This may seem like a super simple question. However I get asked ALL the time whether cheese is ok and what types of cheese are safe for babies. I’ve written before all about yoghurts, but cheese is another food that can bring up a lot of questions. So I thought I’d summarise it all in one post!
From what age is cheese OK for babies?
From 6 months, once you start introducing solids to your little one, cheese is fine to start offering to your baby. However, if you haven’t tested dairy before as an allergen, you should follow the guidelines on introducing allergens and start with just a little at a time. Check out my blog all about allergens for more detailed advice.
Why offer cheese to babies?
Provided your little one doesn’t have an allergy to dairy, cheese can be part of a healthy, balanced diet from 6 months of age.
Cheese offers plenty of nutrition for babies and children, including:
- Vitamins including B12, zinc, phosphorus and iodine – which can be particularly hard to get from a dairy-free diet.
For children under the age of 2, always opt for full-fat cheeses as low-fat varieties are not suitable. For more about fat, check out my blog here.
These infographics below show a bit more about the nutritional benefits of cheese. Showing the nutrition of a typical 20g portion of full-fat cheddar, as well as the calcium content of different cheeses.
Are there any cheeses that AREN’T safe for babies and young children?
Avoid mould-ripened soft-cheeses. Such as brie, camembert, ripened goat’s milk cheese and soft blue-veined cheese. Also Roquefort or Gorgonzola for babies and young children, as there is a higher chance that these may contain a bacteria called listeria.
Additionally, cheeses made from unpasteurised milk also have a higher chance of containing listeria. These should be avoided as well. You can check the packaging to see whether the cheese is made using pasteurised or unpasteurised milk. Most supermarket varieties are pasteurised.
However, all these cheeses – soft cheeses, blue veined and unpasteurised, can be used in cooking. They are safe to offer to babies if they are thoroughly cooked through.
What about the salt content?
Many people are often worried about the salt content in cheese. Whilst cheese is a food that is naturally higher in salt, it is still fine to offer to babies as part of a balanced diet. It provides a variety of other nutrients as well as flavour and texture. The quantity that it’s offered in is important. So adding some grated cheese to an omelette, pasta, jacket potato or in a sandwich is fine. Particularly if it’s balanced out with other, lower salt options throughout the day and week.
I’ve written a blog all about salt recommendations for babies and toddlers. You can read that blog here. This graphic below compares the salt content of some of the most commonly eaten cheeses. This absolutely isn’t to demonise any of the higher salt options or cheese as a whole. It is to simply show which options are lower in salt for when you’re offering cheese more regularly.
You might want to avoid or only offer the highest salt cheeses such as feta and halloumi in very small amounts until baby is older.
How to include cheese in baby’s diet
There are so many ways to add cheese into the diet. It can also be helpful to add cheese in, especially if your baby isn’t drinking as much milk as you’d like. Here are some of my favourites:
- Grate over potato, pasta or omelettes
- Offer grated cheese as a snack alongside oatcakes or fruit
- Add to pitta pizzas – see my recipe here
- Have melted on strips of toast
- Add cream cheese to pasta sauces
- Crumble into wraps or over a chili
As a final note, offering big sticks of cheese can be a bit of a choking hazard. So slice thinly or grate when giving to your baby. Grated cheese is a great way to get baby to start working on their pincer grip!