When can babies eat cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese, if it is low in sodium (less than 100 mg per serving), may be introduced to babies as soon as they are ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Where does cottage cheese come from?
Cottage cheese has roots in the lands connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe, where humans learned how to turn milk into curds and whey in ancient times. As Europeans colonized the Americas, they brought cows and dairy traditions with them. Originally known as farmer’s cheese and queso del país on American farms and homesteads, cottage cheese made use of leftover whey after skimming fatty cream from fresh milk to make butter. Warming this skimmed milk made curds that could be eaten fresh, pressed into forms, or seasoned with cream, whole milk, and salt. This latter method led to the modern cottage cheese that is widely available today.
Is cottage cheese healthy for babies?
Yes, when low in sodium. Homemade cottage cheese, as well as “no salt added” and some “low-sodium” store-bought cottage cheese products, are nutritious additions with plenty of protein, B vitamins including folate, and other vital nutrients like calcium, selenium, iodine, and zinc. Some varieties (sometimes called “cultured cottage cheese”) even add probiotics, which may support gut health, while offering a fuller-bodied, tangier flavor.
When shopping for cottage cheese, look for brands that have less than 100 mg of sodium per serving. Cottage cheese can be exceedingly high in sodium, with some brands exceeding 1,000 mg of sodium per serving. Thankfully, rinsing cottage cheese in a fine-mesh colander under cold water can reduce sodium levels by 60 percent.1
★ Tip: If you’d like to serve fruit with cottage cheese, opt for chopping fresh fruit and mixing it in yourself. While there are store-bought blends of cottage cheese and fruit, these are often very high in added sugar, which is best avoided for babies.
Is cottage cheese the same as farmer's cheese?
Cottage cheese is a type of farmer’s cheese. There are many types of farmer’s cheese in the world, and they often consist of pressed cheese curds made from cow’s milk. After the curds are removed from whey, they are shaped into a form to further drain moisture from the cheese—similar to how paneer, queso blanco, and queso fresco are made. Consequently, farmer’s cheeses tend to be firmer than cottage cheese, whose curds are often moistened with added cream or whole milk. While they differ in texture, farmer’s cheese and cottage cheese share a similar flavor and they often contain lots of added sodium for taste and preservation.
Is cottage cheese a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Cottage cheese is not a common choking hazard for babies though, in theory, an individual can choke on any food. The curds in cottage cheese vary in size and while baby may swallow them whole, the risk of choking is very low if baby is in an upright seat and self-feeding. (Placing food in baby’s mouth increases the risk of choking).2 3 If you feel nervous, you can flatten large curds gently with the back of a fork 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.
Is cottage cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Cottage cheese is typically made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies.4 Keep in mind that dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products.5 If baby is allergic to dairy, know that it is an allergy that 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.6
Milk is a known cause 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.7 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).8
For those with older children who are lactose intolerant (keep in mind this is uncommon for infants and toddlers), cottage cheese is not considered low in lactose. However, there are lactose-free brands available. 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.
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 servings.
How do you serve cottage cheese to babies with baby-led weaning?
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.
6 to 12 months old: Serve no- or low-sodium (less than 100 mg per serving) plain cottage cheese in a bowl and let baby try to self-feed with their hands. Alternatively, offer cottage cheese mixed into other soft, scoopable foods or spread onto strips of toast. Avoid serving cottage cheese with honey due to the risk of infant botulism, and hold off on store-bought cottage cheese mixed with fruit, due to added sweeteners. Can’t find low sodium cottage cheese? Simply rinse the cottage cheese under water in a fine mesh colander to reduce sodium levels.
12 to 24 months old: Continue to offer no- or low-sodium cottage cheese, on its own or paired with savory and sweet foods alike. For toddlers who love cottage cheese, use it as a vehicle to introduce new flavors from herbs and spices. Serve cottage cheese with a small bowl of seasoning on the side, and invite toddlers to flavor the cheese as they see fit. To encourage the use of utensils, pre-load a spoon and pass it in the air for the child to grab, or rest a pre-loaded spoon next to the bowl for toddlers to pick up.
