When can babies eat Swiss cheese?
In general, cheese is not a great first food for babies younger than 12 months because most varieties tend to be high in sodium, which can prime your baby’s palate for salty foods, increase the risk of obesity, and put your child at greater risk of developing hypertension.1 2 However, Swiss cheese (as well as ricotta cheese, goat cheese, and fresh mozzarella) are the welcome exceptions and naturally low enough in sodium to be acceptable for babies 6 months and older.
When it comes to cheese for babies younger than 12 months old, you want to look for varieties that have less than 100 mg of sodium per serving. After your babies celebrate their first birthday, you can offer a wider variety of pasteurized cheeses, but we recommend keeping tabs on their overall sodium consuption.
Is Swiss cheese healthy for babies?
Yes! Unlike most varieties, Swiss cheese is typically pasteurized, and it’s much lower in sodium (around 50 mg of sodium per serving compared to many other cheeses which run north of 150 mg per serving). High in protein, fat, and calcium, Swiss cheese is a nutritious food for babies and toddlers alike.
When selecting cheese for your baby or toddler, you want to look for a cheese that is:
- Low sodium (less than 100mg per serving for babies younger than 12 months)
- Whole fat
Is Swiss cheese a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Most cheeses (with the exception of spreadable varieties, such as ricotta) present a high choking risk for babies and children under the age of five. However, cheese can easily be prepared safely for babies if cut wide and thin (think the width and thickness of a ruler).
Is Swiss cheese a common allergen?
Dairy products, including cheese, 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.3 4
Swiss cheese is also unusually high in histamine, which can worsen the symptoms of an allergic response and cause reactions in histamine-sensitive individuals.
How do you prepare 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 9 months old: Cut into wide, thin slices for your baby to munch on. Avoid offering cubes of cheese, which increase the choking risk.
9 to 18 months old: Continue to cut into thin slices for your baby or toddler. If a too big piece of cheese breaks off int their mouth, give your child the opportunity to work the cheese forward before intervening. You may also offer shredded cheese if you are nervous about choking.
18 to 24 months old: If your baby has established good chewing and swallowing skills, they may be ready for cubes of cheese. While cubes can increase the risk of choking compared to thin slices, it is a good skill for toddlers to learn as cheese is often served in cubes at parties.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
- Baker SS, Baker RD. Early Exposure to Dietary Sugar and Salt. Pediatrics March 2015, 135 (3) 550-551
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
- 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