How to Store Baby Food
Read time: 6 minutes
What should I know about storing my baby’s food?
- How to store homemade baby food and store-bought pureed foods
- How to thaw and re-heat pureed baby food
- How to help prevent bacterial contamination of baby foods
Whether you buy baby food at the market or make it from scratch, it’s important to know how to store, prepare, and reheat your baby’s food correctly and safely. Store-bought baby food usually comes in a glass jar, plastic container, or pouch and usually does not require refrigeration or freezing before opening. These foods are manufactured to be shelf-stable, like any other pantry item (think beans, soups, or condiments). They can typically stay fresh on the shelf for 1 to 2 years, but always check expiration dates carefully.1
Baby food storage guidelines: 2
- Pureed store-bought baby vegetables and fruits can stay in the refrigerator for up to 48 to 72 hours and in the freezer for 6 to 8 months.
- Pureed store-bought meat, poultry, or fish can be refrigerated for 24 hours after cooking and frozen for 1 to 2 months.
- Homemade baby foods will keep for 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator and for 1 to 2 months in the freezer.
Be sure to refrigerate freshly cooked baby food within 2 hours as bacteria will start to grow at room temperature after those 2 hours are up. Note that your refrigerator should be kept at, or below, 40 degrees F. Any warmer and illness-causing bacteria can thrive and quickly multiply.3
Want some tips on feeding your little one or on making baby food? The Happy Baby Experts are infant feeding specialists and here to help (for free!) with questions about starting solids and picky eating, as well as formula and breastfeeding. Chat now!
Can I feed baby directly from the jar or pouch?
If you feed your little one directly from the jar or pouch, all leftovers must be thrown out after the meal. Saliva from baby’s mouth gets back into the jar or pouch via the spoon, this introduces bacteria that can quickly multiply and contaminate the food. If you know baby won’t finish it all, spoon a serving in a separate bowl and feed from that. Then you can refrigerate the jar or pouch of remaining food for an upcoming meal!4
For more information, read: Making your own baby food
How to warm refrigerated or shelf-stable foods and thaw frozen foods:
- Microwave: Warm up store-bought food directly in its glass jar or transfer the food – including previously frozen purees – into a separate glass bowl (never heat up pureed food in a plastic container or pouch). Reduce the microwave to 50% power (or use the defrost feature) and then warm the puree in 15 second increments.4 Check and stir the food thoroughly each time to ensure even heating and to eliminate any heat pockets that may burn your baby’s mouth.
- Stovetop: Warm your baby’s store-bought food or thaw frozen baby food on the stovetop by placing the food in a small saucepan and warming on low heat until the puree is the same consistency and no longer frozen. To preserve the nutrients, heat only as much as is necessary.
- Submersion Method: Thaw frozen baby food by placing the pureed cubes in a plastic bag and then inside a bowl filled with hot or warm water. This method allows for even warming but does take a little longer – figure about 10-20 minutes for the food to thaw fully.5 Many parents also use the submersion method to thaw frozen breastmilk.
- Refrigerator: Thaw frozen baby food simply by transferring it to the refrigerator.5 This process will take 4-12 hours so plan ahead (transferring the food the night before it’s needed to allow thawing overnight is a good rule of thumb). Homemade frozen baby food that’s been thawed can safely stay in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Be sure to keep thawed baby food in a sealed container to avoid contamination.
- DO NOT let baby food thaw for long periods of time on the counter at room temperature. This will allow bacteria to grow.5
How to freeze baby food
Freeze purees in ice cube trays or on a cookie sheet
- Sanitize or thoroughly clean standard ice cube trays before spooning the puree directly into each cubed section. You could also cover a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper and spoon small ‘mounds’ of puree onto the sheet to freeze.
- Cover the tray with plastic wrap and place into the freezer.
- Once the cubes or ‘mounds’ are solidly frozen, pop them out and store them in plastic freezer bags.
- Label the bags with the type of baby food as well as the date. This allows you to use it before it expires. (Remember: store-bought fruits and veggies can be frozen for 6 to 8 months, while meats, poultry, and all home-made baby food can be frozen for 1 to 2 months).
- When your baby is ready to eat, grab an individual portion of the cubes you want to use and thaw!
Ice cube trays are not only convenient, they are also incredibly helpful in portioning out homemade baby food. The cubes are roughly 1 ounce each, so you can easily measure the amount of food your baby is eating and thaw small portions at a time to reduce waste.
Do not freeze food in glass containers
Glass baby food jars (or any glass container) are not meant to be frozen. Frozen glass can burst or cause tiny fractures in the glass leaving behind microscopic shards that you may never see.
Freeze baby food in safe “ok to freeze” plastic containers instead.
Consider a deep freezer if you want to store purees long-term
For best results, frozen foods should remain at a constant sub-zero temperature. A deep freezer is better equipped to handle this temperature control as opposed to your regular freezer, which may fluctuate with you opening and closing the door often.
Throw away leftover food that’s already been reheated
You cannot reheat (or re-freeze) baby food more than once, so once you’ve thawed a frozen puree, toss any leftovers.
This rule also applies to breastmilk. So if you’re using breastmilk to thin out your homemade baby food purees, add the milk while it’s fresh!
Read more: Safe Storage of Pumped Milk
You can also use formula to thin a puree. Do not freeze formula in its original can or bottle, but once mixed into a puree it’s ok to freeze. Freezing formula causes a separation of the fats from the liquid, which may negatively impact the texture and quality.6
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond. Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 8am–2pm ET. Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
For more on this topic check out the following articles