Did you know that yogurt can affect your baby’s behavior and mood?
Indeed, the probiotics in yogurt can help support gut health, which in turn can affect brain growth and behavior. (1)
You’ll find many different yogurt options at grocery stores, but how do you know if your little one is ready for yogurt?
We got you covered, mama. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about introducing your baby to yogurt via the baby-led weaning methodology.
Is Yogurt Ok For Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) skips traditional purée spoon-feeding and lets your baby self-feed with appropriately-sized finger foods. Yogurt can be a great baby-led weaning food if it contains the right ingredients and is served appropriately. More details below on how to best serve yogurt in BLW per age and what to look for when choosing yogurt.
Can I Give My 6-Month-Old Yogurt?
Absolutely! Yogurt can be part of your baby’s first food. They can enjoy the benefits of yogurt as soon as they start eating solid foods, usually at around four to six months of age. When choosing yogurt, it’s best to avoid those with added sugar or additives. We have a list of things to consider when choosing yogurt for your baby below.
Top Reasons To Serve Yogurt In BLW
Here’s what’s typically in 100 grams of whole milk, plain yogurt: (2)
- Calories – 61 kcal
- Protein – 3.47 g
- Fat – 3.25 g
- Carbohydrates – 4.66 g
- Fiber – 0 g
- Calcium – 121 mg
- Potassium – 155 mg
For 100 grams of whole milk, plain Greek yogurt: (3)
- Calories – 97 kcal
- Protein – 9 g
- Fat – 5 g
- Carbohydrates – 3.98 g
- Fiber – 0
- Calcium – 100 mg
- Potassium – 141 mg
- Phosphorus – 135 mg
Yogurt is rich in probiotics. These are live microorganisms or “good bacteria” that live in our bodies that help keep us healthy.
They help us digest food, promote brain development, and help fight off diseases. Based on several studies, probiotics have shown effectiveness in the following health conditions: (4)
- Necrotizing enterocolitis– It’s an intestinal disease common in premature babies. (5)
- Sepsis in premature babies – It’s a life-threatening reaction to an infection. (4)
- Infant colic – It’s the frequent and prolonged crying of a healthy baby. (6)
- Diarrhea – Yogurt is effective for acute and antibiotic-caused types of diarrhea. (7)
- Ulcerative colitis – It’s a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (8)
Some of the probiotic strains commonly found in yogurt are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus. We listed some of their health benefits to your baby in our section on various live organisms below.
Are Probiotics Safe For Babies?
Yes, studies have shown that probiotics are safe and well-tolerated in healthy babies and even premature babies. (9)
The Importance Of A Healthy Microbiome In Your Baby’s First Years
Promotes Good Immunity
If you’re looking at improving your baby’s immunity, you can look into improving their gut health. Did you know that about 70-80% of immune cells are found in the gut?
Yes, gut cells are busy building antibodies to help protect your baby against illnesses and diseases like diarrhea and eczema. (9)(4)
Building a strong, balanced microbiome during your baby’s first year is crucial because research shows it can affect their health into adulthood.
Studies show that probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can protect them against diseases like obesity or asthma later in life. (11)
Helps Improve Brain Function
The gut and brain are connected through the microbiome-gut-brain axis.
Improving your baby’s gut health also improves their brain function.
Studies show that gut health contributes to babies’ brain function and development. It can also affect their moods and behaviors. (12)
Is It Safe To Give Raw Milk Yogurt To Your Baby?
It’s not safe. Raw milk is unpasteurized milk that may contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Brucella, Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium that can make your baby seriously sick. Look out for stomach cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea to more serious issues like kidney failure or death. (13)
Is Yogurt A Choking Hazard?
No, yogurt is not a common choking hazard. However, it’s always best to supervise your baby during mealtimes to prevent them from putting too much food in their mouth, especially with thicker varieties like Greek yogurt.
Is Yogurt A Common Allergen?
Yes, since it’s made of cow’s milk, yogurt shouldn’t be given to babies with dairy allergy.
Milk allergy is the most common type of allergy among babies and young children. It affects 2.5 percent of children under three years of age. (14)
Milk allergy is when the body overreacts to milk or dairy products. Your baby’s immune system releases chemicals called histamines which cause the common symptoms of allergies such as sneezing or runny nose. (15)
The two types of milk protein that usually causes milk allergy are: (16)
- Casein – The solid part of the milk, which comprises around 80% of the milk.
- Whey – The liquid part of the milk, which comprises the remaining 20% content of the milk.
