milk until infants are 1-year-old. Before then, infants may experience an allergic reaction, stomachache and low blood iron. When you begin serving regular cow’s milk, serve whole milk.  Do not switch to lower fat milk until the baby’s doctor recommends this change usually around age 2.

4. Mixing Cereal and Formula in the Bottle. Do not serve cereal mixed with formula from a bottle.  Many think this practice helps babies sleep better through the night, however there is no evidence of this. Plus, there is a possibility of a baby choking.

5. Hold Baby When Bottle-Feeding. Babies who are put to bed with a bottle are more likely to have cavities. This practice also increases the potential of choking.

6. Limit Juice. Serve only 100 percent juice and in small quantities so it doesn’t interfere with the infant eating other nutritious foods. AAP recommends giving juice diluted with water only to infants who are approximately 6 months or older and who can drink from a cup. AAP recommends offering no more than a TOTAL of 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day to infants. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition)

7. Avoid Honey And Corn Syrup. Do not serve infants honey or corn syrup during the first year of life. These foods may contain botulism spores that could cause illness or death in infants.

8. Food Introductions. When introducing new foods, try only one at a time, and start with single-ingredient foods. Avoid serving mixed ingredient foods until each food has been given separately. Begin by serving about 1 to 2 tablespoons and then increase the amount as baby wants more. Wait at least 3 days before trying another new food so you can tell if there are any adverse reactions.

Iron-fortified rice cereal is usually the first food offered, as this is easily digested. It’s frequently recommended to continue fortified baby cereal through the first year of life.

Remember your baby will still be receiving the majority of nutrition from breast milk or formula during the first year.

9. Serve Solids Safely. Transfer an amount you feel baby will eat from the baby food jar to a dish. Throw away any food left uneaten in the dish. Avoid feeding directly from the baby food jar. Bacteria from a baby’s mouth can grow and multiply in the food before it is served again. Use refrigerated jarred baby foods within 1 to 2 days after opening.

Once opened, do not leave baby food solids or liquids (breast milk or formula) at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria can grow to harmful levels when food is left out longer than this.

10. Choking Hazards. Avoid serving foods that may choke an infant, such as nuts and seeds, raw carrots and celery, whole kernel corn, raisins, large chunks of meat or cheese, popcorn, chips, pretzels, grapes, whole berries, cherries, unpeeled fruits and vegetables, hard candies, pickles, hot dogs, marshmallows (regular or miniature), and peanut butter. In general, avoid foods that are round and firm, sticky and chewy or cut in large chunks.

As infants grow into toddlers, they can begin eating the foods above, if cut into small pieces. Most pediatricians advise foods should be no larger than 1/4 inch for toddlers and 1/2 inch for preschoolers.

Plus One…

Finally my continuing tip and philosophy is to serve organic.  Try to purchase organic foods for babies and children whenever possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals.  According to the US EPA Department of Health and Human Services, the greatest exposure to pesticides and chemicals is in a child’s first 4 years.  See my post Why Organic for Kids.
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See also Lisa’s Introducing Solids To Baby (with Organic Sweet Potato Puree Recipe)
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Lisa Barnes (her babies tasting their first food)
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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Getting Greener or Getting Fooled – Label Deception

From Lisa Barnes

Advertisers and marketers are having a field day with the going green trend and making millions on labels for everything from cheese puffs, to laundry soap, to toys. Everyone wants to buy “greener” products and we simply look for a quick “seal” or buzz words – but what do they mean? Is it eco-friendly, or sustainable, or recyclable, or animal-friendly, biodegradable or “other”?

I recently taught a baby food cooking class to new parents who were just starting to feed their children solids. They of course are very concerned about what goes in and around their babies – as they should be. I showed them how not only to read labels but decipher them and be careful about products marketed for babies and children. Brands our parents and grandfathers trusted aren’t necessarily helping the confusion.

We discovered baby teething biscuits with partially hydrogenated oils. Turkey labeled as “natural” (however it’s legal for “natural” turkey to have been raised on a diet that included hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified corn). Typical “junk foods” (cheese puffs, potato chips) labeled as “organic” (but still no healthier due to trans fats and additives and preservatives). And the biggest shock to the class was baby food packaged in #7 plastic (thought to leach chemicals in foods) – with microwave directions!

