A reader asks:
What is the best age to start yogurt? And what kind?
The AAP’s Committee on Nutrition has the answer:
Whole milk is not recommended for infants under 12 months of age, although yogurt and cheese can be introduced after 6 months.
These recommendations assume a few things:
- The infant is exclusively breastfed for the first six months and so has been getting adequate calcium all along. In fact, for formula-fed babies, starting yogurt at 6 months might be more important: Calcium is less bio-available in formulas than breast milk (it doesn’t get absorbed by the baby’s intestine as much), so it is important to find other ways for these bottle-fed babies to get added calcium.
- The yogurt should NOT be a low-fat or no-fat product. Rather, it should be made with whole milk. Avoid yogurt with artificial sweeteners and other chemical ingredients. Watch out for added sugars.
- Yogurt is not a substitute for breast milk or formula, which remain critical for adequate infant nutrition.
- Yogurt is not a reliable source of vitamin D. We need to keep our eye on vitamin D intake throughout childhood, providing supplements when indicated. (For example, all breastfed babies should take a vitamin D supplement.)
- Whole milk should not be started until 12 months of age. (And when that time comes, please introduce whole milk in a cup, NOT a bottle. 12 months is when we start to get rid of the bottle.)
The reason why you can feed a baby yogurt — but not whole milk — at six months old is because the bacterial cultures in yogurt break down the milk protein, making it more easily digested. Whole milk is much more difficult for babies younger than 1 year old to digest. As a result, they can get microscopic intestinal bleeding that can lead to anemia.
As far as a brand recommendation, we’ll leave that up to you. Most important: read the label!
Read AAP Policy Statement on “Optimizing Bone Health and Calcium Intakes of Infants, Children, and Adolescents” here.
Get some yogurt recipe ideas here.