Butter

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Dairy
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May cause allergic reactions.

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a stick of butter before being prepare for babies starting solids

When can babies have butter?

Butter may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Butter is a dairy product, and dairy is a common allergen, so take care when introducing butter and other dairy products like cow’s milk, which should be reserved until after the first birthday. See our Milk FAQs for more information.

Cultural background of butter

Butter is a dairy product made from the fats and proteins in milk – most often cow’s milk. Once a food for peasants, later a luxury for nobility, and today a beloved ingredient that enriches cooking worldwide. There are so many ways to eat it: sweet cream butter on bread, baked goods made with cultured butter, vegetables cooked in ghee, herby compound butter melted on seafood, grains flavored with smen (fermented butter), hearty stews enriched with niter kibbeh (spiced clarified butter), and the list goes on. Quite the success for a food that was likely first made by accident! That early butter was made by a technique still practiced in some areas of the world today: an animal skin is filled with milk and hung where it can be rocked or agitated until the milk turns into butter.

Amelia, 10 months, tastes buttered bread for the first time.
Kalani, 12 months, eats buttered toast.
Zeke, 14 months, dips his broccoli in melted butter.

Is butter healthy for babies?

Yes. Butter has a good amount of vitamin A for vision, skin, and immunity and traces of vitamin E to power a baby’s growth and development. Butter is also packed with saturated fat – the most abundant type of fat in breast milk. In recent years, saturated fat has been scrutinized for its association with heart disease in adults, but research shows that it has its place as a part of a balanced diet, and that it may have a more neutral impact on the heart than previously thought.1 2

Wondering if you need to buy organic butter for baby? Instead of worrying about organic versus non-organic dairy, use butter that is available to you and try diversifying the fat in a baby’s diet by occasionally swapping butter for oil, such as avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, peanut oil, or sesame oil, which are all high in healthy fats. Rest assured that butter made from either organic or non-organic cow’s milk delivers plenty of nutrients to nourish a growing a baby. What is most important is balance: serving an array of fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods with healthy fats and proteins is best for growing babies and toddlers.

★Tip: When shopping, look for butter with few ingredients on the label – ideally, just “cream” and, in some cases, “cultures” on the ingredient list. Avoid butter or butter-like products that contain trans fats.

What kind of butter is best for babies?

Any pure unsalted butter is good. Butter can also be made from the cream of various animals, including goat, sheep, buffalo, and camel. Similar to butter from cows, the nutritional content and quality of butter from these animals can vary with their diet and upbringing. All butters are high in fat and particularly, rich in saturated fats (with the exception of camel butter) and contain similar amounts of vitamin A as cow butter. Interestingly, sheep butter may also have small amounts of iron and vitamin C. Butter from camels, a rare treat for many, is unique as it contains a high proportion of monounsaturated fats (a type of heart-healthy fat) and less saturated fat than that of cows.3 4

How much butter can babies and toddlers eat?

As much as they want within reason. For children under the age of two, fat intake should not be restricted because it provides plenty of energy to fuel the rapid growth of their brains and bodies.5 6 When preparing food for babies and toddlers feel free to use butter liberally.

Does it matter what kind of butter is served to babies?

No, though unsalted butter is healthiest. Also, some butter and ghee are made from cow’s milk; others are made from the milk of camels, goats, sheep, and other mammals. There are even butters not made from milk at all but from creamy purees of nuts (almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter), seeds (sunflower seed butter), fruits (apple butter), or other parts of plants (margarine, vegan butter).

Is butter good for baby's brain development?

Yes. Believe it or not, the brain is comprised of 50-60% fat. Particularly in the first 1,000 days of baby’s life, fats in the diet, like butter, can help support brain and overall nervous system development, by providing a range of fats, as well as energy, cholesterol, vitamin A and, to some extent, vitamin D.7 8 9 10 Together, these components help energize and regulate brain processes like motor skills development, hormone regulation, and sleep, to name a few.11 12 13 14

Keep in mind that butter is not a significant source of DHA or ARA, two long-chain fats which are vital to brain development and must be obtained from other foods so, as usual, the goal is to have a wide and varied diet to ensure babies receive all the nutrition they need.15 16

Should I add butter to baby's food to help baby gain weight?

