When can babies eat mozzarella cheese?
Fresh mozzarella (not low-moisture mozzarella or other types of dried or smoked mozzarella) may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Fresh mozzarella can be a fabulous first food for babies. Soft and mild, the cheese traditionally hails from Italy, where it is made from the milk of cows, sheep, and water buffalos. In the United States, most fresh mozzarella is made from cow’s milk. Packaged in a water or whey (the liquid byproduct of producing cheese curds), fresh mozzarella has a short shelf life, unlike its doppelgänger—the rubbery low-moisture mozzarella that is commonly available. (If you see shredded mozzarella in a bag or mozzarella cheese sticks, that is likely low-moisture mozzarella which is not the best type for babies. (Low-moisture mozzarella is not only made to last for weeks in the fridge, it often has exceess sodium, which you want to limit with young babies.)
Is mozzarella cheese healthy for babies?
Yes, if it is fresh and not the “low moisture” kind described above. Fresh mozzarella is high in calcium (for healthy bones!), omega-3 fatty acids (for healthy hearts!), and protein (for healthy bodies!) Fresh mozzarella also offers other key nutrients that babies need to thrive, including vitamins A and B.
Most types of cheese are high in sodium, which, in excess, is not good for babies or adults alike. Thankfully, fresh mozzarella is naturally low in sodium and a terrific first food. Just be careful to read the label and when in doubt, look for mozzarella that is packaged in water, as this is an indication it is the fresh type.
In general, you want to purchase cheese that is:
- Low sodium (less than 100mg per serving)
- Made from whole milk
- Produced by a reputable source (no antibiotics or added hormones)
After your child’s first birthday, you may introduce a wider range of pasteurized cheeses, but even then, we recommend keeping tabs on their overall sodium consumption.
Is mozzarella cheese a choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Cheese is a common choking hazard and while fresh mozzarella tends to be softer and easier to swallow, it can still present a risk. Read up on age-appropriate serving suggestions below.
Is mozzarella cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Fresh mozzarella is a dairy product, and all dairy products are common food allergens. 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.1 2
If you have a family history of allergies or suspect your baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing cheese at home.
As with all new foods, introduce mozzarella by serving a small quantity and watch closely as your baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare mozzarella cheese for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Offer fresh mozzarella in thin strips or shred it to reduce the choking risk even further. Refrain from offering foods with melted mozzarella as the heat tends to make cheese more rubbery—a consistency that can be challenging for babies to chew and process. As your baby’s pincer grasp develops, you can begin to cut mozzarella up in smaller pieces, though start with a thin strip and then cut smaller pieces from there. Never serve your baby cubes of cheese.
12 to 18 months old: Serve fresh mozzarella in thin strips to practice biting and tearing, shred it for ease of eating, or offer small pieces cut from a thin strip to continue to work your baby’s pincer grasp. Toward the end of this age range is a great time to introduce pizza as well!
18 to 24 months old: The possibilities are endless! Mozzarella of any kind can be served, though it would be wise to still avoid commercial “low-moisture” mozzarella sticks and cubes to reduce the risk of choking.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★Tip: Look for fresh mozzarella that is packaged in water. It is fresher and most likely lower in sodium than tightly packaged, low-moisture mozzarella.
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Recipe: Baby Caprese
- Fresh mozzarella (packaged in water)
- Fresh peach, nectarine, or tomato
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Drop (or two) of balsamic vinegar
- Cut the cheese into wide, thin slices.
- Remove the stem, skin, and core of a ripened peach. Slice the fruit into quarters. (If using cherry tomatoes, make sure you quarter them to reduce the choking risk.)
- Place the cheese and fruit in a bowl that suctions to the table. Mix a little olive oil and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar in a small bowl with a fork.Drizzle on top of the cheese and fruit. Serve and encourage your baby to self-feed.
Mozzarella’s creamy taste provides a counterbalance to acidic foods. Try serving it with eggplant or tomato or with astringent vegetables like broccoli rabe. It is also perfectly tasty on its own!
- GiKids – Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. (2020, February 26). GiKids. https://gikids.org/digestive-topics/cows-milk-protein-allergy/
- Wood, R. A., Sicherer, S. H., Vickery, B. P., Jones, S. M., Liu, A. H., Fleischer, D. M., Henning, A. K., Mayer, L., Burks, A. W., Grishin, A., Stablein, D., & Sampson, H. A. (2013). The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 805-812.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060