Babies and Passover: Tips for Eating Through the Holiday

Ah, baby’s first Passover dinner. A special moment. But also, let’s be real: most of us won’t be able to sit down for more than 15 minutes. That said, here are some tips for how to include baby in the holiday, from matzoh ball soup to kugel.

Tips for baby’s first Passover dinner

  • Don’t worry about sodium. One higher-in-sodium-than-normal meal or day isn’t going to make much of a difference and you can always offset any increased sodium intake by offering fresh foods made at home for the rest of the week.
  • Bring baby to the table. Take the tray off the high chair and bring it right up to the table so baby can be part of the family experience. 
  • Manage your expectations. Big celebratory meals can be overwhelming for babies, which can impact how much they eat. Serve or bring some foods you know baby enjoys, and try to focus on the experience and the memories, not consumption.
  • Use a straw cup at the table to minimize spills and mess. If you haven’t taught baby to use a straw, you can do it in less than one day. See our page on cup drinking for some quick tips and videos.
  • If you are a guest, bring a splat mat (or two!), an extra set of clothes, all of the wipes, baby’s cup and plate, and baggies for soiled bibs and clothes. 
  • If you are a guest, prepare your host for the mess and request that the high chair be placed away from foot traffic so any discarded (or thrown) food is not in a main pathway. Alternatively, place baby on your lap and keep a napkin under their bottom to protect your own clothes.
  • If food is being served off-schedule and you have a baby who doesn’t adapt well to schedule changes, feed baby on-schedule with the foods you brought and then bring them to the table when everyone else eats with a toy or utensil to teethe on. Also, for what it’s worth, many babies love sucking on a lamb shank bone, and the bone is fantastic for mapping the mouth and advancing oral motor skills.
  • Make sure to take all photos early, when everyone is happy and clean! A tired or hangry baby does not make for a cute photo.

Common Passover foods and how to modify them for babies

Asparagus

Asparagus is a staple of spring and one of the first vegetables to be harvested in the season, which is probably why asparagus is a popular side dish for Passover dinners. Offer whole cooked asparagus spears that have been cooked until soft (you can test for doneness by piercing with a fork). If you’d like to maximize consumption, slice cooked asparagus lengthwise and then chop and mix it into scoopable foods like mashed potatoes. And remember, eating asparagus might give a child’s urine a strong odor!

Braised lamb leg or shank

Braised lamb can be a wonderful food for baby. Full of important nutrients for baby’s optimal development—like fat and iron—this tender meat is full of bold flavors for baby to explore and enjoy. For babies 6-9 months, consider chopping and mixing the meat with mashed potatoes so they can eat from pre-loaded spoons or with their hands. If baby has their pincer grasp and is able to pick up small pieces of food, serve shredded pieces of lamb for baby to self-feed. Alternatively, clean most of the meat off of a bone and hand the bone over to baby to teethe on (just make sure there are no sharp edges and the bone won’t break).

Fresh fish

Fish can be tricky for babies, as many fish today are high in mercury from pollution that has settled in our waters. Focus on low-mercury fish (fish that receive 4 stars or higher in our free First Foods® database will be safe and low in mercury) and avoid salted fish until closer to 24 months. If serving fresh fish, make sure to remove all the bones and skin and check that it’s cooked all the way through. For a comprehensive ranking of fish for babies, see our guide, Best & Worst Fish for Babies.

Eggs

Eggs show up a lot in both Passover and Easter and often in boiled form. However, boiled eggs can be a choking hazard for babies if not served correctly and mayonnaise made from raw eggs can increase baby’s risk of foodborne illness. To make these safe for baby, consider using vegan mayonnaise or Greek yogurt instead, and chop and mash the egg whites and filling for baby to eat from a pre-loaded spoon or with their hands. And don’t be afraid of offering strong spices like paprika! Babies are wonderful little explorers when it comes to bold flavors!

Chicken

While poultry and meat are a potential choking risk for babies, the drumstick bone itself is fantastic for young babies. Not only does the bone help baby’s brain make a mental map of the mouth, baby may teethe on it for a good 7 minutes, which might make it possible for you to finish your own meal! Have a look at our Chicken page for instructions on how to prepare the bone in a safe way for babies.

Brisket

Beef brisket is actually one of the best first meats for babies because it naturally falls apart into strands and shreds. An added bonus: tough cuts of meat like brisket are relatively simple to prepare in advance in a pressure cooker or slow cooker, plus the flavor deepens over time. See our age-appropriate serving ideas! Have a look at our Brisket page for instructions on how to serve in a safe way for your baby’s age.

