Fresh ricotta cheese may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Avoid ricotta salata and other types of firm ricotta cheese as they tend to be higher in sodium and are best introduced after baby’s first birthday.
Ricotta cheese is an Italian form of cottage cheese, a diverse family of fresh cheeses that originated in ancient times in the lands connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe. Fresh ricotta cheese has a short shelf life, and before the advent of refrigeration, it was prepared and consumed locally or preserved by adding salt and pressing out the liquid to make ricotta forte, ricotta salata, and other firm cheeses. In Italy, the milk of cows, goats, sheep, or water buffalos are used to make ricotta cheese, which can be served in countless dishes, including stuffed into calzone, lasagna, manicotti, and ravioli.
Kalani, 7 months, eats fresh ricotta for the first time.
Ripley, 9 months, eats fresh ricotta with almond butter mixed in.
Adie, 16 months, eats fresh ricotta with cooked cranberries.
Yes, if fresh. Fresh ricotta is loaded with calcium, vitamin B12, and zinc to support baby’s bones, as well as the nervous and immune systems. It’s also a good source of vitamin A for healthy eyes, skin, and immunity and vitamin B6 for brain health. Whole milk ricotta is an excellent source of healthy fats and easily-digestible protein, providing the energy babies need to grow. Hold off on aged forms of ricotta until after baby’s first birthday, as they tend to be high in sodium, which should be limited in infant diets.
For more information on how much cheese babies can eat and other frequently asked questions, see our cheese page.
No. Fresh ricotta cheese is not a common choking hazard for babies thanks to its soft, smooth texture. Firmer ricotta (such as ricotta salata) could pose a risk, so make sure to grate or shred to reduce the risk of choking. 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. Ricotta 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. Ricotta cheese is also made from sheep or 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.
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 a couple of scoops of fresh ricotta cheese in a bowl or directly on baby’s tray or table and let baby self-feed by hand-scooping or practicing with a pre-loaded utensil. Boost nutrition and flavor by stirring in a small amount of nut butter or mashed fruit. You can also thinly spread ricotta on strips of toast or a teething rusk.
Continue to serve fresh ricotta in a bowl or directly on the tray and explore using it as a dip for fresh fruit and vegetables. Ricotta is fantastic for serving veggies vertically (stick them into the ricotta like sticks) which will help interest baby in grabbing them. Boost nutrition and flavor by stirring in a small amount of nut butter or mashed fruit.
Continue to offer fresh ricotta cheese in a bowl with mashed fruit or other flavors, or share a meal like lasagna. Simply cut the noodles and any other ingredients into bite-size pieces for toddlers to pick up with their fingers or a utensil. At this age, you can also grate small amounts of ricotta salata or other firm ricotta cheeses onto the child’s food.
Get daily meal plans and recipes for babies starting solids in our First 100 Days Meal Plan.
1 cup (240 ml)
Rinse the cranberries. Discard any stems and leaves.
Place the cranberries and the juice of the orange in a saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer the berries until they burst and the mixture has thickened, about 30 minutes. Mash any remaining berries.
Cool the cranberry sauce, then set aside the portion that you want to serve right away. Divide the remainder into an ice cube tray or small containers, then freeze.
Scoop the ricotta cheese into a bowl and top with some cranberry sauce.
Serve the Cheese
Offer ricotta cheese and cranberry sauce to baby and let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, pre-load a spoon with some cheese and sauce, then hold the spoon in the air in front of baby and let the baby grab it from you.
Eat some ricotta cheese and cranberry sauce alongside baby to model how it’s done.
To Store: An opened package of fresh ricotta cheese keeps when sealed in the refrigerator for 3 days. Cranberry sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 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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