Cheese is wonderful as a food for your baby, as it contains so many great nutrients that he or she needs:
- Calcium – vital for developing healthy bones and teeth
- Protein – for all-round healthy growth
- Vitamin A – for healthy skin and vision, also boosts the immune system
- Vitamin D – the ‘sunshine’ vitamin that helps calcium absorption, boosting bone health
- Vitamin B12 – particularly important for the vegetarian baby
- Calories – to give your baby the energy he or she needs
Cheese also tastes great, and is easy to include in your baby’s diet!
Guidelines for the introduction of cheese to babies vary from country to country: in the UK, cheese is often included in a bay’s diet from around 6 months of age;in the US,parents are often advised to wait until their baby is 8 or 9 months old before introducing cheese (others rule out dairy products altogether until at least 12 months of age!)
This is all about potential dairy allergy – but cheese is not a typical dairy product. The milk protein that can cause a dairy allergy is broken down in cheese as it matures; cheese is often tolerated by those with sensitivities to dairy products. This is the same with yogurt – doctors and paediatricians often advise both yogurt and cheese as safe for a baby before his or her first birthday.
However, if there is a family history of food allergy – particularly to dairy products – or if your baby suffers from asthma or eczema, it may be worthwhile delaying giving him or her cheese (or yogurt).
Speak with your baby’s doctor before introducing cheese into your baby’s diet.
Safe first cheeses for baby…
During your pregnancy, you were probably advised to avoid eating certain cheeses because they could contain the food-poisoning bacteria, listeria. Unpasteurized soft cheeses usually pose this risk; cheeses made with pasteurized milk – including soft cheeses -are now considered safe for pregnant women.However, medical advice against giving unpasteurized soft cheese to babies is still the same.
Many parents begin with the milder tasting cheeses, but your baby may surprise you by being one of those who enjoys rather ‘tastier’ varieties!
Offer only the following types of cheese to your baby – but still check that these are made with pasteurized milk:
- Colby Jack
- Monterey Jack
- Red Leicester
- Double Gloucester
- Grana Padano
These‘soft’ cheeses are still safe to give:
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Cheese spread – though make sure that it is not labelled ‘cheese flavour’, which means that it is probably not made from real cheese!
- Queso Blanco
- Queso Fresco
- Danish Blue
Processed cheese, American cheese or pre-sliced cheeses will not be harmful to your baby, but they are so processed, and include so many additives, that they lose most of their taste, texture and nutritional value – they are no substitute for a ‘real’ cheese!
Store cheese safely: keep it in your refrigerator, wrapped in foil or wax paper – fat content may cause chemicals in plastic wrap to leach into your baby’s cheese.
Including cheese in your baby’s diet:
- Many firm cheeses or large-curd cheeses make good finger food – cut it into fun shapes!
- Cheese on toast (grilled cheese) makes a tasty, easy lunch.
- Sprinkle grated cheese over cooked vegetables, or stir cottage cheese in – if baby is not keen on vegetables, this could make them more to his or her taste!
- Sprinkle grated cheese over – or stir cottage cheese into – cooked rice or pasta.
- Include grated cheese in scrambled eggs and omelettes, meat or vegetable purees, or soups – for added flavour and nutrition.
- Add cottage cheese into fruit purees, mashed avocado or mashed tofu.
- Put cottage cheese on oatcakes or bagels.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.