Lamb may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Lambs are the young of domesticated sheep, which have long been raised for both their wool and red meat. In centuries past, adult sheep (mutton) was more commonly eaten because it was widely available year-round, and its flavor was desirable. Mutton is still a popular meat in some parts of the world, but lamb is increasingly a top choice in many cuisines. Its richness is often complimented by acidic ingredients like wine or vinegar and fresh herbs like mint and rosemary. In the regions where lamb is popular, there are sometimes distinctions drawn under the category of lamb, from the age of the animal, to when it was born, to what it was fed.
Amelia, 7 months, sucks on a lamb chop. When a piece breaks off in her mouth, mom coaches her to spit it out but she decides to swallow it instead.
Julian, 9 months, eats a lamb chop
Adie, 11 months, eats a lamb burger with Greek yogurt as a dip
Yes. Lamb is a protein-rich food that is often high in fats and provides the building blocks and energy that babies need to fuel their rapid growth. It is also filled with other essential nutrients for baby, such as heme iron, zinc, selenium, choline, vitamins B6 and B12, in addition to omega 3 fatty acids. Together, these nutrients work to prevent anemia, ensure healthy metabolism, support growth and development, and build a strong immune system. Babies need increasing amounts of iron starting at the 6-month mark, when their reserves become depleted, and lamb offers a great source of iron at this stage of life.
Avoid serving products like lamb sausage and other cured or smoked lamb until after the first birthday because of high sodium and nitrate levels.
★Tip: Ground lamb is a high-risk food for foodborne illness such as E. coli and Salmonella if not cooked thoroughly. When cooking ground lamb, it is important to heat the meat to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C) to kill harmful bacteria.
Yes. Meat is one of the more common causes of choking, so make sure that to prepare lamb in an age-appropriate way. To minimize the risk, refrain from serving chunks or cubes of meat to baby and follow our serving suggestions for baby’s age and eating ability. 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.
No. Lamb is not a common food allergen, although lamb and mutton allergy have been reported. Cooking the meat decreases the risk of developing an allergic reaction to lamb. In addition, certain tick bites (mainly the Lone Star tick in the continental United States, but other ticks in different parts of the world), are associated with the development of an allergy to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (“alpha gal”), a sugar which is present in all non-primate mammalian meat. This results in a delayed allergic reaction 3-8 hours after red meat, such as mutton, is consumed. Some individuals with alpha gal allergy also react to small amounts of the sugar present in dairy products, gelatin, or organ tissues (such as liver) from mammals.
Some individuals with an allergy to lamb will also exhibit contact sensitivity to wool or lanolin (a wool alcohol), but most individuals with wool or lanolin sensitivity can consume lamb without experiencing any reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings and watch closely as baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over time.
Babies can eat meatballs starting at 6 months of age as long as the meatballs are thoroughly cooked, soft, and at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The bigger the meatball, the less likely that baby will pop the whole thing in their mouth. The softer the meatball, the lower the risk of choking: to soften meatballs, cook them in sauce or stew or mix softening ingredients into the meatball batter, such as breadcrumbs, cooked grains, or nut or seed flours. Take care with pre-cooked or store-bought frozen meatballs: they are often high in sodium, as well as small (closer in size to a baby’s mouth) and firm, qualities that increase the risk of choking. When sharing these types of meatballs with babies, minimize the risk of choking by breaking the meatballs into tiny crumbles to mix into a soft, scoopable food, such as mashed vegetables, porridge, or yogurt.
Meatballs can cause gagging as they fall apart in the mouth, and if the meat is dry, it can stick to the roof of the mouth, leading to more intense gagging and even a vomit. If this happens, try to stay calm and give baby the opportunity to work the food forward on their own. As babies munch on a large meatball, they may break down the food into smaller sizes. If the smaller size makes you nervous, simply take away the smaller piece and replace it with a new, large meatball. You can also break the pieces into crumbles and mix them into another food, such as mashed potatoes, any puree or mash, or yogurt.
When making or purchasing meatballs to share with baby, watch the sodium levels. Some recipes or meatball products have sodium levels in excess of what babies need. Finally, know that meatballs may contain various common allergens, including dairy, egg, sesame, and wheat. Be sure to read the labels on store-bought prepared foods and safely introduce any allergens to the child before sharing the prepared food.
No. In general, lamb is rich in protein and fat and lacks fiber, qualities that typically slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Mix ground lamb that has been cooked well-done into an easy-to-scoop food like mashed vegetables, porridge, or yogurt. Avoid serving crumbles of dry, ground meat on their own, as they can pose a higher risk of choking. Alternatively, prepare burgers, meatballs, or patties that are at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and cooked until the internal temperature reaches 160 F (71 C). Make sure the cooked burger or meatball is soft enough to be easily smushed by baby’s gums. To test if it is soft enough, hold it between your thumb and pointer finger and give it a gentle squeeze. Dipping the patties in applesauce, guacamole, yogurt, or other sauces can aid swallowing.
