Fresh, pasteurized mozzarella (the type preserved in water or whey) may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Avoid “low-moisture” mozzarella, as it tends to be higher in sodium and more rubbery, which can increase the risk of choking.
Mozzarella hails from Italy, where it has long been made from water buffalo milk, including Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, which is certified by the European Union with Protected Designation of Origin to guarantee its authenticity. More widely available are mozzarella cheeses made with cow’s milk or from blends of buffalo and cow’s milk. Packaged in water or whey, fresh mozzarella has a short shelf life, unlike the low-moisture processed mozzarella that is commonly available as pre-shredded cheese, cheese sticks, and firm plastic-wrapped blocks.
Kaia, 7 months, tastes fresh mozzarella cheese.
Río, 7 months, tastes fresh mozzarella for the first time.
Max, 11 months, eats mozzarella in a matchstick shape.
Yes. Fresh mozzarella is high in calcium to support healthy bones and vitamin B12 for nerve and cell development. Mozzarella also contains some vitamin A for brain, eye, immune, and skin health, as well as zinc for a healthy sense of taste and smell.
When shopping for mozzarella for babies, look for fresh, pasteurized mozzarella preserved in water or whey. Avoid low-moisture mozzarella products (often sold in blocks, bags of pre-shredded cheese, or as cheese sticks) and smoked mozzarella, as they present a higher choking risk due to their rubbery consistency and are also higher in sodium, which should be limited in infant diets.
Yes. Cheese is a common choking hazard, and while fresh mozzarella tends to be softer and easier to swallow than many other types of cheese, it still presents a risk. To reduce the risk, thinly slice fresh mozzarella and avoid offering cheese in cubes or small balls, or as globs of melted cheese, as these shapes can plug the airway. 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 section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Mozzarella cheese is commonly 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 mozzarella cheese may be made from water buffalo 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.
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, 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.
It depends. The vast majority of fresh mozzarella sold in stores is made from pasteurized milk, but regulations on the sale of unpasteurized cheeses vary from country to country. Cheeses made from unpasteurized (raw) milk carry a higher risk of foodborne illness. Read our cheese page for more information.
Yes, but only in scant quantities and once it is no longer hot. Melted globs of cheese represent a choking risk as they can form a sticky plug over the airway. Hot cheese can also shock baby, causing the child to rapidly inhale, which increases the risk of choking.
Bocconcini (small balls of mozzarella) that have been cut into bite-sized pieces may be introduced once baby’s pincer grasp has developed, typically around 9 months of age. Whole bocconcini pose a high choking risk due to their slippery texture, small size, and round shape, so hold off on serving until you’ve noticed that the child is taking accurate bites and not overstuffing their mouth (typically around 24 months of age). When offering whole bocconcini, closely supervise the child, model taking bites of one yourself, and encourage the child to practice taking bites.
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.
Offer fresh mozzarella (the type sold in water or whey) in thin, wide rounds or, if you think baby can pick them up, half-moon slices. Fresh mozzarella can also be shredded and melted into or on top of baby’s foods, but sprinkle sparingly, as globs of melted cheese present a high choking risk.
Serve fresh mozzarella in thin strips for biting practice, or bite-sized pieces cut from a thin slice. If baby is shoveling or stuffing whole pieces into the mouth, encourage bites by modeling dramatic biting and chewing with your mouth open. You can also offer shredded mozzarella to reduce the risk of choking.
At this age, many toddlers are able to manage the rubbery nature of low-moisture mozzarella, though fresh mozzarella (the type sold in water or whey) is lower in sodium. Either way, you can offer bite-sized pieces cut from a thin slice (avoid cutting cheese into cubes or continue with shredded or matchstick slices of mozzarella. Once the child is taking accurate bites and is chewing well, try moving back up in size to large slices of mozzarella. At this age, you can also melt mozzarella in a thin layer on top of foods, but continue to avoid serving large globs of melted cheese.
Baby just starting solids? Check out our First 100 Days Meal Plan.
Not sure how to introduce this food? Give this recipe a try. Feel free to substitute ingredients and flavor the food with your favorite seasonings.
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!
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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