Chopped Liver

Chicken liver may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Keep in mind that chicken liver has a ton of vitamin A—an essential nutrient that can be toxic when consumed in excess. For this reason, take care to limit the serving size and frequency; 1 to 2 tablespoons of chicken liver is plenty.

Gefilte Fish

This popular fish salad is typically made from poached carp, pike, or whitefish and has high levels of sodium. Small tastes are fine but serve in moderation to limit sodium and mercury exposure. For a complete rundown of which fish are safe for babies and which to avoid, see our fish guide, Best and Worst Fish for Babies

Herring

Herring is a fantastic first fish for babies as it is low in mercury and high in the nutrients and omega fatty acids that babies need. When possible, choose Pacific herring over Atlantic herring, steer clear of those caught from the Baltic Sea, and rinse canned fish under water to reduce sodium.

Horseradish

While it packs a punch and may make baby cry at first taste, horseradish is safe for babies and young toddlers alike. If baby would like to try some off your plate, prepare baby that it is spicy and consider mixing a little with applesauce, sour cream, or yogurt to offset the heat.

Matzah

Crackers like matzah are a high choking risk for babies and young toddlers and must be soaked in water (or topped with a puree) until soft.

Matzoh Balls

We could not imagine a more perfect first food for baby. Just make sure the ball you select has cooled. Cutting in half will make it easier for baby to self-feed. If baby takes a too-big bite that makes you nervous, stay calm and coach baby to spit it out.

Parsley

Is it safe for baby to munch on parsley? While not a particularly easy food for babies to work with, you can let baby explore parsley from the seder plate or yours. Flecks of parsley and other fresh herbs are safe for baby but will be easier to work with in the mouth if blended into yogurt or other soft, scoopable foods. Exposing baby to flecks of green early on helps acclimate them to green foods and foods that are mixed together.

Potato Kugel

A staple dish in the homes of Ashkenazi Jews, potato kugel is a fantastic dish to share with baby. Soft, easily mashable and relatively easy for baby to self feed. Note that kugel does contain egg and dairy, the two most common food allergens in babies. If your recipe calls for salt, it’s okay to use in the larger dish; just refrain from adding any salt directly to baby’s food.

Pot Roast

As long as there was no honey used in the recipe, baby can partake in the pot roast if it is cut into age-appropriate sizes. For babies 6 to 8 months, a large strip about the size of two adult fingers held together will be best; for babies with a developed pincer grasp who can pick up small pieces of food (typically 9 months and older) shredded or minced pot roast can work well. Be careful to not let baby put too much meat into their mouth as meat is a common cause of choking.

Passover Foods to Avoid for Babies

While many foods can be modified to be safe for babies, here are some you should avoid.

Haroseth

Because haroseth is often made with honey or wine, it is best to skip for baby. Further, haroseth often contains chunks of raw apple, nuts, and raisins which can be choking hazards for young toddlers.

Grape Juice

Hold off on juice of any kind until at least after the first birthday, and ideally, closer to age two. The only liquids baby should be having prior to the first birthday is breast (human) milk, formula, or small amounts of water.

Kugel

This tasty noodle pudding contains sugar and raisins and is best reserved for older toddlers and kids. While a taste of kugel won’t hurt baby, it’s best to hold off on sugar to give baby ample time to develop a palate for unsweetened foods and to chop raisins to reduce the risk of choking. Note that kugel often contains egg and egg is one of the most common allergens in babies.

Macaroon Cookies & Desserts

While not unsafe per se, macaroon cookies and coconut desserts are best held off until closer to age 2 to let baby develop a palate for unsweetened foods. Though a small taste won’t hurt (wink, wink).

Tzimmes

Tzimmes, or sweetened vegetables, often contain honey, which is a no-go for babies. If you are making the dish at home and want to share with baby, omit the honey and any raisins or nuts.

Honey Cake

Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum, spores that can cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness. Babies under 12 months of age are most at risk, so wait until after baby’s first birthday to introduce honey.

Salt Water

It is common at a Passover seder to have a small bowl or bowls of salt water to represent the tears of the enslaved in Egypt. Make sure baby doesn’t get their hands on this bowl as high levels of sodium can be dangerous in excessive amounts. With that said, you need not worry too much about the sodium in food for baby from this one holiday meal. But salt water is a no-go.

Smoked Salmon, Gravlax & Lox

While high in nutrients babies need, smoked salmon and cured salmon like gravlax and lox are not appropriate for babies as they are not fully cooked and exceedingly high in sodium.

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