Salmon, when fully cooked, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Wild Alaskan and sockeye salmon (fresh, frozen, or canned) are rated as a “best choice” in our guide, Best & Worst Fish for Babies. Freshwater New Zealand salmon, farmed Atlantic salmon, and other salmon farmed worldwide are also great choices. Compared with other fish, salmon tends to be low in mercury and can be offered a couple of times per week.
Salmon are a family of fish closely related to char and trout that live in fresh and salt waters throughout the northern hemisphere. Many wild salmon live their adult years in the ocean, but return to the freshwater rivers of their birth to lay eggs. Salmon are also produced on aquaculture farms, a business that has grown in recent years to meet the global demand for salmon. Salmon’s meaty, pink flesh lends itself to diverse preparations, from stews, grilled dishes, and stir-fries to smoked fish and sushi.
Eunoia, 6 months, eats salmon mashed with potato.
Zeke, 11 months, eats a piece of a salmon filet.
Anjani, 13 months, eats salmon with dill and edamame.
Yes. Salmon contains many of the nutrients babies need to thrive, including vitamins A, B6, B12, D, and folate. Salmon is also one of the top seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, which is critical for visual and cognitive development. Importantly, salmon is also low in mercury, a heavy metal present in most seafood that can cause neurological and developmental issues when consumed in excess, to which babies are particularly susceptible. More on this topic in our guide, Best & Worst Fish for Babies.
No, though bones in freshly cooked fish are a choking hazard if not removed. To reduce the risk, carefully check cooked fish for any bones and remove them before serving. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during mealtime. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Finned fish is a common food allergen, and salmon is among the most common, along with cod, halibut, and tuna. That said, about 40% of people with finned fish allergies don’t experience their first allergic reaction until adulthood. Unfortunately, most individuals who are allergic to finned fish do not outgrow the allergy.
Some individuals with finned fish allergy may react from inhaling proteins that become airborne when cooking fish. If this is the case for baby, you may wish to avoid cooking fish in the household when baby is present.
Around 50% of individuals with one finned fish allergy will react to another fish as well. This is because the major allergen in finned fish, beta-parvalbumin, is present in most fish, regardless of species. Due to cross-contamination and mislabeling of fish, allergists often recommend that those allergic to one species of finned fish avoid all finned fish until meeting with an allergist to determine which might be safely introduced into the diet. This is an individualized recommendation, so be sure to confirm with your allergist before offering other finned fish if baby is allergic to salmon.
Finned fish are 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. Unlike other food allergens, FPIES to finned fish may not present until later in life, and tends to be life-long.
Lastly, a note on scombroid poisoning, which is sometimes mistaken for a fish allergy. Scombroid poisoning is a type of food poisoning that occurs when someone eats fish that has been improperly refrigerated. This allows a large amount of histamine to build up in the fish. When consumed, this large load of histamine can cause symptoms that mimic those of an allergic reaction, causing some people to believe that they have developed a finned fish allergy, even if they are not allergic. Ensuring that fish has been stored at adequately cool temperatures can minimize the risk of such a reaction.
If you suspect baby may be allergic to fish, make an appointment with an allergist before introducing salmon. As with all common allergens, introduce salmon in small amounts and watch closely as baby eats to see if any adverse reaction occurs. If all goes well, gradually increase the serving size over time.
Yes. Just look for canned salmon that is marked “no salt added” or “low-sodium”, as many canned salmon products have sodium levels that exceed baby’s needs. Draining and rinsing canned salmon can also significantly reduce sodium content.
No. Salmon tends to be low in mercury, although this can vary a bit based on where the fish lived. Mercury is a heavy metal present in most seafood that can cause neurological and developmental issues when consumed in excess, to which babies are particularly susceptible. Thankfully, there are many fish that are low in mercury that babies can enjoy, including salmon. To minimize baby’s exposure to mercury from fish, prioritize fish that are lowest in mercury (like salmon, sardines, or canned mackerel), limit the amount and frequency of fish that have higher amounts of mercury, and focus on variety in the diet. Lastly, know that our bodies can slowly expel mercury over time, although the rate of this can vary.
Not necessarily. Both types of salmon are nutritious and offer benefits, so choose a type that meets your priorities. From a nutritional standpoint, wild Alaskan salmon is rich in nutrients and can offer higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids but it can also be a bit higher in environmental contaminants than farmed fish.
