Labneh, when low in sodium, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Not sure if the labneh you have is low in sodium? A good guideline is if the cheese is lower than 100 mg of sodium per serving (and is pasteurized) it’s safe for baby.
Labneh is a type of cheese made from drained kefir or yogurt with origins in the fertile lands that connect Africa, Asia, and Europe. Also called laban, labne, or lebni among other names, this cheese has long been prized, both for its versatility and for the way it allowed yogurt to be preserved and used long after the milking season was over. Labneh’s taste varies widely, depending on whether the kefir or yogurt is made from cow, goat, or sheep milk and how long it is drained. Fresh labneh is creamy, often used as a dip or spread, while aged forms of labneh, such as labneh tabat, are typically shaped into balls and preserved in olive oil, extending the cheese’s shelf life still further.
Maya, 6 months, eats labneh spread on a strip of rye toast.
Wei Wei, 9 months, eats fresh labneh.
Yes, fresh labneh is an excellent source of healthy fats and protein, both of which babies need for overall growth and development. When buying to share with baby, try to choose whole-fat over low-fat labneh when possible, as babies need lots of fat at this age to support gut, immune, and nervous system development. Different types of kefir or yogurt can be used (such as buffalo, cow, goat, and sheep), so nutrition can vary but generally, labneh is a good source of vitamin A to support skin, eye, and immune health and has plenty of calcium for bone development.
Some aged varieties of labneh can be high in sodium, which is not healthy when consumed in excess, so opt for fresh varieties to share with baby until closer to the first birthday. A good guideline is if the cheese is lower than 100 mg of sodium per serving (and is pasteurized) it’s safe for baby.
For more information on how much cheese babies can eat and other frequently asked questions, see our cheese page.
It depends on the type. Labneh, when soft and scoopable, does not pose much risk, although firmer varieties of labneh, such as labneh balls, do. To reduce the risk, mash firm labneh and thinly spread on toast or crumble into other 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.
Yes. Labneh 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 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 that 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, 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.
Yes. Labneh is made from pasteurized yogurt or kefir, fermented foods that contain probiotic cultures. Probiotics may help baby poop and can support baby’s digestion in general by enhancing their gut microbiome. 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.
Serve soft labneh in a bowl and let baby self-feed. Feel free to drizzle olive oil on top and mix with finely chopped herbs. Alternatively, offer labneh mixed into other soft, scoopable foods, spread onto strips of toast, or mixed into rice and lentil dishes to form easy-to-grab balls. Generally, hold off on serving aged labneh until 12 months of age, as it tends to be higher in sodium, although a taste here and there is fine.
Continue to offer soft labneh on its own, or paired with other foods for dipping (like bread or vegetables). Serve labneh with a small bowl of seasoning on the side and invite toddlers to flavor the cheese as they see fit. To encourage the use of utensils, pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the bowl for the toddler to pick up. To serve firm labneh, offer small crumbles on their own or as part of a meal.
Get new ideas for lunchtime from our guide, 75 Lunches for Babies & Toddlers.
1 c (240 ml)
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (labneh) and tree nut (almond). 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 labneh. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.
Scoop labneh into baby’s bowl.
Mash 1 or 2 pieces of fig and swirl the mashed fruit into baby’s bowl of labneh.
If you’d like to offer almond and mint with the labneh, finely grind the nut and finely chop the herb, then sprinkle the seasonings on top of the labneh. If introducing almond for the first few times, start with a scant amount: about ¼ tsp (½ g). If the child shows no signs of an allergic reaction, you can serve more finely ground-up almond.
Serve the Labneh
Offer baby the figs and the bowl of labneh and let the child self-feed.
If baby needs help, pass a fig or a pre-loaded spoon of labneh in the air for baby to grab from you.
To Store: Leftover labneh keeps in an air-tight container for 1 week. Cut figs keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
C. Aycinena Marcos, MS, RD. Registered Dietitian and Public Health/Clinical 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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