Cheese is a nutritious and convenient food for your little one but you may be wondering how to go about introducing cheese in the baby-led weaning way.
Cheese can be introduced from 6 months of age, as long as it is full fat and pasteurized. It can be served in sticks and once your baby has developed a pincer grasp, it can be shredded. Start with a mild cheese like mozzarella and work up to stronger cheeses like sharp cheddar.
Having said that, you may still have some questions or need some more information. I mean, there are so many cheeses out there. It can be hard to know which ones are safe or more nutritious and how to introduce them.
The Nutritional Benefits of Cheese for a Baby
Cheese is a healthy addition to your baby’s diet and has a number of nutritional benefits.
- Cheese is high in a number of vitamins including Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, Riboflavin, and niacin.
- Organic cheese from grass-fed cows is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Cheese is high in calories, proteins, and fats and will help baby grow and nourish bones.
What Cheese should I start with in Baby Led Weaning?
When you are just getting started, you should consider offering your baby a milder tasting cheese like mozzarella. Cottage cheese is also a good option but it is a little more difficult if serving it on it’s own. Cottage cheese can be spread thinly on toast or used as a dip for roasted vegetables.
There is something else to consider when introducing a milder cheese first. Generally, the stronger tasting cheeses have been left to mature for longer and in so doing, they have a higher salt content. High salt content should be avoided for baby-led weaning.
Here is a list of cheeses that are appropriate for your baby:
- cheddar (mild)
- Monterey jack
- cottage cheese
- cream cheese
The Cheeses You Should Avoid in Weaning your Baby
Whilst cheese is a nutritious addition to your baby’s diet, there are some cheeses that should be avoided.
Many of the safe cheeses mentioned above are bacteria ripened. This means that they are matured or aged (like wine) in the presence of bacteria and are generally considered safe for babies.
However, mold-ripened cheeses should be avoided unless they are cooked. They can put your baby at risk for developing listeriosis, a serious condition that can have long term consequences for your baby, according to the CDC.
Some of the cheeses that fall into this category include:
- ripened goats’ milk cheese
- soft blue-veined cheese, such as Roquefort
However, cooking these mold-ripened cheeses kills listeria and is safe for your baby to eat, according to the NHS.
This table may be a helpful summary of the cheeses to look for when your baby is starting on solids:
|Cheeses Safe for Babies Under One||Cheeses to Avoid for Babies Under One|
|cheddar (mild)||Cheese made with raw milk or unpasteurized milk|
|parmesan||Ripened goats’ milk cheese|
|romano||Soft blue-veined cheese|
Pasteurized Vs Unpasteurized Cheese for Baby Led Weaning
Pasteurized cheeses are made from milk that has been treated at mild heat to remove any pathogens. This makes it safer for human consumption and can help to extend the shelf-life of the cheese.
In light of this, offering your baby unpasteurized cheeses is not recommended.
So, how can you tell the difference? Look at the label. If “pasteurized milk” is an ingredient, it is safe for baby (provide it is not a mold-matured cheese). If it is made using raw milk, avoid it.
Is Processed Cheese Safe for my Baby?
Processed cheese is cheese that has been mixed with other non-cheese ingredients, including additives, vegetables oils, salts and colorants. It generally has only about 50% actual cheese.
Some examples of these processed cheeses include Velveeta, Easy Cheese and Dairylea.
In light of the added ingredients, I wouldn’t recommend processed cheeses for your baby.
How to Prepare and Serve Cheese in Baby Led Weaning
When your baby is just ready for baby-led weaning, they are unlikely to have developed a pincer grasp just yet. This means that they are using big, whole hand movements to pick up objects. In this case, serving a stick of cheese as opposed to a small square of cheese or grated cheese is preferred as it will be easier for them to hold.
As your little one’s fine motor skills develop and they start using finer, more refined movements, smaller pieces of cheese or shredded cheese can be offered.
Cheese can also be served melted over steamed or roasted vegetables to add additional flavor to the vegetables.
If serving a softer cheese like cream cheese, consider spreading it on toast soldiers (toast cut into strips) or use it as a dip.
Cheese can also be a wonderful addition to recipes. So, here are some great cheesy recipe ideas for your baby-led weaner:
- Cheese omelets
- Cheese muffins
- Broccoli and Cheese Frittata fingers
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Bites
- Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Can I Offer Cheese to my Baby if there is a History of Dairy Intolerance in the Family?
If you have a family history of dairy intolerance or you or your husband have a dairy intolerance, you should introduce cheese and other dairy products with caution. Dairy intolerance may be genetic.
If your baby does have a dairy intolerance, it is likely that you became aware of the intolerance whilst breastfeeding as you would have had to eliminate dairy yourself in order to see an improvement in your baby’s symptoms.
So, whether you have been breast or bottle feeding, you may want to proceed with caution when offering cheese or other dairy products when weaning your baby.
Some of the symptoms of dairy intolerance to look out for include (from: Healthy WA)
- pain and swelling in the tummy
- failure to settle at feeding times, coming on and off the breast
- failure to gain weight
- bulky, frothy and watery faeces
- red bottom with skin worn away in places
- passing wind and crying when passing faeces
If you are concerned that your baby may have a dairy intolerance, it would be best to consult your pediatrician or health care professional.
So you can see that cheese is a wonderful addition to your baby’s diet. It is versatile and can be used in recipes as well as served on its own. It is also an easy snack to take when you are out and about with your little one.