First, consult your pediatric health professional, as there are many variables to a baby’s weight gain. Butter does contain plenty of fat and in general, fats are calorically dense and provide more than twice the calories of protein and carbohydrates, which helps provide energy for this phase of rapid weight gain and growth. But be sure to make a plan of action with baby’s doctor as there could be underlying medical reasons for the lack of weight gain. Also, if baby is under weight, take care to make sure baby is getting enough calorically dense foods (like beans, meats, and fats) and is not filling up on low-calorie foods like puffs, pouches, rice rusks, or baby biscuits or crackers.

Is butter a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Butter is not a common choking hazard, though, in theory, an individual can choke on any food. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Is butter a common allergen?

Yes. Butter is often made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children and accounts for about 20% of all childhood food allergies.17 Also, butter made from milk of other mammals (such as buffalo, goat, sheep, or yak) may provoke similar allergic reactions to butter made from cow’s milk.18

The good news is that milk allergy often resolves with time; research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6, and that many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow’s milk as early as the first birthday, with the guidance of the appropriate pediatric health professional.19

For children who are lactose intolerant, good news: butter is usually tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, as it has minimal lactose content.20

If you suspect your baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing butter. As with all allergens, start by serving a scant quantity on its own at first. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.

How do you prepare butter for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Stir a pad of unsalted butter into baby’s food, such as mashed vegetables or porridge. Cooking with butter is also okay. Only have salted butter? It’s fine to use but serve in moderation to keep tabs on sodium levels. For plant-based babies, you can swap in oils like olive oil or coconut oil. At this age, you can also offer a salt- and sugar-free pancake or other baked good made with butter.

9 to 12 months old: Continue adding a pad of butter to baby’s meals as desired. As the body grows and activity and appetite increase, baby’s intake of butter may naturally rise as a result. Fats, such as those from butter, provide an excellent source of energy for growing babies. Try offering butter on toast, vegetables cooked in butter, or butter mixed into grains.

12 to 24 months old: Play around with butter as a condiment! Offer whipped butters with spices and finely chopped herbs to accompany fish cakes, potato cakes, and more. Explore compound butters – butters mixed with spices, herbs, and other aromatics – an excellent way to infuse more flavor into meals and expand a child’s repertoire of flavors.

Nervous about baby starting solids? Our virtual course leaves no stone unturned and will teach you everything you need to know about serving babies real food.

Recipe: Carrots with Cinnamon Butter

Yield: 1 cup (125 grams)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (125 grams) fresh carrots
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) butter
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground almond or nut of choice (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter) and tree nuts (almonds, optional). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Wash, peel, and cut the carrots into age-appropriate sizes.
  2. Steam the carrots until soft, about 6 minutes in the microwave or 10 minutes on the stovetop.
  3. Transfer the carrots to a mixing bowl. If you like, mash the carrots until they are mostly smooth. A little texture is okay as long as there are no large clumps or round pieces that could present a choking hazard.
  4. Add the butter and cinnamon to the bowl. Stir to combine with the carrots.
  5. Scoop the carrots into the child’s bowl. If you like, sprinkle the ground nuts on top.
  6. Once the food comes to room temperature, serve and let the child self-feed by scooping with hands. If you’d like to encourage the use of a utensil, simply pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the bowl for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass it in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Cooked carrots keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Butter adds creaminess, nuttiness, and sweetness to foods. Use butter to add richness to cooked fruits and vegetables, toast grains and seeds, and flavor proteins like chicken, chicken liver, egg, pork, salmon, steak, trout, or venison. Try mixing seasonings like fresh herbs and spices into butter as a way to introduce new flavors.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

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