Emmentaler cheese, when pasteurized, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Emmentaler (also called emmental, emmenthal, or emmenthaler) is a firm cow’s milk cheese named after the alpine region in Switzerland. This pale yellow cheese has distinctive holes called “eyes” and a sweet, nutty flavor. When Swiss immigrants came to North America, they brought their cheesemaking traditions with them, and as the cheese grew in popularity, it took the name of their nationality rather than the region where it originated. This American-style swiss cheese is similar but not the same as the official cheese from its namesake region. Emmentaler certified by Appellation d'Origine Protégée guarantees that the cheese was made with raw milk from pasture-raised cows in the Alps, while its look-alikes in the United States and beyond are typically made with pasteurized milk.
Wei Wei, 7 months, eats a slice of emmentaler cheese.
Anjani, 11 months, eats a thin slice of emmentaler cheese.
Malden, 14 months, tries a thin slice of emmentaler cheese.
Yes, if made from pasteurized milk. Nutritionally, emmentaler cheese is rich with protein and fats to support baby’s cell structure, energy levels, and brain development. It is also a great source of calcium, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin B12—together, these nutrients support bone development, the immune system, healthy eyes, skin and hair, and the nervous system.
Outside the region where the name Emmentaler is protected by AOP, many pasteurized and unpasteurized (raw) cheeses may go by the name emmentaler, so make sure you read the label carefully. In general, unpasteurized cheeses carry a higher risk of foodborne illness. Read our cheese page for more information, and consider the risk in the context of your child.
While some cheeses have edible rinds, the rind of emmentaler cheese is inedible, so make sure to slice off the rind prior to serving.
★Tip: For vegetarian families, emmentaler cheese may contain animal-derived rennet, so read labels and look for cheeses made with plant-based rennet.
Yes. Cubes of cheese and globs of melted cheese are a common choking hazard for babies and children. To reduce the risk, slice emmentaler cheese thinly and avoid serving cheese in cubes. 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 section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Emmentaler cheese is often made from cow’s milk, which 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 dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products. 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.
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 that presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time the child has reached 3-5 years of age.
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, which have lower lactose content. Note that if a 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, an 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.
No. In general, cheese is relatively high in fat and low in fiber, qualities that slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Excessive 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.
Offering pasteurized emmentaler cheese in long, thin slices reduces the choking risk and makes it easier for babies to self-feed. Shredded emmentaler cheese can be melted into a variety of foods, but sprinkle sparingly, as large globs of melted cheese can be difficult for young babies to chew and manage in the mouth. Avoid offering any kind of cheese in cubes and large chunks.
At this age, babies develop the pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. When you see signs of this development, you can move down in size, either to grated emmentaler cheese or bite-sized pieces cut from a thin slice (continue to avoid cube shapes). Offer the cheese on its own, so baby can experience the flavor, or as part of a meal.
Continue to offer grated emmentaler or bite-sized pieces cut from a thin slice. Alternatively, move back up in size to longer, thin slices so that the toddler can practice tearing and taking bites. At this age, you can also melt the cheese over bread, tortillas, pasta, beans, or vegetables. Just make sure the cheese isn’t too hot, but also hasn’t cooled so much that it has become hard and clumpy.
Serve emmentaler cheese in thin slices or bite-sized pieces, as well as melted over bread, tortillas, pasta, beans, or vegetables. At this age, many toddlers may be ready to eat cubes of emmentaler cheese. Before serving cubes of emmentaler cheese, look for signs of mature eating skills, such as taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, and not stuffing food in their mouths.
Even when the child is exhibiting these skills, we recommend coaching the child. Only serve cheese cubes when a child is seated in an upright seat, actively engaged in mealtime, and not distracted. Demonstrate chewing a piece of cheese yourself by placing it in between your front teeth, biting down, moving the food to the side, and then chewing with your mouth open. Once you have chewed the cheese well, open your mouth to show the child how it’s broken down. Say “I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing.” Then, offer one cube of cheese for the child to eat. If they do not attempt to chew, hold off on attempting again for a few weeks. Remember, these skills take time, and it’s best to meet the individual child where they are at.
Want ideas for packed lunches? See 75 Lunches for Babies & Toddlers.
2-4 slices cheese + 12-16 slices pear + 2-3 toast strips
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (emmentaler 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. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Stew the pear until it is easily pierced with a fork. If you have a very ripe pear that easily gives when pressed, skip the cooking.
Slice the pear into ruler-thin rounds.
Slice the cheese into long, ruler-thin rectangles.
Toast the bread and cut into strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together.
Arrange the fruit, cheese, and toast on a plate that you can share with baby.
How to Serve
Hold a piece of food in the air in front of baby and let the child grab it.
Eat some cheese, fruit, and bread alongside baby to model how it’s done.
To Store: Leftover pear, emmentaler cheese, and toast keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
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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