Your baby can be allergic to casein or whey, or both. Cow’s milk is the most common cause of milk allergy, but your baby can still have allergic reactions to sheep’s, goat’s, or buffalo’s milk. (16)
Here are the common symptoms of milk allergy: (16)
- Runny nose
- Diarrhea or loose stool with blood
- Abdominal cramps
- Watery eyes
- Frequent, prolonged crying or colic in babies
Look out for symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction: (16)
- Flushed face and skin
- Swollen throat
- Difficulty breathing
There are two main types of cow’s milk allergy: (17)
- Immediate CMA (Cow’s Milk Allergy) – This happens when symptoms appear within minutes after consuming cow’s milk.
- Delayed CMA – This happens when symptoms begin to appear much later, typically after several hours, or even days, after consuming cow’s milk.
Milk intolerance is another type of reaction to milk, but unlike allergies, it doesn’t involve the immune system but mainly the digestive system.
Intolerance happens when your baby’s digestive system doesn’t have the lactase enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. Because of this, your baby can’t properly digest milk. (18)
Watch out for the following symptoms: (16)
Symptoms commonly appear within 30 minutes to two hours after consuming milk or dairy products. Unlike a milk allergy, lactose intolerance isn’t life-threatening but can still cause serious discomfort to your baby. (16)(18)
Can Your Baby Try Milk If You Have A Family History Of Food Allergies?
Genetics or family history is one of the risk factors that can increase your baby’s chances of acquiring allergies or sensitivities. A baby is considered high-risk for allergy if one or both parents have allergies. (16)
The good thing is that up to 85 to 90% of babies outgrow a milk allergy by three years of age. (19)
Early Introduction Of Allergens
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) states that the early introduction of common allergens in small amounts can help reduce the risk of allergies in babies. (20)
Seek advice from your baby’s pediatrician or registered dietitian if you’re introducing yogurt or allergenic foods to your baby for the first time.
What To Look For When Choosing Yogurt
No Sugar Or Additives
Choose unsweetened, plain yogurt. Avoid flavored yogurt or those with additives, preservatives, and sugar since these are not recommended for babies under two years old. (21)
Whenever possible, choose organic dairy products from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals. This is to safeguard your baby against synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticide residues usually used in conventional farms. (22)
Animals given antibiotics can contribute to antibiotic resistance to your baby. Synthetic growth hormones in animals can also lead to precocious puberty or the early onset of puberty in young children. (23)(24)
A Variety of Live Organisms
The best yogurt for babies contains a variety of different types of probiotic strains:
- Lactobacillus strain – Improves gut health for better digestion and good immunity. It also protects your baby against infections caused by Helicobacter pylori, which usually occurs in the stomach or small intestine. (25)
- Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus thermophilus strains – Prevent and treat diarrhea, and improve intestinal function. (25)
- L. rhamnosus GG; Bifidobacterium animalis Bb12 – Reduce the risk of allergies and irritable bowel syndrome. (25)
You can also look for the Live & Active Cultures (LAC) seal from the International Dairy Foods Association to verify probiotic content. (26)
Whole Milk Or Full-Fat Yogurt
Babies under two years of age need all the fat they can get from a varied diet. (27)
Goat’s And Sheep’s Milk Yogurt
Contain lower lactose than cow’s milk, making it more well-tolerated for those babies who are lactose intolerant. When choosing goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurt, make sure they’re made with pasteurized milk. (28)(29)(30)
A fermented dairy drink that also contains live probiotics. When choosing kefir, choose full-fat and without sugar or preservatives.
Baby Yogurt Vs. Adult Yogurt
Baby yogurt is made of whole milk, full fat, and less sugar, suitable for your baby’s needs. Meanwhile, most regular yogurts are often marketed as low-fat or non-fat versions to make them healthier for adults. In comparison, here’s the sugar and fat content of baby yogurt vs. adult low-fat yogurt per 100 g serving:
Baby yogurt: 3.25 g
Adult regular low-fat yogurt: 1.55 g (31)(32)
Baby yogurt: 4.66 g
Adult regular low-fat yogurt: 7.04 g (31)(32)
Greek Yogurt Vs. Regular Yogurt
The reason why many experts turn to Greek yogurt is because of its protein content. It’s almost twice as high as regular low-fat yogurt and still higher than the whole-milk baby yogurt.
Greek yogurt: 10.3 g
Adult regular low-fat yogurt: 5.25 g (33)(32)
Whole-milk baby yogurt: 3.47 g (31)
Can I Give My 6-Month-Old Baby Greek Yogurt?