This past weekend was a helpful article in the San Francisco Chronicle about green products seals, and claims surrounding green products. We’re still so new at determining and establishing some product standards that some companies are just making them up themselves. Do we want to trust Johnson and Johnson’s “green” label conducted by an in-house team? We need to educate ourselves so we’re not caught up in the marketing tactics of large companies who just want to sell us products (healthy or not, truly “green” or not). Those of us trying to go “greener” need help as well as some time and patience to read between the lines. I found the article to be helpful which you can read here.

As far as food goes, it’s just one more reason to avoid reading labels and shop for whole organic foods at the Farmer’s Market. I know we can’t always go there and they don’t have everything, but it sure makes shopping, cooking and eating easier (and healthier). The good news is that there is a federal standard for “organic” food. However staying away from processed foods cuts down on much of the label deciphering, but if you must do it keep these things in mind for “organic” food claims.

Those small stickers with the numbers on the fruit mean something too. Did you know?…

*A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown (not organic).

*A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

*A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified (GM).

According to the Center for Food Safety, GM foods have been in stores only since the 1990s, so we don’t know the long-term health risks, and in a 1998 EPA sampling, 29% of the foods tested contained detectable pesticides.

Here’s a reminder of the organic labels on multiple ingredient foods:

Labels and definitions are as follows

“100 percent organic” All ingredients are organic.

“Organic” At least 95 percent of ingredients are organic.

“Made with organic ingredients” At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. If less than 70% of the ingredients are organic, the word “organic” can be mentioned on the information panel, but not on the front of the package.

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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Introducing Solids To Baby (with Organic Sweet Potato Puree Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

The American Pediatric Association recommends introducing solids between four and six months of age. A few large-scale studies suggest that this timing may lower the risk of developing type I diabetes. Feeding your baby solids before four months can trigger an abnormal reaction in his immature immune system. Many mothers are told by well-meaning family members to give baby solids very young in order to get them to sleep through the night. However, feeding a baby solids does not make them sleep any better. It may just coincide with other developments that encourage routine sleeping patterns at this stage.

On the other hand, introducing solids later than six months may inhibit the development of a child’s palate, as they will not be exposed to enough variety early on. It is best to check with your child’s pediatrician to get the green light based upon your own child’s needs and development.

How Much?
In the beginning your baby will eat about one to two teaspoons of cereal or puree, once or twice per day. Although the first few times, when they’re getting acquainted with the process, your baby won’t swallow much of anything. He is still drinking about twenty-four to twenty-eight ounces of breast milk or formula each day.

Ready?
Many parents, me included, look forward to introducing solids and are just waiting for the right time. But when? The biggest cue is that your child will take an active interest in watching your eat, looking at and trying to grab your food. You’ll know they’re ready when you start to feel guilty eating a meal in front of them.

Babies have a natural reflex in their tongue called a thrust reflex. This is when the tongue thrusts outward to push items out of the mouth. When this reflex is gone, your baby will be able to eat because he can then swallow food. When I began my son, Jonas, on solids at five months, he still had the reflex. I would spoon the food into his mouth and his tongue would flip up, as if he wanted the spoon under his tongue. He was not yet ready to eat. However, he enjoyed thinking he was eating (though it was on his chin and spoon only) and we continued the routine. After about three days, he stopped thrusting his tongue and learned to swallow.

Set?
It is best to keep a log of foods your baby has eaten. It may sound silly, but it is very easy to forget what your baby has tried or not tried. This information can be provided to your doctor in case of illness or reaction. This information can also prove helpful to baby sitters and family members who care for your baby. Foods will need to be introduced for three to five days in a row to check for any allergic reactions. Then, if a problem arises, it will be easy to determine the offending food.

Go!
First foods are most likely single-item fruit and vegetable purees and cereals. In commercially prepared foods, some companies call these “Stage 1” foods. Rice cereal is the most common introductory food in baby’s culinary adventure because it’s easy to digest and isn’t likely to cause allergies. This is best purchased commercially prepared, because these cereals have an extra boost of iron, which your baby needs after six months of age. There are a few brands to choose from, with organic and GMO-free options. The cereal can be mixed with formula, breast milk, or water. Once introduced, the cereal can also be mixed with fruit, vegetable, and meat purees.

Some parents think that children introduced to vegetables before fruits will not have a sweet tooth. Most nutritionists and doctors disagree with this idea. Children will like sweets. There are also many opinions about the order of food items to introduce. Some experts recommend serving vegetables in order of color—lighter yellows to oranges to lighter greens, then dark greens. This suggestion is because lighter-colored foods tend to be milder in flavor; then as your baby’s palate matures the food flavors will increase with color intensity.

