Shrimp, when prepared in an age-appropriate way to reduce choking risk and foodborne illness, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. When shopping for shrimp, opt for fresh shrimp as frozen shrimp can be exceedingly high in sodium.
Shrimp are a common cause of choking for babies and older children alike due to their round shape and springy consistency. Read our section on how to serve safely according to the child’s age and eating ability.
Shrimp are crustaceans, part of the sprawling shellfish family that also includes crabs, lobsters, and prawns, among others. There are countless species that are commonly called shrimp, and they live in bodies of fresh and salt water worldwide. Some are tiny, and others are quite large; some are reddish-pink and others ruddy brown in color. Shrimp’s global popularity has led to their presence in dishes worldwide, from shrimp curries throughout South and Southeast Asia to paella in Spain, from jambalaya in the Americas to sushi in Japan.
Eunoia, 7 months, eats shrimp that has been butterflied (sliced lengthwise) so it is no longer round.
Amelia, 13 months, eats shrimp sliced lengthwise.
Leila, 16 months, eats whole shrimp. Shrimp can be hard for babies and toddlers to chew so trust your gut on whether your child is ready for whole shrimp.
Yes, in moderation. Shrimp are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential nutrients including vitamins B6 and B12 and minerals like calcium, selenium, iodine, and zinc. Together these nutrients support baby’s rapid growth, neurodevelopment, and heart and immune health. In addition, shrimp tend to be low in mercury compared to other seafood. Mercury is a heavy metal that can affect neurological health and development and to which babies are more susceptible.
When shopping for babies younger than 12 months of age, avoid frozen shrimp, as well as canned, smoked, pickled, dried, and powdered shrimp, as well as other processed products like shrimp paste and shrimp chips, which tend to be exceedingly high in sodium.
Yes. The rubbery, firm texture and round shape of shrimp poses a high choking risk for babies and toddlers. To minimize the risk, mince into other foods or slice it lengthwise to butterfly it and eliminate any round, cylindrical shape. Never serve shrimp that is still round in shape, no matter how small the piece. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of the child at mealtime. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes. Shrimp is a type of shellfish, specifically a crustacean shellfish, and shellfish are common food allergens. Babies with a shrimp allergy are more likely to experience reactions to other shellfish in the crustacean family (crawfish, crab, lobster, prawn, etc.) and, to a lesser degree, the mollusk family (clam, mussel, octopus, oyster, scallop, snail, squid, etc.).
Interestingly, crustacean shellfish allergy commonly develops in adulthood, and for those who develop it in childhood, most will not outgrow it. If you have a family history of seafood allergies, or suspect baby may be allergic to shellfish, consult an allergist before introducing shrimp.
Being allergic to shellfish doesn’t mean that an individual will also have a finned fish allergy, as they are not closely related. However, you may need to be careful about the risk of shellfish proteins being cross-contaminated with finned fish and other seafood, as they are often prepared in the same facilities using shared tools and cooking materials.
Shrimp may be preserved with sulfites. While sulfites are not a common allergen, certain individuals, particularly those with asthma, can have allergy-like reactions to added sulfites. If sulfites are a concern, avoid ingredients such as sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfate, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite to name a few.
As you would do with all new allergens, introduce shrimp by serving a scant quantity, and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction during the first couple of servings, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
No. Although shrimp is high in cholesterol, the cholesterol from food actually has little impact on overall blood cholesterol levels. And in fact, shrimp offers lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help the body maintain healthy cholesterol and lipid levels.
They can be, especially if frozen. Opt for fresh shrimp when possible, reserving frozen shrimp for 12 months and up in moderation.
Yes, in small amounts, although most canned shrimp are exceedingly high in sodium. Make sure to cut the shrimp according to the child’s age and eating ability and look for products marked “low-sodium” or “no salt added.” Rinsing canned shrimp can reduce the sodium content slightly.
