Navigating the Magical world of Cheese… for Babies
FROMAGE is probably the first word you learn in France. Just kidding, or maybe not.
The French truly have a passion for cheese. We have over 1,200 varieties of it. You eat cheese as a snack, you think about ways to add cheese to your meals, you end a meal with cheese. It is part of your daily life from a young age. When I was a little girl, I remember that one of my favorite meals was melted brie on a plate. You dip your piece of baguette in it and… yum! Ok well, this is not really a meal, it was more my mother’s “get out of preparing dinner duty” card that she used some nights when she had a crazy day and really didn’t feel like cooking anything, so she’d let us choose what we wanted to eat.
While I don’t over indulge and even less when it comes to my baby’s diet, cheese has somewhat of a bad rep (salty, rich, fatty etc…) Is cheese unhealthy? Is it good for babies? It’s a good idea to understand cheese a little better, and then look at the best ways to introduce it to your baby.
Is cheese really bad for you?
Well first of all, as any good cheese aficionado will say, there are so many many different types of cheese, and they’re not all equal.
Let’s talk about the nutritional value of cheese: Cheese is rich in proteins, minerals, and calcium as well as fatty acids which are necessary for a healthy balanced diet. All of these nutrients are good for your baby too, and contribute to increased appetite, energy levels, muscle, bone and brain development. Only good things right?
It’s important to remember however that this nutritional value varies drastically depending on how the cheese is made (full-fat vs low-fat, fermentation, …) and what is not to be neglected for babies in particular is the level of sodium in cheese.
So in short, yes, dairy is a great nutritional source in your baby’s diet but there are a few things to consider. Let’s look at them:
1. Dairy is considered a top allergenic food
Just like for every allergenic food, you’ll need to try it out with your baby slowly and never with an unknown food or another allergenic food. You can check out our guide on allergies & food sensitivities.
2. Choose pasteurized
For babies, always choose a cheese that has been pasteurized. This will keep babies safe from any bacteria that could make them sick. It’s also better to stick to full-fat as bébé needs the nutrients and healthy fat for their development.
3. Managing lactose content
Some cheese might be more digestible than others so if you suspect lactose intolerance, you might want to choose your cheese more carefully. The harder the cheese, the easier it is to digest as lactose levels diminish during the ripening process. This might include cheeses like: Parmesan, Gruyere, Emmental, Comté Cheddar… and more. However it’s important to note that these cheeses have a higher level of sodium which doesn’t make them ideal for very young babies. I would recommend holding off until the baby is 1 year or older.
4. Sodium levels
Because nature and cheese patrimoine (meaning the heritage and origins of a cheese) bring incredible variety, there are some cheeses that contain smaller amounts of sodium and less calories ✨. Which make them great options for your baby. We’re talking about soft cheeses like ricotta, labneh, feta, mozzarella, and goat cheese. I would recommend getting started with one of these if you’d like to introduce your baby to cheese. Keep away from blue cheeses for a while as they typically contain a lot of sodium.
5. What’s an appropriate age?
You can always check with a healthcare provider but as long as you don’t give too much and are being careful about the type of cheese that you select, it is really up to you. 7-8 months is usually a great age to start. And at that age, 1 oz. of cheese per day is good enough.
Now my son is a bit older but I like to have in the fridge: babybel, laughing cow, string cheese for him, and X, Y and Z for me!
How to serve a baby cheese
Cheese is a bit of a choking hazard for babies and children. Slice thinly and avoid serving cheese in cubes. That’s enough prep for now. The world of cheese awaits! You can begin by visiting our serving suggestions and cheesy recipes for kids.