Kefir (from cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, or camel’s milk) can be introduced in solid food as soon as baby is ready to start solids, as long as it does not contain honey or added sweeteners and as long as it is served as a solid food (dip, etc.) and not a drink until 12 months of age. Dairy in the form of a solid food is okay to introduce before 12 months of age, though babies should not be given cow’s milk as a drink until closer to 12 months, because a baby’s digestive system may not well tolerate cow milk protein in large quantities. Also, compared to breast milk or formula, cow’s milk is nutritionally incomplete, which means that it does not provide all of the nutrients babies need to thrive. For more see our Milk FAQs.
Kefir originated in the Caucasus region and is a traditional beverage throughout Eastern Europe, Russia, and Southwest Asia, where it goes by names such as кефир and gıpı. There are thin, drinkable versions of yogurt, and both yogurt and kefir are fermented milk products, but their preparation is different. Kefir is made by fermenting milk with kefir “grains” (not true grains, but rather dehydrated clusters of bacteria and yeast) and it tends to contain more diverse bacteria than commercial yogurt. These grains can also be added to water or coconut water to make water kefir or tibicos (we’ll be focusing primarily on milk kefir here.)
While kefir is most often enjoyed on its own as a drink, it also makes a great dip, a delicious creamy base for soups (like Lithuanian šaltibarščiai), or a way to add richness to baked goods (similar to how you would use buttermilk.)
Bennett, 7 months, eats kefir for the first time as a finger paint
Julian, 12 months, drinks kefir for the first time.
Amelia, 14 months, tastes kefir for the first time.
Yes—but only as a dip or in another solid food preparation. Wait until 12 months of age to serve kefir as a drink.
Kefir is bursting with key nutrients such as the all-important calcium for bone development, vitamin A for eye, skin, and immune health, all B-vitamins for energy, zinc for immune health, and potassium. Additionally, kefir from animal milk often contains some vitamin D—either naturally from the animal’s diet or added to the final product. In general, benefits of kefir include ample protein and carbohydrates to fuel cell growth, plus plenty of healthy fats that are an important source of energy and vital for cell structure, metabolism, brain and nervous system development.
As you would with yogurt, avoid low-fat and non-fat kefir and opt for full-fat varieties. Babies needs lots of fat at this age to support cell structure, metabolism, brain, gut, immune, and nervous system development.
Notably, the probiotic cultures that turn milk into kefir can be beneficial for babies, whose microbiome (the friendly bacteria that live in the digestive tract) matures in the first few years. Because the microbiome may influence heart, brain, metabolic, and especially immune health, regular intake of probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, or its cousin yogurt, can help build beneficial microbial colonies in the gut. Kefir may even be a more “powerful” probiotic than yogurt because of its greater diversity of bacteria and yeast strains.
Concerned about the effervescence in kefir? There’s nothing to fear. The fermentation process causes carbon dioxide, which gives kefir its fizz. Also, there may be a trace amount of alcohol present in kefir, especially if homemade. The good news is that many store-bought milk kefirs are made to be free of alcohol.
No, though in theory an individual can choke on any food or liquid. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and never put kefir in a bottle or sippy cup.
Yes. Kefir is often made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about 20% of all childhood food allergies. And, while kefir may be made from other milks, 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 appropriate pediatric health professionals.
For those with older children who are lactose intolerant (uncommon for infants), more good news: because kefir is fermented, it may be better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, as it has lower lactose content than regular milk.
If you have a strong family history of milk allergy or suspect that baby may be allergic to dairy products, you can consult an allergist before introducing kefir. The allergist may advise you that the risk of home-based introduction is low. Alternatively, you may be offered the opportunity to introduce kefir under medical supervision in the clinic, also known as an oral food challenge. As with all common allergens, start by serving a small quantity for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
No. Babies’ immune systems are still developing, and raw milk kefir can harbor pathogenic bacteria and other potential contaminants that can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses, which can be fatal to babies. Pasteurization—the process of heating a food to a certain temperature to kill bacteria—is fundamental to reducing the risk of foodborne illness and thus making food safer to eat. For these reasons and more, many medical organizations recommend that all milk for human consumption should be pasteurized. In kefir making, pasteurization of milk occurs before the probiotic grains are added to create kefir, so the probiotic benefits of kefir are maintained.
Full-fat (or whole milk), pasteurized, plain kefir served as a dip or incorporated into other foods is best for babies. While there are many plant-based kefirs on the market, made from coconut, almond, cashew, and other milks, know that their nutritional content varies and they may not be a reliable source of calcium, vitamin D, or other nutrients like protein and fat for children.
It can be, depending on baby’s age. Before 12 months of age babies should only be drinking breast milk, formula and if desired, very small amounts of water. After 12 months of age and assuming they have a balanced diet, offering coconut or water kefir as an occasional drink is fine. These alternatives to animal-derived kefir still contain similar benefits of the gut-supporting microbes as milk kefir, though they typically don’t offer fats, proteins, calcium, vitamin A, or vitamin D. Coconut water does contain many electrolyte minerals and natural sugars. Take note, some coconut or water kefirs can contain alcohol from fermentation and may not be appropriate for children. Read labels closely.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Offer full-fat (whole milk), pasteurized, plain kefir mixed into meals or as a solid food (like kefir cheese) but not as a drink. Add kefir into porridge, buckwheat, or mashed potatoes. To serve kefir like yogurt, try mixing in nut or seed butters to thicken the consistency and boost nutrients. You can also mix in finely chopped herbs and spices and offer as a dip. Alternatively, offer strained, thicker kefir varieties, much like Greek yogurt, or kefir cheese, if you have access to it, or you can try straining it yourself at home, which is surprisingly easy.
At this age, it’s fine to offer kefir both in meals and as a drink. You can even try a traditional savory kefir drink with finely chopped mint as a refreshing beverage for your toddler. Note that at this age, it is very common for kids to consume too much dairy—between cow’s milk, yogurt, and cheese—which can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Remember, children only need around 2 to 2.5 servings of dairy per day or an equivalent calcium-rich food. Check out our Milk FAQs for more information.
Want a fun food for teething? Try blending kefir with fresh fruit and freezing into popsicle molds.
1/4 cup / 60 milliliters
1 tablespoon (5.5 grams) minced fresh mint leaves
½ cup (120 milliliters) kefir
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) lemon juice
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy. Only serve after this allergen has been safely introduced.
Stir all ingredients together in a small cup.
Serve: Offer a very small amount (2 ounces at most) of the mint kefir in a small open cup. Model cup use by bringing it to your mouth and taking a small sip, then offer it to the child for them to try. For more tips on this process, see our Cup Drinking FAQs.
To Store: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Kefir has a tartness that is often even more acidic than yogurt. That means it goes well with bright fruit flavors, such as blueberry, raspberry, banana, pomegranate, kiwi, pear, or strawberry. Kefir’s creaminess also provides a great base for the mellow, nutty flavors from peanut, macadamia nut, pistachio, sesame, and flaxseed. It also makes a great dip, especially when combined with herbs like mint and cilantro or spices like ginger, cumin, or paprika.
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
Sign up for new guides, recipes and special offers
The content offered on SolidStarts.com is for informational purposes only. Solidstarts is not engaged in rendering professional advice, whether medical or otherwise, to individual users or their children or families. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or your medical or health professional, nutritionist, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. By accessing the content on SolidStarts.com, you acknowledge and agree that you are accepting the responsibility for your child’s health and well-being. In return for providing you with an array of content “baby-led weaning” information, you waive any claims that you or your child may have as a result of utilizing the content on SolidStarts.com.