When Can I Give My Baby Fish and Shellfish?

Baby chopsticks
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While fish and shellfish are ​on the big eight list of food allergies, they tend to affect adults more than young children. There are also some fish you will want to avoid whether or not you have a history of allergies. This is because of the high mercury content.

Overview

You can give your child fish or shellfish at any time after they've gotten a good start with solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics used to advise parents to wait to give babies fish, but they've changed this stance, saying, "Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include...fish."

A study published in Nutrients even found that babies who start eating fish before the age of one have a lower risk of subsequently developing eczema, which is considered to be an allergy-related condition.

In many other countries where fish is more of a staple in the diet, babies are fed fish before other meats. These babies eat fish more often than our staples of chicken, pork and beef and they do just fine.

When introducing fish, make sure that it's fully cooked. Mince it very finely and blend it in with vegetables that have already been introduced without problems. Always check fish and shellfish for bones and bits of shell.

Be sure to check nutrition labels for fish ingredients and allergy statements that are required by the FDA. Whether or not you have a family history of allergy, the first time you introduce fish or shellfish, be sure to watch for the signs of an allergic reaction (hives, difficulty breathing or asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth or throat, vomiting or diarrhea and loss of consciousness).

In case of an allergic reaction, know how to respond and be ready to call 9-1-1 immediately.

Mercury Content

The FDA recommends that you avoid giving young children shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish because of the high mercury levels. Pregnant and nursing women should also avoid these fish.

Good fish to start your baby on (after they have been eating solid foods for a couple of months) that are low in mercury include shrimp, canned light tuna (albacore is higher in mercury), salmon, pollock, and catfish. If your fish is locally caught, the FDA advises contacting local authorities first to see what's safe.

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Starting solid foods. Updated January 2018.

  2. Øien T, Schjelvaag A, Storrø O, Johnsen R, Simpson MR. Fish consumption at one year of age reduces the risk of eczema, asthma and wheeze at six years of age. Nutrients. 2019;(11)9. doi:10.3390/nu11091969

  3. US National Library of Medicine. Allergic reactions. Updated February 2018.

  4. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA/EPA 2004 advice on what you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish. Updated July 2019.

  5. US Food & Drug Administration. FDA and EPA issue final fish consumption advice. Updated May 2017.