Can My Baby Eat Salmon?

Baby eating in high chair

Vera Livchak / Getty Images

Your baby is a week away from turning 6 months old and has been eyeing your plate at the dinner table with increasing interest. Last night they reached towards your plate of baked beans while salivating. Your partner and you can both see that it's time for your baby to start solids, and now it's time to decide what their first food will be.

After your little one goes down for the night, you list out some foods that you know are healthy. Avocado, oatmeal, sweet potato, and banana make the list. Then you start to add some protein-rich options like eggs, chicken, and salmon.

Salmon sounds like it could be the top choice. You know it's full of omega 3's for your baby's growing brain and it's "good fat." But, you aren't sure if salmon is a safe first food. You have heard that fish could be contaminated with mercury, and you aren't sure about potential allergies. You wonder if fish is OK for a 6-month-old, or if you should limit how much salmon your baby has.

In fact, salmon is a safe and healthy food to give to babies who are old enough to eat solids, around 6 months of age. "Canned, pouched or cooked flaked salmon is a great starter food for babies and toddlers," notes Rima Kleiner, MS, a registered dietician who blogs at Dish on Fish. Here, find out more about how safe salmon is to give your baby, along with tips for introducing it.

Is Salmon Safe for My Baby?

Salmon is considered safe for babies who are ready for solid foods, as long as it's fully cooked. You can give your baby salmon for their very first food. "Salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and as long as it's soft, it's easy for babies to handle," says Amy Goodrich MS, RD, CLS, a registered dietitian specializing in early childhood nutrition and the owner of Leading Edge Nutrition.

Babies are ready to eat solids around 6 months, when they can hold their head up and show interest in eating. They should weigh at least double their birth weight as well.

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about giving your infant corn.

Benefits of Giving Baby Salmon

Salmon offers many health benefits to growing babies. Some of these benefits are outlined below.

Good Source of DHA

Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). "Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for brain development," notes Goodrich. This matters more than ever over the first two years of life, which is the primary growth period for the human brain.

Along with being essential for cognitive development, DHA also supports visual development.

Protein

Older infants who are eating solid foods need about 2-4 tablespoons of protein each day. Salmon is a good way for your baby to get their daily recommended protein. The fat in salmon is mostly unsaturated, making it a healthier choice than other types of protein.

Good Source of Iron

Almost 14% of toddlers don't get enough iron, putting them at risk of impacted brain development and issues with behavior. Salmon contains plenty of iron making it a good choice of food for babies.

Safety Precautions

There are a few safety precautions to keep in mind when feeding salmon to your baby.

Monitor for Allergies

There is always the potential for an allergy when a baby tries a food for the first time, and fish is one of the top allergens. That's why it's important to introduce salmon when you are not introducing any other new foods. "Start slowly by offering it once a day for several days and monitor for any reactions," advises Goodrich.

Salmon Needs to Be Fully Cooked

Avoid giving raw, smoked, or seared salmon to babies because of the risk of listeria. This bacteria lives in raw meat, and although it is quite rare, an infection can be serious for babies. Salmon is considered fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees and/or the flesh is opaque, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Limit Total Servings

Mercury contamination is less of a concern when it comes to salmon, which tends to have little to none. Still, limit your child's total salmon consumption to about twice a week. It's also best to avoid introducing your little one to fish with high concentrations of mercury, such as marlin, tuna, and swordfish. Be sure to consult with your child's pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about feeding them fish.

When and How to Introduce Salmon

You can introduce salmon to babies whenever you start to introduce solids, around 6 months of age. "Look for signs that baby is ready to start solid foods: sitting upright unassisted, absence of the tongue-thrust reflex, grabbing objects and bringing to the mouth, and good head control," notes Goodrich. "This can be as early as 4 months but it usually closer to 6 months."

Prepare the salmon so that your baby can handle it well. "You want to ensure that the fish is cut or flaked into bite-sized pieces, easy for baby to pick up with fingers and small enough to swallow safely," explains Kleiner.

Offer salmon once a day for several days while monitoring your baby for any signs of allergies. You can mash it up and spoon feed it, or you can offer soft cooked pieces for your baby to grasp themselves.

What Amount of Salmon Should I Give My Baby?

If your baby seems to like salmon, you can serve it up to twice weekly. Salmon has so many benefits that there's no reason to limit it further than this if your baby enjoys it. But, if they are not showing interest, it is best not to force or try to convince them to eat it. "If they aren't showing interest, move on and try again another time," notes Goodrich.

Amount of Salmon to Give Your Baby, Based On Age
6 to 12 months As desired by baby, no more than 1 tablespoon twice weekly
1 to 2 years old 1 tablespoon twice weekly
3 to 4 years old 2 tablespoons twice weekly

A Word From Verywell

Salmon is generally safe to feed babies over 6 months old. It has many benefits, and it is especially important in supporting brain growth. Just make sure that it's fully cooked and limit the total servings to about one tablespoon twice a week.

If you have any questions about whether you can give salmon to your baby, reach out to your pediatrician.

14 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Starting Solid Foods. American Academy of Pediatrics.

  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health.

  3. Kuratko CN, Barrett EC, Nelson EB, Norman S. The relationship of docosahexaenoic acid (Dha) with learning and behavior in healthy children: a review. Nutrients. 2013;5(7):2777-2810. doi:  10.3390/nu5072777.

  4. Feeding My Baby. California Department of Public Health.

  5. Finn K, Callen C, Bhatia J, Reidy K, Bechard L, Carvalho R. Importance of dietary sources of iron in infants and toddlers: lessons from the fits study. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):733. doi: 10.3390/nu9070733.

  6. Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw. US Department of Agriculture.

  7. Iron needs of babies and children. Paediatrics & Child Health. 2007;12(4):333-334. doi: 10.1093/pch/12.4.333.

  8. Food Allergies in Children. American Academy of Pediatrics.

  9. Listeriosis Infection. American Academy of Pediatrics.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.

  11. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice about Eating Fish for Those Who Might Become or Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding and Children Ages 1 to 11 Years.

  12. Is It Safe for My Child to Eat Sushi? American Academy of Pediatrics.

  13. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Advice about Eating Fish.

  14. Feeding My Child. California Department of Public Health.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR Family and Scary Mommy, among others.