In terms of accessibility, farmed salmon often have the advantage over the wild-caught fish. Because they are raised year-round, they are widely available and typically more affordable. Farmed salmon may have reduced concentrations of certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, when compared to wild salmon.
From an environmental perspective, aim for moderation with either farmed salmon or wild-caught salmon. Wild salmon are overfished in many parts of the world, while farmed salmon are often fed smaller fish that are being overfished to feed the demand for salmon. If available, look for certifications indicating environmental stewardship, ask your fishmonger about the most sustainable varieties to buy in your area, or look to your local government for more guidance.
In general, about 1 oz (28 g) twice a week. But try not to worry about exact measurements, especially since, as baby learns to self-feed, the child will often not consume all of what is offered on the tray or table in front of them. Also, it certainly won’t hurt if the child eats more than a 1-oz (28-g) portion once in a while. Remember that part of baby’s journey with solid foods is to experience a wide variety of foods, so if salmon is a preferred food for your child, aim to incorporate other low-mercury fish and other ingredients on a weekly basis.
After the child’s first birthday, and in moderation. The majority of smoked salmon contains sodium levels in excess of what children need. In addition, certain forms of smoked salmon are not fully cooked, such as cold-smoked salmon, and thus may pose an increased risk of foodborne illness for babies whose immune systems are still developing.
Never serve raw or undercooked salmon to an infant. Doing so greatly increases the risk of foodborne illness, especially salmonellosis and vibriosis, harmful bacterial infections for babies, children, and adults alike, with more risk of severe symptoms in babies. The risk of severe illness is even higher in individuals with complex medical backgrounds, taking stomach acid reducing medications, and/or people who are immunocompromised. Cooking finned fish and shellfish to an internal temperature of 145 F (63 C) kills bacteria in the food. Ultimately, there is no “best” age to introduce raw or undercooked finned fish and shellfish to toddlers; rather, it is a personal decision for which you must calculate risk.
No. Salmon is not generally thought of as a food that promotes pooping, although it can play a supportive role in healthy digestive patterns as part of a varied diet. Diets featuring fish like salmon may promote the presence of beneficial bacteria, like Lactobacillus, which contributes to a healthy gut microbiome. Pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child, so be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping or digestive function.
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 baby strips of freshly cooked salmon (all bones and skin removed) about the size of two adult fingers pressed together, or flake the fish and mix into other soft, scoopable foods. If using canned salmon with added salt, rinse the fish in running water in a colander to reduce sodium levels, then mix into other foods such as mashed potatoes or yogurt for baby to scoop. At this age, you can also offer fish cakes made from salmon, as long as they are soft and larger than baby’s mouth.
Offer bite-sized pieces of cooked, deboned or canned salmon; cakes and patties; or salmon salad. You can also continue to serve longer strips of salmon fillet for biting and tearing practice. To make salmon salad, just mix the flakes with mashed avocado, mayonnaise, olive oil, or yogurt.
Serve the cooked, deboned fish in longer strips, bite-sized pieces, cakes and patties, or flaked on its own or mixed into other foods. This is a great age to work on utensil practice with foods like salmon. Lastly, feel free to introduce smoked salmon, lox, gravlax, or pickled salmon in moderation.
For more information on which fish are safe for babies, see our guide to the Best and Worst Fish for Babies.
2 c (240 ml)
This recipe contains common allergens: finned fish (salmon) and wheat (bread). 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 bread. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Open the can of salmon, then rinse the fish to remove excess sodium. Set aside.
Peel and cube the potato.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the potato and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Wash, dry, zest, and juice the lemon.
Place the fish, potato, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil in a food processor.
Blend the ingredients until the spread is mostly smooth. A little texture is okay as long as there are no whole cubes of potato. If you do not have a blender, mash the potato cubes until they are mostly broken down, then mix in the fish, lemon, and oil.
Season the spread with finely chopped parsley and black pepper. Feel free to swap the seasoning for any herb and spice that you want baby to learn to love. Babies tend to like flavors that they try early and often, and there is no need to wait to introduce seasoning.
Serve the Spread
Offer salmon potato spread and toast to baby, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, swipe toast or a baby spoon in the dip, then hold it in the air in front of baby and let the child grab it from you.
Eat some salmon potato spread alongside baby to model how it’s done.
To Store: Salmon Potato Spread 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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