When can babies eat cream cheese?
Wait until well after your baby’s first birthday before offering cream cheese and instead opt for mascarpone or ricotta cheese. Cream cheese is full of sodium, which you want to limit, and it is also fairly sticky, which makes it a choking hazard for babies.
The best cheeses for babies between 6 and 12 months old are those cheeses naturally low in sodium, such as fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, mascarpone, and fresh ricotta cheese. These cheeses also have the added benefit of being soft and easier for little ones to eat.
Is cream cheese healthy for babies?
It depends. Cream cheese has a fair amount of Vitamin A, calcium, fat, and protein, but it’s also high in sodium, which you want to limit in your baby’s diet. Early and excessive exposure to sodium is thought to play a role in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.1 To complicate matters, the fat in cream cheese is primarily the omega-6 type, which the body needs but can cause problems in high quantities.
When selecting cheese for your babies, you want to look for a cheese that is:
- Low sodium (less than 100 mg per serving for babies younger than 12 months)
- Whole fat
- Without added preservatives or sugars
Once your baby turns one, they can eat a wider variety of cheeses, but keep an eye on sodium levels and other added ingredients.
Is cream cheese a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Most cheeses (with the exception of very smooth varieties such as ricotta cheese) are a choking hazard for babies. Cream cheese can be soft, but it’s sticky. To minimize the risk, only serve a very thin smear or try whipped cream cheese.
Is cream cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Dairy products, including cheese, are among the top food allergens. 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 with the guidance of their doctors.2 3
Because it is high in sodium, cream cheese should certainly not be the first dairy product introduced to your baby, (plain yogurt or ricotta cheese would be much better), but once your baby is ready for dairy, start by serving a small quantity and monitor closely for the first few exposures for any adverse reaction.
How do you prepare cream 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: Avoid due to high sodium levels.
12 to 24 months old: Think of cream cheese as a spread or a dip—not necessarily for bagels or bread (which offer very little nutrition for babies), but for fruit and vegetables. For older babies and toddlers, you may find whipped cream cheese to be a fun dip for vegetables.
Cream cheese can be a good vehicle for introducing hot peppers to your babies once they’re ready for the heat of spicy foods. Finely dice a scant amount of pepper, mix well with cream cheese, then spread on top of thin rice crackers or veggies.
Recipe: Cauliflower with Whipped Cream Cheese
- 1 head cauliflower
- Cream cheese
- Olive oil
- Wash the cauliflower and cut away the florets from the thick stem.
- Steam the florets until soft.
- Whisk a few spoonfuls of cream cheese with a small pour of olive oil and a few drops of water.
- Serve the whole florets upside down on a bed of the whipped cream cheese.
Cream cheese is quite versatile, but pairs especially well with broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, strawberries, and sardines.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25353
- 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