Yogurt is a delicious, healthy snack for all ages, and makes a great early baby food. Learn what to look for in a yogurt to serve to your baby and how to introduce it.
The Benefits of Yogurt
Yogurt is full of vitamins and minerals that are an important part of a healthy diet. On top of being a great source of protein and calcium, among other nutrients, yogurt also provides probiotics. These are the good bacteria that help to keep the digestive system running smoothly and provide immune support to keep your baby healthy. Probiotics have been linked with fewer digestive problems such as gas, constipation and diarrhea in babies. They are also known to help fight yeast infections and shorten the duration of gastrointestinal illness.
Choosing a Yogurt for Your Baby
When selecting a yogurt for your baby, avoid those labeled low fat or fat free. Your baby needs the fat for brain and eye development, so look for a yogurt made with whole milk. You should start your baby with plain, whole milk yogurt, to which you can add fruit purees that you have already served and are sure baby can tolerate.
There are yogurts on the market that are intended for consumption by babies, but they usually carry a hefty price tag. You can get all the same benefits by purchasing a large tub of whole milk yogurt and mixing in your own fruits for flavor while avoiding the added sugar many of these yogurts contain. As your baby progresses, you can also add vanilla yogurt for a different flavor.
When to Introduce Yogurt
Although you may have heard the “no dairy before one year” rule, this doesn’t apply to dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Doctors recommend against cow’s milk as a beverage before one year old because it can replace breast milk or formula and deprive baby of needed nutrients. Too much can also cause anemia. There is no risk of this with yogurt, however, as it won’t replace breast or bottle feedings.
Yogurt also does not carry the risk of a reaction to lactose, because the process by which it is made breaks down the lactose and makes it easier to digest. The same culturing process makes the protein in yogurt easy on your baby’s stomach. It is safe to introduce yogurt as one of baby’s first foods, although 7-8 months old is usually the recommended age.
Start with small amounts of yogurt, plain at first, and then start adding different combinations of fruits and even vegetables to the mix. You can also blend in some infant cereal along with the fruit for a complete, balanced meal in one. Fruits that go great with plain yogurt include applesauce, peaches, pears, blueberries and bananas. Although it seems strange to an adult palate, babies may enjoy a vegetable mixed with yogurt as well! Try sweet potatoes or pumpkin.
Plain yogurt provides a healthy base for creating all kinds of flavorful combinations for your baby to enjoy. As your baby grows, you can add chunkier fruits and even create smoothies from yogurt and fruit for baby to enjoy from a sippy cup and eventually a straw cup. Yogurt is a versatile baby food full of nutrients and other healthy components, and is a great early addition to baby’s diet.