How to Make Cheese Safe for Babies & Toddlers

a thin piece of cheese held between the fingers of a woman's hand

I posted about raw apples the other day because the number one mistake I see parents making with baby-led weaning is offering their baby whole or sectioned raw apple.

Don’t get me wrong: I get downright giddy when I see parents taking an ambitious whole food approach with starting solids. And I firmly believe that #FingerFoodFirst gives you the best shot at raising a happy, healthy, and adventurous eater.

But the second biggest mistake I see parents making is how they cut cheese for their baby and I want to go on the record to challenge the matchstick (aka french fry) cut that you commonly see other professionals recommending.

Here’s why: The size of a baby or child’s windpipe is about that of a drinking straw in diameter. Foods that could get stuck in a straw, form a seal over it, or block its opening are choking risks.

When it comes to cheese, the main risk is a chunk of cheese breaking off before it is chewed. Which can happen quite easily with the matchstick cut. 

In my opinion and experience, a super thin and flat piece of cheese is far safer than a matchstick cut or small cube, both of which could more easily get stuck in a straw.  And shredded cheese is even safer.  But the flat, thin (or “ruler-thin”) cut makes it easier for babies to pick up and is safe as well. (This ruler-thin cut also works really well for cantaloupe and honeydew melon too!)

a piece of white cheese about 2.5 inches long and thin and flat next to a transparent ruler
a piece of cheese next to a ruler on its side to demonstrate how thin it should be. The ruler and the cheese are approximately the same thinness

Now look. I don’t want you to start pulling out your rulers to meaure the thinness of a piece of cheese, nor do I want you going aorund with a straw to see if something gets stuck. Baby are quiet adept at munching with their gums and in general, do really well.

Before I go though, remember that some cheeses are extremely high in sodium, which if consumed in excess, can lead to hypernatremia, a condition of having too much sodium in the blood, which affects the balance of water in our bodies.1 Early and excessive exposure to sodium is also thought to play a role in cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity.2

For a list of cheeses that are unsafe for babies, check out our guide, 30 Foods You Should Never Feed Your Baby

Happy (cheese) eating!

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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