Gouda cheese is best served occasionally in small amounts after baby’s first birthday due to its high sodium levels, although a taste here and there before then is fine. Choose pasteurized gouda to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
In general, the best cheeses for babies are those that are pasteurized and low in sodium, including emmentaler cheese, fresh goat cheese, labneh, mascarpone cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, paneer, fresh ricotta cheese, and swiss cheese.
Gouda has long been sold in Goudse Kaasmarkt, one of the Netherlands’ famous cheese markets. But even in the early 1900s, gouda was popular far beyond the bustling markets of its home country. Gouda wouldn’t seem to be easy to transport—it often comes in large wheels that weigh up to 16 pounds (7 kilograms)—but the traditional way of pressing the cheese in wooden molds resulted in a thick rind, making it well suited to long-distance distribution, even before modern refrigeration. Today, there are countless varieties of gouda, many flavored with spices, but only Noord-Hollandse Gouda has earned the status of Protected Designation of Origin by European law.
Adie, 12 months, eats thin slices of gouda cheese.
Julian, 15 months, eats a thin slice of gouda cheese.
Leila, 17 months, eats thin slices of gouda cheese.
No. Gouda is best served after 12 months of age, as the cheese tends to be high in sodium, which is not healthy when consumed in excess. After baby’s first birthday, gouda can be healthy in moderation. Note that different varieties of gouda are flavored with herbs, honey, spices, or by cold-smoking, all of which are safe for toddlers, although smoked gouda tends to be even higher in sodium.
Nutritionally, this cheese has plenty of healthy fats to support cell structure, plus protein for the creation of new cells. Gouda is also a great source of calcium to build strong bones, vitamin B12 for brain development and healthy blood, and selenium and zinc for growth and immune function.
Gouda cheese can be made with either pasteurized or unpasteurized (raw) milk and may be aged for varying lengths of time. In general, unpasteurized cheeses carry a higher risk of foodborne illness, but those aged for more than 60 days – like many types of gouda – pose a lower risk. Read our cheese page for more information and consider the risk in the context of your individual child.
Yes. Cheese is a common choking hazard for babies and children. To reduce the risk, slice thinly, grate, and avoid serving in cubes or melted globs. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within 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. Gouda cheese is made from cow’s milk, and cow’s milk 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 some gouda cheese may be made from goat or sheep’s milk and dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products. That said, there’s good news: milk allergy 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. Note: Aged cheeses generally contain histamines, which may cause rashes in children who are sensitive to them.
Milk is a known trigger 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. 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).
Although it is not an allergy, lactose intolerance can result in gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea, after ingestion of dairy items containing lactose. 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, including some gouda varieties, which have lower lactose content. 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 meals.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
Probably not. Aged cheeses, like aged gouda, are fermented and naturally contain certain beneficial bacteria, which may have a positive influence on the microbiome and possibly digestion, but more research is needed. 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.
Avoid. Hold off on serving gouda regularly, though if you happen to have a meal made with gouda and you’d like to share a taste with baby, feel free to do so on occasion. Just make sure the gouda is pasteurized and does not contain honey.
Cut pasteurized gouda into thin slices or thin bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, grate the cheese. Serve aged gouda in moderation (due to high sodium content). Aged gouda may be grated atop other foods or sliced thinly. Continue to avoid serving cheese in cube shapes, as these present a high choking risk.
Learn more about how much sodium babies should have on our Sodium FAQ page.
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter, gouda 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 under 12 months of age.
Butter one side of each slice of bread.
Thinly slice the gouda. Lay the cheese on the unbuttered sides of two bread slices.
Wash, dry, and halve the apple. Remove the core, seeds, and stem. Cut the apple into very thin slices and lay the slices on top of the gouda.
Cover the apple slices with the other slices of bread, butter side facing up.
Set a skillet on medium-low heat. Place the sandwiches in the skillet with the butter side facing down. If need be, cook the sandwiches in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Cook until the bread begins to turn golden. Flip the sandwich over to lightly toast the other side. Continue to cook until the cheese melts and the apple slices have softened. Remove the sandwiches from the heat. Cool to room temperature.
Serve the Melts
Cut the apple gouda melt for your toddler in half and in half again, forming either squares or triangles.
Offer the apple gouda melt squares or triangles to your toddler and let the child self-feed. If the child needs help, pass the melt in the air for the child to grab from you.
Eat your sandwich alongside your toddler to model how it’s done!
To Store: Apple Gouda Melts keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
C. Aycinena Marcos, MS, RD. Registered Dietitian and Public Health/Clinical Nutritionist
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
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