When Can Baby Eat Fish?

baby eat fish
Fish may be a wonderful source of nutrition for you baby. Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Question: When Can Baby Eat Fish?

I thought it was not safe for babies to eat fish until they were toddlers, but someone told me otherwise. Is fish safe for babies? If so, what kinds of fish can I feed my baby?

Answer:

A study was published in 2008, and many more since, indicating that delaying the start of foods may not prevent food allergies as once was thought. In light of those studies, there are new feeding recommendations.

As with starting any new foods, be sure you talk with your pediatrician about the right timing for your baby.

New Guidelines for Feeding Fish to Babies

The study found that you can begin feeding your baby certain properly cooked fish as early as 4 to 6 months of age, provided there is no history of allergies. The study stated:

"Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 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."

However, your pediatrician may offer your different advice, based on your baby's health needs. More conservative suggestions for offering fish to babies state to wait after your baby is 1 year of age for fish and possibly delay to age 3 for shellfish and crustaceans, like lobster, clams, oysters, and shrimp.

Again, new studies indicate that this may not be necessary. Definitely discuss with your doctor her thoughts on feeding fish and shellfish to your baby.

Fish, An Excellent Nutritional Source

Fish is a meat that can be a wonderful source of nutrition for your baby. It is packed with lean protein and contain the Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), Omega-3.

The American Dietetic Association notes that these fats in fish promote brain development. Additionally, fish can provide varying amounts of iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.

Select Fish Best for Babies

When introducing fish to your baby, you want to be sure you choose fish that:

  • Are properly de-boned.
  • Have been thoroughly cooked. Avoid raw, underdone fish or ceviche "cooked" fish.
  • Are considered to have lower levels of mercury content. Avoid fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish.
  • Have milder flavors that your baby might more readily accept. (See discussion below.)
  • Are fresh.

Babies May Prefer Mild Fish

Your baby might better accept white fish that has a milder taste rather than a distinctly "fishy" taste. Flounder, Haddock, Cod, and Sole are all great starting points for your baby. 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, or baking will be a more healthful preparation to pan-frying.

These methods also tend to make the fish softer and easier for your baby to mash.

If you are making your own baby food, you can process the fish to your baby's desired texture. You may also wish to mix it 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 yum it all up!

If ready for table foods, your baby can self-feed properly cooked, deboned fish. Simply make sure the fish is cut into suitable small pieces that he can handle.

See also:

Sources:

Jill Weisenberger, MS CDE RD. Is Fish Healthy for My Child?. American Dietetic Association.

Greer FR, Sicherer SH, Burks AW; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy and Immunology.Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):183-91.

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