Mix up your mornings with ideas from our guide, 50 Breakfasts for Babies & Toddlers.
What are recipe ideas for cooking with cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese adds a pop of tangy flavor to cooked vegetables, meatballs, pancakes, pasta sauce, and scrambled eggs. Its creamy, tangy flavor can also stand in for yogurt in baked goods, breakfast bowls, and smoothies. Just like ricotta cheese, you can whip cottage cheese to create a creamy dip to serve alongside broccoli florets, cucumber spears, or sweet potato wedges. And of course, cottage cheese tastes delicious on its own. Try pairing cottage cheese with sweet fruits and add a sprinkle of finely ground nuts or seeds. Keep in mind that the curds in cottage cheese retain their structure when exposed to heat. This texture can be a good thing in frittatas, fritters, and pancakes, but if you prefer a smoother finish, seek out brands of cottage cheese marked “small curd.”
Recipe: Farmer's Lunch
Yield: 1 cup (240 milliliters)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+
Farmer’s Lunch is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of meal. Use whatever fruits and vegetables you like. The goal is a simple lunch that comes together quickly with minimal effort.
- 1 slice bread
- ⅓ cup (80 milliliters) cottage cheese
- 1 cucumber
- 1 plum tomato
- ¼ cup (60 milliliters) blueberries
- salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: 12 months+)
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (cottage cheese) 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 cottage cheese. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.
- Toast the bread and then cut the bread into strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together.
- Spread a thin layer of cottage cheese on baby’s toast strips, then place them on a plate for baby. Scoop the rest of the cottage cheese into a bowl for baby.
- Wash the cucumber, tomato, and blueberries. Cut the cucumber into spears and the tomato into large wedges and flatten the blueberries. Place the cucumber and tomato in baby’s bowl and place the flatted blueberries on the side of baby’s bowl for baby to pick up individually.
Serve the Farmer’s Lunch
- Place the bowl and blueberries in front of baby and let baby self-feed. If baby struggles to pick up the food, pass a piece in the air to baby or preload an age-appropriate utensil for baby to grab from you.
To Store: Leftover cottage cheese keeps in an airtight container for 1 week. Leftover cucumber spears, tomato wedges, and blueberries keep in an airtight container for 4 days.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Vermeulen, R. T., Sedor, F. A., & Kimm, S. Y. (1983). Effect of water rinsing on sodium content of selected foods. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 82(4), 394–396. Retrieved May 16, 2022
- Fangupo, L. J., Heath, A. L. M., Williams, S. M., Erickson Williams, L. W., Morison, B. J., Fleming, E. A., Taylor, B. J., Wheeler, B. J., & Taylor, R. W. (2016). A Baby-Led Approach to Eating Solids and Risk of Choking. PEDIATRICS, 138(4), e20160772. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-0772. Retrieved May 16, 2022
- Shune, S. E., Moon, J. B., & Goodman, S. S. (2016b). The Effects of Age and Preoral Sensorimotor Cues on Anticipatory Mouth Movement During Swallowing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 59(2), 195–205. DOI: 10.1044/2015_jslhr-s-15-0138. Retrieved May 16, 2022
- Warren, C.M., Jhaveri, S., Warrier, M.R., Smith, B., Gupta, R.S. (2013). The epidemiology of milk allergy in US children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 110(5):370-374. DOI:10.1016/j.anai.2013.02.016. Retrieved May 16, 2022
- El-Agamy, E. (2007). The challenge of cow milk protein allergy. Small Ruminant Research, 68, 64-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.smallrumres.2006.09.016. Retrieved May 18, 2022
- Mukkada, V. (2019). Cow’s milk protein allergy. GI Kids. Retrieved May 16, 2022
- Nowak-Węgrzyn A. (2015). Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome and allergic proctocolitis. Allergy Asthma Proc. 36(3):172-84. doi: 10.2500/aap.2015.36.3811. Retrieved May 16, 2022
- National Organization for Rare Disorders. Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome. Retrieved May 6, 2022