In moderation after the first birthday, although a taste here and there before then is fine, as long as they are cut for the child’s age to reduce choking risk. Sharing foods as a family is important, just aim to offer fried foods in moderation, as they're often high in sodium and trans fats.
No. Raw shrimp pose a very high risk of foodborne illness, which can lead to harmful infections for babies, children, and adults alike. The risk of severe illness is even higher in individuals with complex medical backgrounds, on stomach acid reducing medications, and/or who are immunocompromised. Always cook shrimp before offering to babies.
No. Shrimp isn’t generally thought of as a food that promotes pooping. That said, it can play a supportive role in healthy bowel movements as part of a balanced and varied diet. 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.
Mince or finely chop cooked shrimp and mix into a soft, scoopable food. Alternatively, offer large, soft shrimp cakes or patties, or cook congee, porridge, or other grains with a low-sodium shrimp stock. Never serve baby shrimp that is still round or cylindrical in shape and avoid serving shrimp cut into small, round pieces. Small, round pieces of shrimp pose an extremely high risk for choking.
Cut cooked shrimp lengthwise so it is no longer round, then chop into small pieces. You can serve these small, thin pieces on their own or as part of a meal. Alternatively, serve cooked shrimp that has been finely diced, shredded, or cooked into shrimp cakes. At this age, you can serve canned, pickled, or frozen shrimp products, but in moderation due to their higher sodium levels. Never serve a toddler shrimp that is still round or cylindrical in shape and avoid serving shrimp cut into small, round pieces. Small, round pieces of shrimp pose an extremely high risk for choking.
Serve chopped cooked shrimp, making sure that the shrimp has been cut lengthwise first so that it is no longer round. Alternatively, you can offer shrimp cakes and patties. At this age, you can also offer longer strips of the shrimp cut lengthwise for the child to practice taking bites from. Continue to cut shrimp lengthwise until you feel your child is taking accurate bites and is chewing food thoroughly. At this age, you may also serve tiny varieties of shrimp (often available canned or jarred). When offering tiny shrimp, practice by offering one at a time and coach the child to chew each one thoroughly before offering another.
Serve chopped cooked shrimp, cutting the shrimp lengthwise so that it is no longer round, or shrimp cakes and patties. At this age, if the child has developed mature chewing skills (taking accurate bites, not overstuffing their mouths, chewing food thoroughly before swallowing, etc.), consider offering a whole shrimp. Start with a large shrimp so that you can coach how to take small bites. Show the child how to remove the tail, if it is still attached. Then, demonstrate how to take a small bite of the shrimp with your front teeth. Then, offer a second whole, large shrimp to the child and let them follow your lead, coaching them to take small bites and chew thoroughly before swallowing. If the child struggles in listening to your directions, consider practicing more with shrimp that have been halved lengthwise, and trying again with whole shrimp when the child is a little older.
Do NOT serve shrimp this way. An example of shrimp cut into a high choking risk shape which is very dangerous and should never be served.
For more, see the Solid Starts Fish guide—the world’s only guide to seafood for babies and toddlers younger than age 2.
2 c (480 ml) salad
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter), egg (mayonnaise), shellfish (shrimp), 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 and mayonnaise. Added ingredients may include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Defrost frozen shrimp by placing them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to prepare the salad.
Wash, dry, zest, and juice the lemon.
Peel and finely chop the shallot.
Melt the butter in large skillet set on medium heat.
Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the shrimp and cook until they are bright pink, about 5 minutes. They are ready when a shrimp cut in half shows no translucent flesh.
Let the shrimp cool for 5 minutes, then finely chop them.
Mix the chopped shrimp, shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, and mayonnaise.
Season the salad with finely chopped parsley and paprika. 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 Salad
Offer shrimp salad to baby, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, swipe toast or a baby spoon in the salad, then hold it in the air in front of baby and let the child reach for it. Once baby has grabbed it, let go.
Eat some shrimp salad alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Shrimp Salad keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
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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