When Can Baby Eat Fish?

baby eating

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Most babies can eat fish, and in fact they should, since fish is such a good source of brain-building omega-3 fatty acids. While it's true that fish is one of the top seven allergy foods, scientific research shows that delaying the start of foods may not prevent food allergies as was once thought. In light of those studies (such as this review from 2013), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its feeding recommendations. Of course, as with any new foods, be sure you talk with your pediatrician about the right timing for your baby.

Guidelines for Feeding Fish to Babies

You can begin feeding your baby certain properly cooked fish as early as four to six months of age, provided there is no history of allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition states:

"Although solid foods should not be introduced before four to six months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease regardless of whether infants are fed cow milk protein formula or human milk. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein."

Available research suggests that eating fish early in life can prevent certain allergic diseases, including asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis. Although fish can be introduced early, it's probably best to not introduce it as the first food the child ever eats. Also, make sure to introduce it at home, prepared at home as opposed to a restaurant. You can begin feeding your baby certain properly cooked fish as early as six months of age. At this age feeding is mostly to learn different textures and flavors, and babies are still receive a majority of their nutrition from formula or breast milk.

Your pediatrician may offer different advice, based on your baby's health needs. More conservative suggestions for offering fish to babies state to wait until your baby is one year old for fish and possibly delay to age three for shellfish and crustaceans, like lobster, clams, oysters, and shrimp, especially if severe allergies run in the family. Again, research indicates that this may not be necessary, but you and your pediatrician know your baby's particular needs best.

Best Fish for Babies

Fish can be a wonderful source of nutrition for your baby. It is packed with lean protein and contains essential fatty acids. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that these fats promote brain development. Additionally, fish can provide varying amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Certain fish, such as salmon, can also contain vitamin D which is important in the absorption of calcium.

When introducing fish to your baby, choose fish that is:

  • Fresh
  • Properly de-boned (to avoid choking hazards)
  • Thoroughly cooked; avoid raw, underdone fish or ceviche "cooked" fish
  • Considered to have lower levels of mercury; avoid swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish
  • Mild in flavor, such as flounder, haddock, cod, salmon and sole (as your baby develops a taste for fish, you might add in fish that have a stronger flavor)

Preparing Fish for Your Baby

You can prepare the fish in a variety of ways. Steaming, poaching, broiling, baking, grilling and pan-searing are all healthy ways to prepare fish. Babies need fat and searing fish with some olive oil is perfectly fine. In fact, they may accept it better because they like the flavor. Deep frying is not recommended. Reduce some of the potential toxins in fish by removing the fatty skin.

If you are making your own baby food, you can chop fish into small pieces and add water, broth, or the juice from cooking, then puree until the desired texture is reached. You may also wish to mix fish with a fruit or vegetable that your baby loves. Be creative in your combinations. Though peaches and fish may sound like an odd combination to you, your baby might gobble it all up!

Once they are developmentally ready for table foods, babies can feed themselves properly cooked, deboned fish. Just make sure the fish is cut into suitable small pieces that your baby can handle.

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  2. Bernstein AS, Oken E, de Ferranti S. Fish, shellfish, and children's health: An assessment of benefits, risks, and sustainability. Pediatrics. 2019;143(6). doi:10.1542/peds.2019-0999

  3. Ferraro V, Zanconato S, Carraro S. Timing of food introduction and the risk of food allergy. Nutrients. 2019;11(5). doi:10.3390/nu11051131

  4. Weisenberger J. Is fish healthy for my baby?. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Updated July 2019.

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