When can babies eat cheddar cheese?
Cheddar cheese can be introduced as soon as your baby is ready for solids, though it is best to wait to serve the salty cheese regularly until after baby’s first birthday as it’s quite high in sodium. The best cheeses for babies are those that are naturally low in sodium, such as fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, mascarpone, ricotta, and Swiss cheese (or Emmental cheese).
Types of cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese can be mildly sweet, sharply acidic, or slightly bitter; creamy, crumbly, or crunchy; pearly white, pale yellow, or bright orange. Why so much variation? The color, flavor, and texture of cheddar depend on a cow’s diet and the production methods that turn its milk into one of the world’s most popular cheeses. For example, in its namesake village in England, cheddar cheese is sharp and tangy, made by hand using traditional farmhouse methods of separating the curds (the fatty solids) from the whey (the protein-packed liquids) in milk that comes from cows who are raised locally.1 In contrast, cheddar cheeses from large-scale producers in Wisconsin and other parts of the United States are often sweeter, milder, and sometimes tinted with natural food dyes like annatto seeds, carrot juice, or saffron to obtain the fiery orange color that is preferred by some consumers.2
Whichever cheddar that you choose for your family, you can count on one common characteristic of all varieties: salty, savory deliciousness.
Is cheddar cheese healthy for babies?
Yes, in moderation. Cheddar cheese contains lots of healthy fats that support cell integrity and all the amino acids that our bodies need. Plus it’s a good source of calcium to build strong bones. There are even essential nutrients like vitamin A for brain, eye, immune health, and skin health; vitamin B12 for brain development; and selenium and zinc for growth and immune function.3 4 5 That said, cheddar cheese is quite high in sodium, which in excess is not healthy for babies (or adults).6 7
Like all cheese, the quality of the cheddar depends on the quality of the cow’s milk and how the animal was raised. Cheddar made with milk from pasture-raised cows has been shown to be higher in healthy fats and other nutrients than from cows raised on grain.8 9 Unfortunately, non-organic dairy products may contain pesticide residues (including DDT, an endocrine-disrupting chemical) that have been shown to adversely affect a child’s physical, mental and behavioral health.10 11
When shopping for cheese for babies, look for the following:
- Low sodium (less than 100mg per serving for babies younger than 12 months old)
- Made from whole milk
★Tip: Life is too short for bland foods! When introducing cheddar to your child, go for the flavorful varieties like clothbound cheddar, English farmhouse cheddar, or Irish cheddar.
Is cheddar cheese a choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Cheese is a common choking hazard for babies and children.12 To reduce the risk, slice very thinly and avoid serving cheese in cubes. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Is cheddar cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Cheddar cheese is made from cow’s milk, and cow’s milk is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies.13 Research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6 and 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 their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.14 15
For those with children who are lactose intolerant, good news: cheddar cheese is usually tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, as it has low lactose content.16 17 However, aged cheeses often contain histamines, which may cause mild rashes in children who are sensitive to them.18
If you have a strong family history of milk allergy or suspect your baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing cheese of any kind. As with all allergens, start by serving a scant quantity on its own for the first couple of times, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare cheddar cheese for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Hold off on serving cheddar regularly and opt for cheeses lower in sodium such as goat cheese, mascarpone, mozzarella, ricotta, or Swiss cheese. Slicing into thin pieces (as opposed to cubes) will reduce the choking risk while still making it easy for your baby to self-feed. If you happen to have a cheddar omelet already prepared for yourself and you’d like to share, by all means do so! Just focus on cheese lower in sodium when serving cheese regularly. While they can be difficult to find, there are low sodium cheddar cheese brands out there. Just read labels closely and buy cheese that has less than 100mg of sodium per serving.
