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.
Background and origins of mozzarella cheese
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 excess sodium, which you want to limit with young babies.)
Is mozzarella cheese healthy for babies?
Yes. 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)
★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.
Is mozzarella cheese a common choking hazard for babies?
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 can still present a risk. To minimize the risk, slice fresh mozzarella thinly and avoid serving cheese in cubes. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals.
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 8 months old: Offer fresh mozzarella in thin, wide slices or if you think baby can pick it up, thin long slices. 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.
9 to 12 months old: Serve fresh mozzarella in thin strips for biting practice. If baby is shoveling or stuffing whole pieces in, model dramatic biting and chewing or offer shredded mozzarella for a while to reduce the risk.
12 to 24 months old: Offer bite size pieces of mozzarella cut from thin slices (not cubes). The thinner the slice you create the bite size pieces from, the lower the risk. Alternatively continue with shredded or matchstick slices of mozzarella and once baby has become adept at taking accurate bites and is chewing and swallowing well, try moving back up in size to large slices of mozzarella.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
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