When you begin to offer your baby solid food around six months, you introduce them to a variety of tastes, flavors, and textures. Before you begin, it’s important to know how to safely introduce allergenic foods.
Yogurt is a great food choice once your baby is introduced to solids. Yogurt is safe for babies as long as you pay close attention to nutrition labels and watch for any allergic reactions. Talk to your doctor first if there is a history of dairy allergy or lactose intolerance in your family.
Introducing Your Baby to Yogurt
Be sure to read labels on yogurt and make sure to avoid two specific ingredients:
- Honey. Honey isn't safe before 12 months because your baby may contract a type of food poisoning called botulism.
- Added sugar. Many yogurts have added sugar or sweeteners that have no benefit for your baby. Try sweetening yogurt with fruit instead.
You should only introduce one new food at a time to your baby, and wait at least three days before introducing another. By doing this, you can pinpoint an allergic reaction if they have one. Since dairy allergies are common, this is especially important when offering yogurt to your baby.
Watch for these signs of an allergic reaction:
- Skin rash
- Swelling around the lips or eyes
If your baby has an allergic reaction, stop feeding them yogurt and call your pediatrician. They can provide guidelines of when to try offering yogurt again to see if the allergy goes away with time.
Nutritional Benefits of Yogurt for Your Baby
Yogurt is rich in protein and calcium, as well as phosphorus and B vitamins. While protein aids in muscle development and calcium promotes strong bones and teeth, most of yogurt's health benefits seem to come from its live bacterial content. Yogurt and other fermented foods that contain specific strains of live bacteria are known as “probiotic.” Probiotic foods like yogurt may help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your baby’s gut. Over time, probiotic foods may even prevent a wide range of health issues including obesity and diabetes.
A serving size for your baby is about half a cup of yogurt. Some yogurt brands are fortified with added protein and vitamins that are fine for your baby, but read labels carefully to look for added sugar and honey as ingredients.
How to Prepare Yogurt for Your Baby
Once you have established that your baby isn't allergic to either yogurt or individual fruits, add chopped or mashed fruits to your baby’s yogurt for added taste and sweetness. Make sure the pieces are small enough that they aren't a choking hazard.
Great chopped or mashed fruits to add to yogurt include:
You can spoon-feed your baby or let them hold the spoon and try to feed themself. Of course, they might make a mess. This is part of their learning about food as they are introduced to solids.
Tips for Introducing New Foods to Your Baby
Before offering new foods, ask these questions:
- Can my baby hold their head up independently? This is an important developmental milestone for eating solid food.
- Is my baby interested in eating? Your baby may watch you eat with interest, or even try to grab your food and taste it. When you offer your baby a spoon, they should open their mouth to eat.
- Can my baby move food to their throat? If you offer food with a spoon, your baby may push it out with their tongue first. This is called the tongue-thrust reflex. With time they will learn to use their tongue to push the food to the back of their mouth and swallow.
Offer a variety. As your baby starts to eat solid foods, they need variety in their diet. This helps ensure your baby is receiving all of the nutrients they need and also helps expand their palate for new tastes.
Normalize new foods. Once you introduce a new food to your baby and you've confirmed they aren't allergic to it, try to offer it to them again at least twice a week. Not only does this familiarize your baby with new foods, but it can also prevent food allergies. Additionally, when your baby is learning to eat, they watch you. Make sure to offer them the same foods the rest of the family is eating for encouragement.
Consider Allergens. By the time your baby is 12 months old, they should be introduced to each of the common allergenic foods:
- Cooked egg
- Creamy peanut butter
- Cow’s milk (dairy)
- Tree nuts (such as cashew or almond paste)
- Fish and other seafood
By introducing these foods early in life, you can reduce your baby’s chance of developing food allergies.