12 to 24 months old: Thinly slice cheddar cheese or grate. Make sure your child is in a safe eating environment (upright highchair, etc.) and never serve cheese on-the-go in a stroller, in a car seat, or when your toddler is running around.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
You can freeze cheese! If you aren’t sure if you’ll use a whole block of cheese before its expiration date, just pop them into an air-tight container and it should last up to 6 months more
Recipe: Broccoli Cheddar Cups
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 cup breast milk, formula, or milk of choice
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1/4 cup cheddar cheese
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and oil a 12-cup muffin tin.
- Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine the yolks with the whites. Add the milk then whisk to combine.
- Wash and mince the broccoli florets, then add to the mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Evenly distribute the egg-broccoli mixture in the muffin tin. Shred the cheese, then distribute evenly on top of the cups.
- Bake until the eggs are set and starting to brown around the edges, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let the cups cool in the pan. Serve 1 or 2 cups to your child, and store the rest in the freezer or fridge for future mealtimes.
The sharp flavor of cheddar cheese pairs well with sweet and tart fruits like apple, apricot, fig, grapes (remember to quarter), orange, and pineapple, as well as veggies like artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, parsnips, potatoes, and tomatoes. Try adding it to beef or mushroom dishes, or pair with nuts like almond and walnut.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- West County Farmhouse Cheddar. Creating Our Cheeses. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- U.S. Dairy. (2018). Do You Know Why Some Cheese Is Orange? Retrieved August 17, 2020
- The University of North Dakota Dining Services Fact Sheet. Protein. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center. Vitamin A. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center. Zinc. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Baker, S.S., Baker, R.D. (2015). Early Exposure to Dietary Sugar and Salt. Pediatrics, 135(3), 550-551. DOI:10.1542/peds.2014-4028. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI: 10.17226/25353. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- O’Callaghan, T.F., Mannion, D.T., Hennessy, D., McAuliffe, S., O’Sullivan, M., et al. (2017). Effect of pasture versus indoor feeding systems on quality characteristics, nutritional composition, and sensory and volatile properties of full-fat Cheddar cheese. Journal of Dairy Science, 100(8), 6053-6073. DOI:10.3168/jds.2016-12508. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Schwendel, B.H., Wester, T.J., Morel, P.C., Tavendale, M.H., Deadman, C., et al. (2015). Invited review: organic and conventionally produced milk-an evaluation of factors influencing milk composition. Journal of Dairy Science, 98(2), 721-746. DOI:10.3168/jds.2014-8389. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Patisaul, H. B., & Adewale, H. B. (2009). Long-term effects of environmental endocrine disruptors on reproductive physiology and behavior. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 3, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/neuro.08.010.2009
- Owino, V. O., Cornelius, C., & Loechl, C. U. (2018). Elucidating Adverse Nutritional Implications of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Mycotoxins through Stable Isotope Techniques. Nutrients, 10(4), 401. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10040401
- HealthyChildren.org. (2019). Health Issues: Choking Prevention. Retrieved May 31, 2020
- Warren CM, Jhaveri S, Warrier MR, Smith B, Gupta RS. The epidemiology of milk allergy in US children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013;110(5):370-374. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2013.02.016
- GiKids – Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. (2020, February 26). GiKids. https://gikids.org/digestive-topics/cows-milk-protein-allergy/
- Wood, R. A., Sicherer, S. H., Vickery, B. P., Jones, S. M., Liu, A. H., Fleischer, D. M., Henning, A. K., Mayer, L., Burks, A. W., Grishin, A., Stablein, D., & Sampson, H. A. (2013). The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 805-812.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060
- Porto, A. (2016). Lactose Intolerance in Infants & Children: Parent FAQs. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Dekker, P., Koenders, D., & Bruins, M. J. (2019). Lactose-Free Dairy Products: Market Developments, Production, Nutrition and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 11(3), 551. DOI: 10.3390/nu11030551. Retrieved August 17, 2020
- Chung, B. Y., Park, S. Y., Byun, Y. S., Son, J. H., Choi, Y. W., Cho, Y. S., Kim, H. O., & Park, C. W. (2017). Effect of Different Cooking Methods on Histamine Levels in Selected Foods. Annals of Dermatology, 29(6), 706–714.