Hurricane Season: Food Safety for Baby

— Written By

This is the final installment in a series on severe weather by Extension Master Food Volunteer, Nancy Oliver.

Mother bottle feeding a young baby

Breast milk, formula, and baby food safety in power outage circumstances

The food safety specialists at NC State Extension urge that extreme caution be taken with your baby’s breast milk or pureed foods during times of power outage.

Not surprisingly, breast milk requires special care because if it is left above 41 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours, bacteria will grow. If the temperature is 90 degrees or more, bacteria will start to grow in one hour.

To prep your breast milk supply before a storm:

  • Start the planning process by making sure you have enough thermometers and enough coolers.
  • Use a cooler that you’ve specially designated for your child’s food. Pack it with ice or dry ice to keep everything colder longer.
  • Freeze as much breast milk as possible in your refrigerator. Sealed bags or bottles of milk may be frozen into quart-sized zip bags of water. This allows an extra protective layer of ice to be created.
  • Freeze breast milk or food in single-serving portions.
  • Bottles and containers for heating should cleaned and sanitized. If heating bottles, use safe, drinking-quality water.
  • If possible, use canned prepared formula and commercially packaged baby food in cans, jars, or pouches.

When the power goes out:

  • Keep breast milk and baby food cold. Do not open a cooler unless you absolutely have to do so.
  • Any prepared infant formula, opened/homemade baby food purees, prepared cereals, or breast milk should be kept at or below 41 degrees.
  • Watch to make sure that foods in non-waterproof containers do not come in contact with flood waters.
  • Do not thaw frozen food by placing food in water or leaving it at room temperature.
  • Reheat refrigerated or frozen baby food to at least 165ºF.

After the power comes back on:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that once the power comes back on, check the condition of your stored breast milk. Remember to use your tip-sensitive thermometer to check that temperature. Frozen breast milk that has started to thaw but still contains ice crystals may be refrozen. If your breast milk has completely thawed but still feels cold, put it in the refrigerator and use it within the next day or throw it away.

Under ordinary circumstances, the CDC also reports that breast milk may be stored in the freezer (at 0° F or colder) for up to 12 months, although using it within 6 months is best. The temperature of kitchen freezers is typically 0° F and although deep freezers or chest freezers may be able to operate at a temperature colder than 0° F, both types of freezers fall within the guideline of keeping frozen milk at a temperature of 0° F.