Alternatively, offer bone-in lamb chop with loose chunks of meat and fat removed or thick strips of braised lamb shank about the size of two adult fingers pressed together. At this age, baby will mostly just suck and gnaw on the chop or strip of meat. If baby succeeds in biting off a big piece, take a deep breath, stay calm, and give the child a chance to work with the food. In most cases, if the piece of food is too big, baby will spit it out or the gag reflex will help thrust it forward and out of the mouth. If the child needs assistance getting the piece of food out of the mouth, put your hand beneath their chin to indicate they can spit out the food.
Note: Soft burgers and meatballs often fall apart in the mouth, and when this happens, try to stay calm and give baby the opportunity to work the food forward with the tongue. If baby needs assistance getting the piece of food out of the mouth, put your hand beneath their chin to indicate they can spit it out. Sticking your own tongue out can also help teach babies how to spit.
Serve small shreds of well-cooked lamb either on its own or as part of a meal. If you want to share stews, kebabs, and other family meals with cubed meat, make sure to shred the meat to minimize the risk of choking. You can also break lamb meatballs or burger patties into small, bite-sized pieces to create an opportunity for the child to practice the pincer grasp and fine motor skills. If baby is not quite ready to pick up smaller pieces of food, continue to offer bone-in lamb chops, ground lamb in sauces, or whole burgers or patties that are at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and cooked until the internal temperature has reached 160 F (71 C). Dipping lamb in a sauce can aid swallowing. If a big piece of meat breaks off in the mouth, coach the child to spit the food out by dramatically sticking out your own tongue and saying “ah” repeatedly.
Serve shredded lamb chop or braised lamb shank or thin strips of lamb cut into bite-sized pieces and dipped in sauce to keep the meat tender, either on their own or as part of a meal. Avoid kebabs or cubes of meat, as these continue to pose a high risk of choking. If you’d like to share lamb kebabs with a toddler, pull into shreds or bite-sized pieces. You can also offer meatballs or patties cut up into bite-sized pieces as finger food or fork practice. Dipping the meat in a sauce can aid swallowing. If a big piece of meat breaks off in the mouth, you can coach the child to spit the food out by dramatically sticking out your own tongue and saying “ah” repeatedly. At this age, lamb sausage may also be served in moderation—just make sure to quarter the sausage lengthwise so it is no longer round.
Offer ground lamb patties, meatballs, and shredded or minced lamb meat. Refrain from offering lamb kebabs or cut into cubes or large chunks, as these sizes continue to pose a higher risk of choking. Lastly, consider serving larger strips of lamb that the child can practice taking bites from to build their tearing skills.
Spice up your dinner rotation with our 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers.
10-12 meatballs + 3 c (480 ml) pasta
1 ½ lb (681 g) ground lamb
½ c (120 ml) whole milk
½ c (120 ml) low-sodium breadcrumbs
1 tsp (2 g) garlic powder (optional)
1 tsp (2 g) onion powder (optional)
1 tsp (2 g) black pepper (optional)
1 tsp (2 g) dried thyme (optional)
1 24-oz (680 g) jar low-sodium marinara sauce
8 oz (227 g) dry spaghetti
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (milk), egg, and wheat (breadcrumbs, pasta). 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 breadcrumbs. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Make the Meatballs
Defrost frozen meat in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook.
Whisk the milk and egg until combined.
Whisk in the breadcrumbs and seasonings.
Add the ground lamb and mash the mixture until combined.
Form the mixture into meatballs at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
Cook the Meatballs
Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a large skillet or slow cooker.
Add the meatballs to the sauce. If you are using the stovetop, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. If you are using the slow cooker, set it on low.
Cover the cook until the meatballs are done, about 45 minutes on the stovetop or 3 hours in the slow cooker. To test that the meatballs are fully cooked, use a kitchen thermometer to read the internal temperature of a meatball. They are ready when the temperature has reached 160 F (71 C). If a kitchen thermometer is unavailable, break open a meatball; they are done when no pink meat remains.
Mix the meatballs and sauce into freshly cooked spaghetti. Set aside some spaghetti and meatballs for the child. Season the rest with salt to taste for yourself. If you like, cut the child’s spaghetti into shorter lengths to make it easier to scoop up.
Serve the Spaghetti and Meatballs
Offer some spaghetti and meatballs and let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, swipe a meatball in the sauce or pre-load a utensil, then pass it in the air for the child to grab from you.
Eat some spaghetti and meatballs alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Spaghetti and Lamb Meatballs keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. The meatballs and sauce can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
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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