When To Stop
No one wants to waste food; however, forcing your child to eat or “finish their plate” is not advised. Before your baby can speak and tell you he’s finished eating, he will give you cues. These include: refusing to open his mouth, looking away, becoming agitated, appearing distracted, or squirming in his chair. According to nutritionist Mary Ellen DiPaola, most children can regulate their own appetites in their early stages of eating. If you force children to eat, they may lose the ability to read their own hunger and full signs. Feeding should be enjoyable for baby and parent, in a relaxed atmosphere, and at your child’s natural pace and appetite.

Foods To Avoid
There are a few reasons to avoid certain foods when introducing solids. The reasons include allergens, food intolerances, family history, special dietary needs, nitrite levels, and choking hazards. The biggest concern is potential food allergies and intolerances. Symptoms include rash, hives, respiratory problems, diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. Food allergies and intolerances are often linked genetically, so if parents are allergic they should be cautious and delay introducing these foods to children. Potential allergens include: wheat, cow’s milk, soy, nuts, shellfish, strawberries, and egg whites.

Some foods are more likely to cause adverse reactions. Doctors agree these should not be introduced as first foods, but how long to wait is often debated. Some believe these foods should not be introduced until after one year of age, while others, such as Brock Bernsten, M.D., my son’s pediatrician, believe some of these foods, such as yogurt and wheat, should be introduced between six and eight months of age. Otherwise you may miss an important window of opportunity when children will try new foods. He cautions, however, to give these foods each day for five to seven consecutive days, rather than the typical three- to five-day recommendation.

Nuts and peanuts are a special concern because of the severity of allergy symptoms affecting the upper respiratory system. Less than 1 percent of children and adults have the allergy. However, there are many processed and prepared foods that you may not realize contain nuts, including cookies, crackers, sauces, and ethnic foods. Many nutritionists suggest waiting to introduce nuts and nut butters until your child is two years old or older.
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Organic Sweet Potato Puree

I never met a baby who didn’t love sweet potatoes. They are much sweeter in taste and higher in nutrients than the basic white potato. They pack more beta carotene (an antioxidant) than any other vegetable and are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Baking the potatoes in the oven may take longer but the flavor is much richer than steaming in the microwave or stovetop.

Makes 4 servings

2 medium (7- to 8- ounce) organic sweet potatoes
Water, formula, or milk

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F. Prick potatoes with a small knife, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender, and skin is wrinkled. Potatoes should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set potatoes aside to cool before handling.

Using your fingers, peel potato skin from flesh. Mash with a fork for thicker potatoes, or puree in a food processor with a steel blade until mashed. For a smoother and less sticky texture, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, formula or milk, at a time. Add liquid and process until you’ve reached desired consistency.

Microwave Method: Prick potatoes with a knife and place potatoes in a microwave-safe dish. Add ¼ cup water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on High for 3 minutes and turn potatoes over. Re-cover and cook for 3 to 6 minutes, or until tender. Check for doneness, cool, and proceed with directions above.

Tip:
It’s all in the name. The names sweet potatoes and yams are used interchangeably in the United States, although true yams are different from sweet potatoes. Only sweet potatoes can be found in the U.S. You will notice different varieties (with varying shades of orange) in stores, most common are Jewel and Garnet.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Excerpted from The Petit Appetit Cookbook
Image Credit: © Eric Gevaert | Dreamstime.com
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First Taste – Organic Butternut Puree and Soup Recipes

butternut-soup.jpg

From Lisa Barnes

Both my son and daughter enjoyed their first taste of food in the autumn – so there was an abundance of squashes and rich sweet potatoes available as first foods. I was reminded of these first tastes when I bought a butternut squash at the store today. I love being witness to the first time a child tries a new food. It seems so strange that the baby has no reference for the flavor or texture. I like the anticipation of the child’s reaction to the new food. Their faces show everything from “wow, mom this is awesome” (and grabbing the spoon for more) to “what are you crazy with this?” (and spitting it back down their chin).

Here’s a recipe for a baby puree that is the key ingredient in the soup recipe for the rest of the family. Make a double batch and everyone can enjoy.

Butternut Squash Puree

1 ¼ pound organic butternut squash, about 3 cups

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash into quarters; remove seeds and place cut side down in a baking pan. Pour ¼ cup water in bottom of pan. Bake squash until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and scoop out flesh.

Puree the squash in a food processor after cooking, until you’ve reached the desired consistency. You may want to add 1 to 2 tablespoons water, breast milk or formula to thin.

