Commonly Asked Questions about Offering Dairy, like Yogurt and Cheese, to Your Baby
On this page you will find a compiled a list of common questions and answers concerning giving your baby yogurt and cheese and dairy products in general.
If you do not see your question here, please contact us. If we cannot answer your question about offering your baby dairy products, we will point you in the direction of someone who may. We are always eager to add information to this site. The more information that we have based on your questions, the more informed our visitors will be.
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Why can I introduce Yogurt earlier than 12 months?
Yogurt may be introduced as early as 6 months old, (the typical age recommendation is 8 months old) depending on your baby’s pediatrician and your baby’s propensity to allergies.
Here are 2 reasons why introducing Yogurt (and cheese) is different than introducing milk:
Unlike Whole Cow Milk beverage, your baby is not at risk of formula/breast milk being replaced by Yogurt or Cheese. The medical community worries that if Whole Cow milk is introduced to an infant prior to 1 year old, that parents would stop formula and/or breastfeeding and use Milk as the replacement. This would be dangerous to your baby's health.
Lactose is already broken down with the culturing of the yogurt or cheese and milk proteins are either removed or limited thus it is typically easier to digest; people with lactose intolerance often are be able to handle cheese and/or yogurt without trouble. The same is true for some people with a milk protein (either to the casein or the whey) allergy.
Yogurt is a great way for baby to get calcium and the “bacteria” in yogurt that is so good for our digestive systems. Yogurt is also a great way for baby to get the fat that is so highly needed during baby’s first year. The majority of yogurts on the market are made low fat or non fat but babies need the fat!
Can I Use Milk in Recipes?
Using milk in a baked good recipe, like offering yogurt and cheese, will not risk weaning your baby to milk from formula and/or breast milk. Milk in a baked good, or otherwise cooked, recipe is considered safe for the baby who is 7-8 months of age+ and who has no familial history of dairy allergies.
When Can I Introduce Cheese to my Baby?
Cheese is very good for baby and may be introduced as early as 8 months providing there are no dairy allergies; start by offering the lighter tasting cheeses (Colby, Jack, American).
If baby cannot mash/grasp, melt cheeses over vegetables or add to veggie/meat purees. If baby can mash/grasp and has had Baby Finger Foods, cut cheeses into small bits and offer to baby as a snack.
Cheeses also may be offered via the old classic grilled cheese sandwich or mac-n-cheese – again, this will be dependant on how baby is with mashing/grasping other foods.
Learn more about Feeding Cheese to Baby
Why Should I Wait Until After 12 Months to Introduce Milk as a Drink?
One of the main reasons you should wait until after baby is 1 year old to introduce milk as a formula/breast milk replacement is that milk/dairy hinders the absorption of iron in the body. Milk is also much harder for baby to digest than breast milk or infant formula.
Milk by itself does not contain all the nutrients of breast milk or formula and should never be used as a substitute until after 1 year of age. The cooking of the food that contains the milk will aid in breaking down the milk proteins so that many babies who are 8 months+ are able to have baked goods that contain milk.
As noted on our solid food chart for the 4-6 month old baby, we indicate that dairy should not replace breast milk or formula until a baby is 12 months of age. There is a possibility of serious health risks should breast milk and/or formula be replaced with cow milk, particularly at the 4-6 month age range.
These risks include Iron Deficient Anemia. Cow milk hinders the absorption of Iron and can cause anemia. Iron is crucial for baby's healthy development. Besides the risk of iron deficient anemia, if your baby drinks cow milk to replace breast milk and/or formula, baby will not receive enough Vitamin E or enough EFAs (essential fatty acids). These nutrients are also crucial to healthy growth and development.
Your baby would also receive levels of protein and sodium that would be too high for baby's fragile system to handle. Cow milk protein is very difficult for an infant to digest and absorb. While formula may be cow milk based, the proteins are "pre-digested" and cultured in a way that make baby's tummy better able to tolerate them. Believe it or not, the levels of sodium (and potassium) in cow milk are very high. Too much sodium might cause an infant's kidneys to fail and as we know, high levels of sodium can lead to high blood pressure.
These are a few of the reasons why the AAP and other pediatric authorities do not want babies to drink milk as a replacement until 12 months of age. As you know, breast milk is the most perfect food for infants and babies could survive on breast milk alone for the first 12 months. Formula, while not nature's perfect food like breast milk, has been created with the crucial and essential nutrients that an infant needs to grow healthy and maintain a proper nutritional status. Whole cow milk does not provide for the good health and growth of babies.
What About Dairy Allergies?
If you, your family members or your baby have a history of allergies to milk (to the milk protein) and/or a history of lactose intolerance; introducing dairy in any form prior to 1 year is probably not a good idea.
As most babies can outgrow these types of allergies, if you hold off until after 1 yr, the risk of developing these allergies is significantly decreased.
Also note that an infant who has a true allergy to the milk protein(s) may also have allergies to other foods - soy being one of the most common. Learn more about Dairy Allergies and other Allergy information
Delaying the introduction of cow milk or other food products may not be favorable in preventing the development of atopy. A study in 2008 (Dairy Introduction past 9 months ) showed that more delay in introduction of cow milk products was associated with a higher risk for eczema.
Are You Sure Baby Should Have Full-Fat Dairy Products?
Your baby needs fats. One of the reasons why formula and breast milk are so nutritious is due to the high fat content. Fat and fatty acids are essential for brain development to name one reason.
DO NOT GIVE baby 2%, 1% or low fat dairy products until after 2 years old unless you are otherwise instructed by your baby's doctor.
Some doctors recommend waiting to give lower fat dairy products until after the baby has turned 3 years old.
For more information about Diary products, click below:
Yogurt & Your Baby - In depth Information about giving your baby yogurt.
Feeding Cheese to Your Baby - Read about Cheese for Your Baby - Ideas
Remember, always consult with your pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.