Absolutely! Greek yogurt is rich in protein, carbohydrates, and calcium, which are good for your baby. Plus, its thick consistency makes it easier for your baby to scoop using a baby spoon rather than the runny whole-milk yogurt. (33)
Top Recommended Yogurt Brands
Cow’s Milk Options:
- Siggi’s Whole-Milk Icelandic Yogurt – It uses “clean” ingredients, without artificial sweeteners, and comes from farms that don’t use growth hormones. (34)
- Organic Valley – It’s organic, non-GMO, and made from the milk of 100% grass-fed cows. (35)
- Nancy’s Yogurt – It’s organic, without artificial ingredients, and also made from grass-fed cows. (36)
- Stoneyfield – It’s organic and free from pesticides, synthetic growth hormones, and antibiotics. (37)
- Wallaby – It’s slow-crafted and made with high-quality organic milk and ingredients. (38)
- Chobani Whole Milk Greek Yogurt – It’s made from farm-fresh local milk with natural ingredients and without preservatives (39)
Sheep & Goat’s Milk Option:
- Redwood Hill Goat Milk Yogurt, Plain – without added sugar, and live probiotics. Made from goat’s milk which is more digestible and contains higher levels of fatty acids than cow’s milk. (40)
- Bellwether Farms Sheep Milk Yogurt – It’s made of full-fat and contains live probiotics. It’s also free from antibiotics and growth hormones. (40)
Plant-Based, Dairy-Free Yogurt Options
Common plant-based, dairy-free yogurt options are made from coconut or tree nuts, oat, and soy milk.
Plant-based yogurts don’t contain as much protein, calcium, or vitamin B12 as their animal-based counterparts. Still, they’re excellent alternatives if your baby is lactose intolerant, allergic, or sensitive to dairy.
You can always choose to supplement your baby’s diet with other healthy and nutritious foods to make sure they’re getting enough of these nutrients. (42)
Even if your baby tolerates dairy well, plant-based yogurts are a great way to help widen their palate.
Not all plant-based yogurts undergo fermentation, so some may not contain live probiotics. You can check the ingredients label to be sure.
The Best Dairy-Free Options
- Culina Plain Coconut Yogurt – uses “clean” ingredients, which include organic coconut, agar, and probiotic cultures. (43)
- The Coconut Cult – ingredients include organic coconut meat, organic coconut water, organic coconut water concentrate, and 16 strains of probiotics. (44)
- Forager Project, Cashewmilk Yogurt – Certified organic and vegan, it contains cashew milk, organic tapioca starch, locust bean gum, coconut cream, and live active cultures. (45)
- Kite Hill Yogurt, Unsweetened – non-GMO, without artificial flavors and preservatives. Its ingredients include almond milk, cane sugar, starch, citrus fiber, locust bean gum, xanthan gum, and live active cultures. (46)
- Nancy’s Oatmilk Non-Dairy Yogurt Plain – made of fava beans, which are high in fiber and protein. Other ingredients include oat milk, tapioca flour, coconut oil, agar, citric acid, and live culture. (47)(48)
How Do You Serve Yogurt In Baby-Led Weaning?
You can let your baby go messy by offering yogurt in a bowl and letting them dig in with their hands. You can also offer a preloaded spoon so your baby can easily grab it.
Some babies have already developed their pincer grasp, the ability to hold objects between their thumb and pointer finger. This will help them hold their spoons better. If your baby isn’t comfortable with utensils yet, it’s okay. Let them practice more as you demonstrate.
If your baby has mastered their pincer grasp, you can allow them to self-feed using a loaded spoon. If not yet, you can offer a preloaded spoon but leave it at the edge of the bowl so they practice more.
You can still offer a preloaded spoon at the edge of their bowl or just allow them to self-feed.
8 Easy & Healthy Ways To Serve Yogurt
1. Yogurt bowls
Scoop plain yogurt in a bowl and serve. Add sliced fruits like bananas, blueberries, or strawberries. Sprinkle with chia, hemp seeds, or mild spices like cinnamon for more flavor and textures.
In a blender, combine yogurt with water, frozen fruits like blueberries, and some spinach.
3. Overnight Oats
Combine yogurt, water, chia seeds, shredded coconut, and oats in a bowl. Leave the mixture in the fridge overnight. You can add seeds, sliced fruits like strawberries, or even fruit puree as a topping.
4. Chia seed pudding
Stir in chia seeds with yogurt in a bowl. Leave the mixture in the fridge for one to two hours or overnight. The chia seed will set into a pudding, perfect for your baby to scoop. You can drizzle applesauce on top.
5. Yogurt dips like Tzatziki
Shred a cucumber and drain for excess water. Mix in greek yogurt and dill or a squeeze of lemon for a zesty taste. Your baby can dip bread to this refreshing yogurt dip.
6. Added to baked goods
It helps give muffins, pancakes, and waffles a more creamy texture and added flavor. You can spread peanut butter or nut butter.
7. As a spread on toast
Spread yogurt on your baby’s toast.
8. Frozen yogurt bites
Place wax paper on a baking sheet. Scoop out small servings of yogurt on the wax paper. Don’t make it too small to be a choking hazard, just enough to fit in your baby’s hand. Freeze for four hours or overnight. Remove from the wax paper and serve. This cold snack is perfect when your baby is teething.