Clams, when cooked thoroughly and finely chopped to reduce the risk of choking, can technically be introduced as early as 6 months of age, but we strongly encourage waiting until closer to 12 months of age. Here’s why: Clams may contain varying levels of cadmium, a toxic metal that is particularly harmful when consumed by infants regularly. Clams also present an elevated risk of foodborne illness, to which babies are more at risk for severe symptoms. That said, if clams are an important part of your diet and you’d like to share with baby, aim for moderation, take care to cook them fully, and cut them for baby’s age and eating ability.
Clams carry an elevated risk of foodborne illness, and babies are more at risk for severe symptoms. Never serve raw or undercooked clams to babies. Clams may also contain cadmium, a heavy metal that can affect children’s neurological development. Lastly, the rubbery, round shape of clams make them a potential choking hazard, so read our preparation suggestions carefully before serving.
Max, 17 months, eats homemade clam chowder for the first time
Leila, 17 months, tastes clams in her spaghetti for the first time.
It’s complicated. While clams are rich in protein and offer essential nutrients like choline, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, and iron, they also contain varying levels of cadmium, a heavy metal that can negatively affect neurological development when consumed regularly. Clams also carry an elevated risk of food poisoning from vibriosis. When cooking fresh clams, take great care to cook them thoroughly.
Avoid offering baby dried, pickled, and smoked clams, as well as clam and clamato juices, all of which are best reserved for after a child’s first birthday due to high sodium levels.
Yes. Because clams are rubbery and slippery (and often round), they present a high choking risk for babies. To minimize the risk, finely chop cooked clams before serving. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes, though it depends on where you live as to whether they are categorized as such. Clams are a type of molluscan shellfish, and molluscan shellfish are not considered to be a common allergens in the United States, which only recognizes crustacean shellfish (such as crab, shrimp, and lobster) as common allergens. However, many other regulatory agencies around the world do recognize mollusks as common food allergens. Individuals with a clam allergy are more likely to experience reactions to other shellfish in the mollusk family (mussels, octopus, oyster, scallop, snail, squid) and, to a lesser degree, in the crustacean family (crawfish, crab, lobster, shrimp). If you suspect baby may be allergic to shellfish, consult an allergist before introducing clams.
Interestingly, shellfish allergies commonly develop in adulthood, and for those who develop the allergy in childhood, most will not outgrow it. Additionally, being allergic to shellfish does not mean that an individual will also have a finned fish allergy, as they are not closely related. However, you may need to be careful about the risk of shellfish proteins cross contaminating finned fish and other seafood, as they are often prepared in the same facilities using shared tools and cooking materials.
As you would do with all potential allergens, introduce clams by serving a small quantity at first, and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction during the first few servings, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
After the first birthday, in moderation, although a taste here and there before then is fine. Generally, canned clams are quite high in sodium, which is not healthy in excess. Rinsing canned clams may help reduce the sodium. Lastly, look for cans marked “BPA-free,” when available. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to line the interior of some food containers, and studies show that frequent exposure can affect baby’s neurological development, among other issues.
When preparing shelled clams, first check that the clam is fresh. It should smell briny (not fishy or sour) and its shell may be tightly shut or slightly open. If the shell is open, test that the clam is safe to eat: lightly tap your finger on the shell or neck emerging from the shell; if the shell does not snap shut, or if the body does not react to your touch, toss the clam. Clams with cracked or broken shells should also be discarded.
As soon as they are developmentally ready to start solids, as long as the clams are thoroughly cooked and cut for baby’s age to reduce choking risk, as steamed clams are quite slippery and rubbery.
In moderation after the first birthday, although a taste here and there before then is fine. Just make sure the clams are cut for the child’s age and eating ability to reduce choking risk. Sharing foods as a family is important, just aim to offer fried foods in moderation, as they're often high in sodium and trans fats.
No. Do not serve uncooked shellfish, as doing so greatly increases the risk of foodborne illness, and babies are more susceptible to severe symptoms. Whether to serve raw clams to a toddler or older child is a personal decision for which you must calculate risk. Raw clams pose a very high risk of foodborne illness, especially Vibrio, a harmful bacteria that causes watery diarrhea among other symptoms in babies, children, and adults alike. The risk of severe illness is even higher in individuals with complex medical backgrounds, taking stomach acid reducing medications, and/or who are immunocompromised.
No. In general, clams are relatively rich in protein and lack fiber, qualities that slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about your baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Avoid due to the risk of foodborne illness and possibility of cadmium exposure. An occasional taste is fine as long as the shellfish is fully cooked and finely chopped to reduce the choking risk.
Finely chop or thinly slice clams that have been thoroughly cooked. Serve the clams on their own or mix clams into other foods like pasta, rice, or stew. At this age, canned clams cut into age-appropriate pieces may also be served in moderation.
As the toddler’s eating skills advance, offer bite-sized pieces of cooked clam for the child to pick up with a utensil, either on their own or as part of a dish.
When you feel a child is ready, you can try offering whole, cooked clams. Only offer whole clams when you are confident the child can and will use their molars to chew, since clams require a lot of chewing to break down in the mouth. Try modeling before serving whole clams: Open your mouth, place the piece of food on your molars and explain, “I am using my strong back teeth to chew this, and I have to chew it A LOT.” Chew with your mouth open, and you may want to count to 10 and model the motion of chewing with your hands as you do it. Before you swallow, open your mouth and show them how broken down the food is. Then, hand over a clam to the child, and let them try to do the same thing you did. Lastly, know that toddlers will frequently spit out bites of food as they learn how to chew challenging textures—this doesn’t mean they dislike the food, only that they are learning.
For more information, see the Solid Starts Fish guide—the world’s only guide to seafood for babies and toddlers younger than age 2.
1 ½ c (360 ml)
12 months +
1 6 ½-oz (184-g) can chopped clams
1 c (240 ml) plain yogurt
1 tsp (2 g) onion powder
½ tsp (1 g) garlic powder
¼ tsp (½ g) paprika
2 slices bread
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (yogurt), shellfish (clam), and wheat (bread). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced. Always check for potential allergens in ingredients listed on the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as bread and yogurt. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Open the can of clams, drain the clam juice into a bowl, and place the clams in a colander. Rinse the clams to remove excess sodium.
Finely chop the clams to minimize the risk of choking. Stir the clams into the yogurt.
Zest and juice the lemon. Stir 2 tsp (10 ml) of juice, the lemon zest, and the spices into the dip. Store the lemon for another use.
Season the dip with some of the reserved clam juice or salt to taste. Start with a small amount, taste, then add more to your liking.
Serve the dip with toasted bread cut into age-appropriate sizes.
Serve the Dip
Offer clam dip and let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, swipe a piece of bread in the clam dip, hold it in front of the child, and let them grab it from you.
Eat some clam dip and bread alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Clam Dip keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 day. The dip does not freeze well.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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