Microwave directions: Cut squash in quarters (this may be difficult, depending on size) and scoop out seeds. Place squash, skin side down, in a microwave-safe dish. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and cover tightly, allowing one corner to vent. Microwave on High for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness, cool and proceed with recipe above.

For older babies, cut flesh into chunks that he can pick up and eat himself.

Butternut Squash Soup

3 cups organic butternut squash puree (see above)
1 medium organic onion, chopped, about ½ cup
½ cup peeled and chopped organic carrots
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
1 cup organic milk
grated nutmeg for garnish (optional)

In a medium pot, sauté onion and carrots in olive oil for about 5 minutes or until onions turn golden. Turn down heat to medium-low. Add squash and broth. Cover pot and cook for 20 minutes.

Puree small quantities of soup in a blender or food processor. Be careful as mixture will be hot. Return soup to pot, and add milk. Stir and reheat. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Makes about 6 cups of soup.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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O.K. Babies… Ready, Set, Eat! (Organic Baby Food Puree Recipes)

puree.jpg

From Lisa Barnes

I have three friends that gave birth to healthy, happy babies last week. In addition our illustrious leader and blogger, Dave Smith met (and fell in love with) his first granddaughter. Congratulations to all the new parents and grandparents! In honor of the new kids on the block here are a few first food recipes that the new moms and dads can read about and maybe even practice making before the day to feed solids is upon them. Speaking of practicing, I recently got a question from a gentleman about making fresh purees now and freezing them for when his son was ready to eat solids. I thought that was a nice idea (it’s good in the freezer for about 3 months), until I asked him his son’s age. He said he was going to be born in 7 months. Now that was one excited, anxious and very prepared father-to-be. It goes by faster than you know, but let’s not serve these little one’s freezer burned puree.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with a new baby in the house. There’s so much to do — holding, rocking, playing, diapering, bathing, feeding… Once they’ve started solids the easiest tip I tell new parents is to always have bananas and avocados on hand. Bananas are perfect since so many children love them and they’re easy to tote around (since they come in their own wrapper). Carry a small spoon and avocados can be enjoyed by baby right out of the peel. Banana and avocado even blends well together. I’m not suggesting you give these for every meal, but it’s a quick, no cook, healthy option that’s convenient to give when you’re out and about, shopping in the supermarket, on an airplane or just in your kitchen while you’re making or defrosting something else… such as these first purees….

Pear Puree

Pears are usually a pleasing first food to baby, because of the sweet and mild flavor and creamy texture. There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world, but only a handful have been cultivated into the fruit we enjoy. Luckily you don’t need to know about all 3,000! Any variety such as Anjou, Comice or Bosc, will work for steaming as long as they are ripe (but not mushy).

4 medium organic pears (3 to 4 ounces each), quartered and cored just before cooking

Steamer Method: Place prepared pears in steamer basket set in a pot filled with 1 to 2 inches of lightly boiling water Do not let water touch fruit. Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until pears are tender. Pears should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set pears and cooking liquid aside to cool. Scrape flesh from skin and puree in a food processor with a steel blade. Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Microwave Method: Place prepared pear quarters in microwave safe dish. Add ¼ cup water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir pears and re-cover and cook for 3 to 6 minutes or until tender. Check for doneness, cool and proceed with recipe above.

Pour puree in ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop out cubes and seal and label in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Sweet Potato Puree

I never met a baby who didn’t love sweet potatoes. They are much sweeter in taste and higher in nutrients than the basic white potato. They pack more beta carotene (an antioxidant) than any other vegetable and are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Baking the potatoes in the oven may take longer but the flavor is much richer than steaming in the microwave or stovetop.

2 medium (7 to 8 ounces each) organic sweet potatoes

Water, formula or milk

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prick whole potatoes with a small knife, and place on baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, and skin is wrinkled. Potatoes should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set potatoes aside to cool before handling. Using your fingers, peel potato skin from flesh. Mash with a fork for thicker potatoes. Or puree in a food processor with a steel blade until mashed. For a smoother and less sticky texture add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, formula or milk at a time. Add liquid and process until you’ve reached desired consistency.

Pour puree in ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop out cubes and seal and label in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Note: The names sweet potatoes and yams are used interchangeably in the United States, although true yams are different than sweet potatoes. Only sweet potatoes can be found in the U.S. You will notice different varieties (with varying shades of orange) in the stores – most common are Jewel and Garnet.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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