Cheddar cheese is best served after baby’s first birthday due to moderate sodium levels, although a taste here and there before then is fine. Choose pasteurized cheddar to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
In general, the best cheeses for babies are those that are pasteurized and low in sodium, including emmentaler cheese, fresh goat cheese, labneh, mascarpone cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, paneer, fresh ricotta cheese, and swiss cheese.
The color, flavor, and texture of cheddar cheese 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. 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 orange color that is preferred by some consumers.
Sebastián, 10 months, eats low-sodium cheddar cheese cut into ruler-thin slices.
Adie, 13 months, eats an aged cheddar cheese for the first time.
Bobbi, 15 months, eats cheddar cheese.
In moderation after the first birthday, as the cheese tends to be high in sodium, which is not healthy when consumed in excess. 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.
Cheddar cheese can be made with either pasteurized or unpasteurized (raw) milk and may be aged for varying lengths of time. In general, unpasteurized cheeses carry a higher risk of foodborne illness, but those aged for more than 60 days – like many types of cheddar – pose a lower risk. Read our cheese page for more information and consider the risk in the context of an individual child.
When shopping for cheese for infants under 12 months of age, look for the following:
Low sodium (less than 100 mg per serving)
Made from whole milk (ideally)
Yes. Cheese is a common choking hazard for babies and children. To reduce the risk, slice thinly, grate, and avoid serving in cubes or melted globs. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Cheddar cheese is typically 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 in the United States. Keep in mind that some cheddar cheese may be made from goat or sheep’s milk and dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products. That said, there’s good news: milk allergy often disappears with time. 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. Note: Aged cheeses generally contain histamines, which may cause rashes in children who are sensitive to them.
Milk is a known trigger of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES. FPIES is a delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration. Thankfully, like other forms of milk allergy, FPIES which presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time the child has reached 3-5 years of age. While the exact rates of FPIES are unknown, it is believed to be an uncommon condition (although better recognition of the disease has led to increased reporting in recent years).
Although it is not an allergy, lactose intolerance can result in gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea, after ingestion of dairy items containing lactose. For those with older children who are lactose intolerant (keep in mind this is uncommon for infants and toddlers), some good news: compared with milk and certain other dairy products, many cheeses may be better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, particularly aged cheeses, including some cheddar varieties, which have lower lactose content. Note that if your child is lactose-intolerant, it’s important to find calcium-rich foods to consume regularly to ensure a balanced diet and support bone health. Search for naturally low-lactose cheeses and dairy products labeled “lactose-free.”
If you suspect baby may be allergic to milk, consult an allergist before introducing dairy products like cheese. Based on baby’s risk factors and history, your allergist may recommend allergy testing, or may instead advise dairy introduction under medical supervision in the office. If the risk is low, you may be advised to go ahead and introduce dairy in the home setting. As with all common allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Yes. Cheddar cheese is often sold under the name “Tasty cheese” in Australia and New Zealand. Like other forms of cheddar cheese, hold off on serving Tasty cheese regularly to babies until closer to the first birthday, due to its moderate sodium levels. Feel free to share low-sodium Tasty cheeses with babies (under 100 mg per serving), just make sure to offer in thin slices to reduce the choking risk.
No. In general, cheese is relatively high in fat and low in fiber, qualities that slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Significant consumption of cheese and milk can be a contributing factor in constipation. Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Hold off on serving cheddar regularly, though if you happen to have a meal made with cheddar and you’d like to share a taste with baby, feel free to do so on occasion. Just make sure the cheese is pasteurized. If you can find a low-sodium cheddar (under 100 mg of sodium per serving), feel free to serve in thin slices.
Cut pasteurized cheddar into thin slices or thin bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, grate the cheese and serve the cheese on its own or folded into meals. Continue to avoid serving cheese in cube shapes, as these present a high choking risk.
Learn more about how much sodium babies should have on our Sodium FAQ page.
12 egg cups
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter, cheese) and egg. Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.
Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C). Grease a standard-sized 12-c muffin tin with butter.
Finely chop the broccoli florets, garlic, and onion.
Warm the oil in a skillet set on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
Add the broccoli and cook until the broccoli has brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
While the veggies are cooling, whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl.
Stir in the cooled veggies, shredded cheese, and pepper. Evenly distribute the mixture in the muffin cups.
Bake until the egg cups are slightly puffed, firm to the touch, and golden, about 20 minutes. Let the egg cups cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes before releasing them.
Before serving, cut the egg cup into age-appropriate sizes.
Serve the Egg Cups
Offer egg cups and let your child self-feed.
If help is needed, hold an egg cup in the air in front of your child, then let them grab it from you.
Eat an egg cup alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Broccoli Cheddar Egg Cups keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months. When freezing, keep them from sticking together with this method: evenly space the egg cups on a tray, then place the tray in the freezer. Once the egg cups are fully frozen (about 30 minutes later) transfer them to an airtight container.
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.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Registered dietitian and public health/clinical nutritionist
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