When Can Babies Eat Cheese?

When Can Babies Eat Cheese article by Starting Solids Australia

Cheese is a nutrient packed food to include in your little one’s diet when they start solids but there are a few things to think about when introducing or purchasing cheese. Cheese contains Vitamin A, B12, Zinc, calcium and protein so it is great on the nutrition front, but it is also an excellent way to boost the flavour of a meal.


What to look for:

  • Pasteurised- nearly all dairy products in Australia will be pasteurised and it should say so on the ingredients label. We want pasteurised cheese because it has been heated for a short period of time to kill bacteria. Some imported cheeses may not be pasteurised, but they must be labelled to let you know. 
  • Full fat- low fat options are not suitable for infants until after the age of 2 
  • Low sodium- cheese is high in sodium because salt is added when it is being made to prevent bacteria from growing, reduce the moisture, enhance the taste and texture. Some varieties are much higher in sodium than others. Especially before the age of 1 we are trying to minimise the sodium in bub’s diet. Low sodium foods are those with less than 140mg per 100g. Most cheese will not be this low in sodium, so aiming for something as close to 140mg is great and less than 400mg (which is high sodium). Some cheeses are naturally lower in sodium like mozzarella, bocconcini and cottage cheese, so these are great for bubs. However, keep in mind that foods do not boil down to one nutrient. Cheese is higher in sodium but filled with a lot of other great nutrients. We also aren’t serving very much to little one’s when they start solids so a small amount of higher sodium cheese occasionally as part of a meal or recipe isn’t something to get worried about either. 
  • Allergen- cheese is usually made from cow’s milk, which makes it a top 9 allergen. Check out our article on introducing allergens if you need to know more about how to introduce safely.


How to serve it:

6+ months 

We would recommend trying to pick low sodium cheese when you first introduce it. Wait until they’re a little older (and kidneys are more developed) to introduce your moderate or higher sodium cheese. 

You can offer soft cheese like mascarpone or cottage cheese as it is. Add them to breakfast, use for a spread on toast or a dipping sauce for fruit or veggies. For semi hard or firm cheese, like your mozzarella, thinly slice to reduce choking risk, as these rubbery foods can be tricky for gums new to solids. 


9-12 months 

Continue offering cheese as above, however, you might want to start introducing a firmer, more moderate sodium cheese as you move towards finger foods and family style meals. We want to be working towards everyone eating the same foods as we get closer to 12 months, so naturally you might find yourself wondering if you can add cheese into recipes when called for. As we get closer to 1, it is okay to offer cheese with moderate sodium (140mg-400mg per 100g) here and there, especially if it encourages the same meals at the same time. 

Harder cheese should be thinly sliced or even grated. If you are melting cheese sprinkle that cheese lightly over the food, as large pieces of melted cheese are rubbery and again can be a choking hazard for babies. 


12+ months 

From around the age of 1 you can serve cheese anyway you like but avoiding cubes, string cheese and cheese sticks, as the size and shape makes it a choking risk. Work on teaching your little one to chew these foods well and focus on a safe eating environment. 

How about cheese with moulds like blue and brie? Well, there is no consensus on when it is  okay to introduce these types of cheese. We would definitely recommend waiting until after 1 (they are also moderate to high in sodium so that is a good reason to wait on its own) but then be guided by what you feel is right. Some health professionals will say to wait until 2, as these cheeses can carry a higher risk of food poisoning. 


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