At What Age Can Babies Eat Yogurt?

Baby boy sitting in high chair eating yogurt

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When to give babies dairy products can be confusing because yogurt (and cheese) is okay before one year of age, but milk is not. The advice varies on the ideal age at which your baby can eat yogurt. Your best bet is to talk to your pediatrician. They might have a suggested timeline for introducing foods—either for their patients in general or your baby in particular.

Before you include dairy in your baby's diet, there are a few things to consider.

  • Digestion: Yogurt and cheese undergo a culturing process that breaks down the milk proteins. This makes the protein in yogurt and cheese easier for babies to digest, while still being a good source of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Nutrition: Cow's milk does not provide the same level of nutrition provided by breast milk and/or infant formula. Doctors do not typically advise that parents replace breast milk or formula with cow's milk (or other milk, such as goat's milk, soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk) until after baby's first year. This could put babies at risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Supplementing: Yogurt should be thought of as an addition to the nutrition that babies are receiving from breast milk or formula. Babies should continue to drink enough breast milk or formula to meet their nutritional needs as they are introduced to solid foods, including dairy products.

When to Introduce Yogurt

Many doctors suggest introducing yogurt between 9 and 10 months of age. However, studies indicate that the timing of adding certain solids to a baby's diet is not as important as once believed. In light of that, some pediatricians might recommend introducing selected yogurts as early as 6 months.

If your baby is doing well with solid food, you can introduce yogurt just as you would any other new food (one new food at a time, so you can see how your baby responds).

Probiotics

Yogurt contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria (or the nutrients that promote the growth of the beneficial bacteria). Parents sometimes think giving their babies probiotics could offer specific health benefits such as an improved immune system—but research has not backed up these claims.

Do Babies Need Probiotics?

Breast milk and some infant formulas contain probiotics, which means many babies are already getting the beneficial bacteria without supplementation.

There is early research data suggesting that specific probiotics (such as reuteiri) might reduce crying in babies with colic.

Choose the Best Yogurt for Babies

At whatever age you choose to start yogurt, be selective about your choice. Serve a whole milk yogurt, because your baby needs the nutritious fat in whole-milk products for proper brain development.

While many yogurts are marketed to babies and kids, not all are as healthy as others. Many of these yogurts add extra sugar. While all yogurt contains naturally occurring sugars, you want to be mindful of how much sugar is added and if the yogurt contains other additives—like fructose syrup and starches.

A good choice is to start with plain, whole milk yogurt. Buy a large tub of plain yogurt to save money over more expensive single-serving packages. You can also save by skipping organic milk and yogurt products. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "There is no evidence of clinically relevant differences in organic and conventional milk."

For extra flavor, stir in a fruit or veggie purée that you know your baby tolerates. You might try mixing yogurt with:

  • Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Green bean and pear blend
  • Mashed avocado
  • Peaches
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes

If you enjoy making your own baby foods, you can make your own baby smoothies, too. Frozen smoothies placed in a mesh baby feeder are a great way to soothe a teething baby's sore gums.

Shelf-Stable Yogurts

These yogurts do not need to be refrigerated, which is nice if you want something you can toss in a diaper bag when you're on the go. However, since these yogurts have been pasteurized, their live cultures have been destroyed. This means many of the elements that make yogurt a healthy option are no longer present in shelf-stable products.

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