Swiss cheese may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
In the United States, “swiss cheese” often refers to any cheese with holes, though in Switzerland, this cheese is named after the alpine region from which it came, Emmental. Swiss cheese and emmentaler cheese are both firm and tend to contain less sodium than other cheeses, a characteristic that grew out of necessity as emmentaler was traditionally made in the Alps, where salt was in limited supply. These characteristics create the right conditions for helpful bacteria to thrive and produce carbon dioxide, which creates distinctive holes in the final product. Swiss immigrants brought their techniques to North America, and as the alpine cheese grew in popularity, it took the name of their nationality rather than the region in which it originated.
Alex, 6 months, eats a strip of swiss cheese.
Ripley, 9 months, eats swiss cheese for the first time
Cooper, 13 months, eats thin slices of swiss cheese.
Yes. Swiss cheese is typically pasteurized and lower in sodium than many other cheeses. Swiss cheese is also rich in fats and protein, which support baby’s cell structure, energy levels, and brain development. Finally, swiss cheese is a great source of calcium, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Together, these nutrients help support bone development, the immune and nervous systems, plus promote healthy eyes, skin, and hair.
★Tip: For vegetarian families, certain versions of swiss cheese contain animal-derived rennet, so read labels and look for cheeses made with plant-based rennet.
Yes. Cubes of cheese and globs of melted cheese are a choking hazard for babies and children. To reduce the risk, slice swiss cheese thinly and avoid serving cheese in cubes. 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. Cheese is often made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies in the United States. Keep in mind that dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products. If baby is allergic to dairy, know that it is an allergy that 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 cause 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 that presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time the child has reached 3-5 years of age.
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 a 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, an 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 servings.
No. In general, cheese is relatively high in fat and low in fiber, qualities that slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Significant consumption of cheese and milk can be a contributing factor in constipation. Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and 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.
Cut swiss cheese into long, thin slices to reduce the choking risk and make it easier for baby to self-feed. If you want to use swiss cheese in melted form, opt for shredded swiss cheese and sprinkle sparingly, as large globs of melted cheese can be difficult for young babies to chew and manage in the mouth. Avoid offering any kind of cheese in cubes and large chunks.
At this age, babies develop the pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. When you see signs of this development, you can move down in size, either to grated swiss cheese or bite-sized pieces cut from a thin slice (continue to avoid cube shapes). Offer the cheese on its own, so baby can experience the flavor, or as part of a meal.
At this age you can move back up in size to long, thin slices so that the toddler can practice tearing and taking bites. Alternatively, you can continue to offer bite-sized pieces cut from a thin slice or shredded cheese. After 12 months of age, you can also melt the cheese over bread, tortillas, pasta, beans, or vegetables. Just make sure the cheese isn’t too hot, but also hasn’t cooled so much that it re-hardens or get clumpy.
Serve swiss cheese in thin slices or bite-sized pieces, as well as melted over bread, tortillas, pasta, beans, or vegetables. At this age, many toddlers may be ready to eat cubes of swiss cheese. Before serving cubes of swiss cheese, look for signs of mature eating skills, such as taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, and not stuffing food in their mouths.
Even when the child is exhibiting these skills, we recommend coaching the child. Only serve cheese cubes when a child is seated in an upright seat, actively engaged in mealtime, and not distracted. Demonstrate chewing a piece of cheese yourself by placing it in between your front teeth, biting down, moving the food to the side, and then chewing with your mouth open. Once you have chewed the cheese well, open your mouth to show the child how it’s broken down. Say “I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing.” Then, offer one cube of cheese for the child to eat. If they do not attempt to chew, hold off on attempting again for a few weeks. Remember, these skills take time, and it’s best to meet the individual child where they are at.
Want ideas for packed lunches? See 75 Lunches for Babies & Toddlers
one 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm) dish
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (butter, cheese, milk). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (191 C).
Peel and dice the potatoes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and lower the heat to a simmer.
Partially cover the pot and cook the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain.
Mash the potatoes with the milk and butter until mostly smooth. A little texture is okay.
Mix in the shredded cheese and spices. Feel free to omit the spices or substitute any seasonings that you want the child to learn to love.
Grease a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm) baking dish with butter.
Bake until the top of the mash turns golden and starts to brown at the edges, about 45 minutes.
Set aside some potatoes for the child, then season the rest with salt for yourself. If you are sharing the mash with babies under 12 months of age, minimize the choking risk by removing any crusted cheese or crispy potato from the child’s portion.
Round out the meal with a protein like roast chicken and another vegetable like broccoli, okra, or spinach.
Serve the Casserole
Offer the potatoes and let your child self-feed.
If help is needed, hold a pre-loaded spoon of food in the air in front of your child, then let them grab it from you.
Eat some potatoes alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Leftover mashed potatoes keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months. When reheating mashed potatoes, mix in a little water, milk, or melted butter to soften them. If they are frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator before reheating.
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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