Cream Cheese

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Dairy
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May cause allergic reactions.

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a block of cream cheese on a table before it is being prepared for a baby starting solid food

When can babies eat cream cheese?

Cream cheese, when low in sodium, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. When shopping for cream cheese for babies, look for products with less than 100 mg of sodium per serving. Can’t find low-sodium cream cheese? Try mascarpone cheese.

Where does cream cheese come from?

Cream cheese got its name from the time-honored practice of skimming rich fat—the cream—from the top of milk, then letting it ripen. Humans have been making cheese this way around the Mediterranean Sea since the 7th century B.C., and when Europeans colonized the Americas, they brought dairy processing traditions like this one with them. Later, the advent of refrigeration and railway construction enabled quick transport of dairy from rural farms to urban centers, creating new markets that spurred innovation in cheese-making. Over time, entrepreneurs found ways to ramp up production and extend shelf-life, adding stabilizers to keep the cheese intact. The result is the American-style cream cheese widely eaten today.

Sebastián, 10 months, tastes cream cheese that has been thinly spread on toasted strips of Ezekiel bread.
Max, 13 months old, eats bread with cream cheese on it for the first time.
Malden, 13 months, eats a toasted bagel with cream cheese thinly spread on it.

Is cream cheese healthy for babies?

In moderation, due to the cheese’s potentially high sodium content. Cream cheese is a good source of vitamin A for skin and immune support and full-fat cream cheese provides fat to fuel baby’s cells. Cream cheese also contains a touch of vitamin B12 to support nervous system development. However, certain brands may contain a fair amount of added sodium (including many flavored cream cheeses), which, in excess, is not healthy for babies.

Is cream cheese a common choking hazard for babies?

It can be, if spread thickly or served in globs. To reduce the risk, spread thinly on other age-appropriate foods. 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 cream cheese a common allergen?

Yes. Cream 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.1 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.2 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.3

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.4

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, cream cheese may be better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.5 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 servings.

Is cream cheese the same as neufchatel cheese?

In North America, cream cheese and neufchatel cheese are almost the same. They are both made of pasteurized cow’s milk with stabilizers to keep the cheese intact. They are creamy and spreadable at room temperature. They taste fresh with a mild tang, and because their texture is comparable, they can be used interchangeably in many recipes. Their main difference is the amount of milk fat. By American law, neufchatel must contain between 20 and 33% fat compared to at least 33% for cream cheese. American-style neufchatel is not the same as Neufchâtel, the soft cheese with a bloomy rind from the Normandy region of France.

How do you prepare cream cheese for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Spread a thin layer of low-sodium cream cheese on toast for baby to grab and munch on. If you’d like to offer baby bagel or bialy with cream cheese, go right ahead. Baby won’t consume much of the bagel, but gnawing and munching can be great for oral motor skill development. Store-bought cream cheese pre-mixed with fruit and sweeteners is best reserved until after the second birthday due to added sugar. Steer clear of cream cheese with honey until 12 months of age to minimize the risk of infant botulism.

9 to 12 months old: As baby’s fine motor control develops, try sticking fruit or vegetables in a bowl of low-sodium whipped cream cheese for baby to grab and dip. You can also add cream cheese to egg strips or frittata, or stir it into mashed vegetables or grains for baby.

12 to 24 months old: Anything goes! At this age you need not limit yourself to low-sodium cream cheese and can explore any style, including flavored cream cheeses. For toddlers who can’t get enough of it, use cream cheese as a vehicle to introduce new flavors from herbs and spices. You can also offer cream cheese with a small bowl of seasoning on the side, and invite toddlers to flavor the cheese. Toddlers enjoy choice and like to practice their independence, so if they reject seasoning, don’t fret. Simply presenting new flavors builds familiarity and positive associations with food over time.

Get easy, adaptable ideas for meals to share with baby in our guide, 75 Lunches for Babies & Toddlers.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with cream cheese?

Use cream cheese to add richness to mashed potatoes, omelets, and sauces for chicken and pasta. Stir it into chowder or tomato soup, stuff it into bell peppers or mushrooms, or whip it with herbs to make a savory dip. Cream cheese can also be a vehicle for introducing hot peppers; the creaminess helps blunt their spicy zing.

Recipe: Herby Cream Cheese

Yield: 1 cup (240 milliliters)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (cream cheese). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. Always check the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as cream cheese. Added ingredients may include common allergens and honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.

Directions

  1. Remove the cream cheese from the refrigerator and let the cream cheese rest at room temperature to soften while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Prepare the herbs. Set aside 3 to 4 sprigs of mint and 8 to 10 chives and store the rest in the refrigerator for another use. Wash, dry, and finely chop the herbs. Transfer the herbs to a mixing bowl. If you like, you may use dried herbs or swap the chives and mint for whichever herbs you have on hand.
  3. Wash, dry, and zest the lemon. Place the lemon zest in the mixing bowl with the herbs.
  4. Juice the lemon, then pour 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of juice into the mixing bowl with the herbs. Store the rest in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.
  5. Add the whipped cream cheese to the mixing bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients.

Serve the Cream Cheese

  1. Scoop some dip for baby serve alongside fresh fruit or cooked vegetables, on a bagel, slice of sprouted bread, or teething rusk.
  2. Let baby self-feed.

To Store: Herby Cream Cheese keeps in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Flavor Pairings

Cream cheese is quite versatile, but pairs especially well with chicken, corn, egg, rice, pasta, and wheat.

Reviewed by

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

  1. 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 June 9, 2022
  2. 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
  3. Mukkada, V. (2019). Cow’s milk protein allergy. GI Kids. Retrieved January 24, 2022
  4. 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 January 24, 2022
  5. Scrimshaw NS, Murray EB. The acceptability of milk and milk products in populations with a high prevalence of lactose intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr 1988; 48:1079. Copyright © 1988 American Society for Clinical Nutrition.