“Why can babies (under 12 months) have whole milk yogurt but not whole milk until they are 1 year old?”
Great question! I get this one often so I wanted to explain here just in case you, too, are wondering this.
Under the age of 12 months, babies should not drink cow’s milk as a main source of nutrition, because it lacks iron and other nutrients that are needed for growth and development in the first year of life. Breast milk or formula should be the main source of liquid nutrition for infants under 12 months as it contains the right ratio of fat, protein, and minerals for growth and development. (1)
In addition, “cow’s milk isn’t as easily digestible for babies under 1, and has too much protein and certain minerals for a baby’s immature kidneys to handle” (1). But yogurt is different because of the “live, active cultures (ie. L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, etc). that break down the lactose and protein making it much easier for babies to digest” (2).
And finally, drinking cow’s milk in infancy (birth – 12 months) can irritate the lining of a baby’s stomach and intestines which will cause nutrient loss/reduced absorption and result in anemia (1).
If your child has a CMPA, is lactose intolerant, or your family prefers to use plant foods, my favorite dairy-free yogurt with no added sugar is:
- So Delicious Coconut Unsweetened Plain (per cup: 7g Fat, >1g Protein, 10g Carbs, 45mg Sodium, 50% DV Calcium, 50%, DV Vitamin B12, 45% DV Vitamin D)
I would like to note that dairy-free yogurts do not offer the same nutrients as whole milk yogurt. It is not a bad thing- but just something to be aware of when feeding little ones! For example, coconut yogurt does not have as much protein as cow’s milk yogurt.
Introducing yogurt can start at 6 months old but there are some things to look for:
Plain, Unsweetened (non-flavored)
Flavored yogurts are often full of ❌ADDED SUGAR❌which is a big no-no for babies. There are still lots of fun ways to add flavor to yogurt which you can find farther down.
Until 2 years old it is recommended to use whole milk dairy products for the full-fat content which little ones need for healthy brain development or use a plant-based yogurt also high in fat (aim for 5gram or more per serving). Learn more about the importance of fat for babies here.
Both Regular and Greek are okay!
Greek yogurt has a slightly stronger, more tangy flavor than regular yogurt but both are okay to offer to babies.
Organic and/or Grass-Fed (if possible)
It’s not necessary to start with organic or grass-fed (for dairy) yogurt, but if it’s available and affordable it’s a great option.
How to Serve Yogurt
Many parents are worried by the idea of Baby Led Weaning because they think they will never be able to offer foods that require a spoon – since BLW is about “self-feeding”. But it’s actually very possible to offer these foods to your baby!
Even adults eat soft foods that require a spoon such as soups, oatmeal, and even yogurt.
A “preloaded spoon” is the perfect way to let your baby (6m+) practice feeding him/herself! 🥄I *HIGHLY RECOMMEND* using 2-3 spoons at a time in the beginning.
While the baby is working with the first one you can load the second. They will be much more willing to let go of the one in their hand if they see another one already loaded!
Offering a few times per week allows your little one to have practice self-feeding but leaves room for variety with other foods!
You can also add variety by adding seasonings, spices, fruits, nut butters, and more!
Naturally Sweetened Yogurt Dips
Yogurt is can be such an amazing food for little ones- but store bought flavored yogurts are not always so great. In fact, many of them have added sugar, artifical sweeteners, and artifical coloring(s) to make them “more appealing” to consumers. All of these are things we want to limit/reduce for young children (and honestly for everyone else too).
So how do we enjoy sweet, flavored yogurt without all the additives? We add flavor naturally!
My favorite ways to add flavor to yogurt at home are:
- add unsweetened applesauce (and cinnamon too)
- add mashed or pureed foods (banana, berries, sweet potatoes, mango, pumpkin, dates, prunes)
- add unsweetened dried or freeze dried fruits
- add unsweetened extracts (vanilla, peppermint, orange, almond)
- add spices (cinnamon, pumpkin spice)
There are some store-bought yogurts that use only fruit puree to flavor yogurts however, personally, I think it is best to do it at home. First of all, you are able to have more control over the ingredients and amounts of ingredients offered. Secondly, you can include more texture! Using real fruits for flavoring allows you to change the texture- starting with smooth and slowly progressing to a “chunkier” version.
Other fun things to add to yogurt to add more nutrients are:
- Chia Seeds
- Ground Flaxseed
- Shredded Coconut (toasted or untoasted)
Nut Butter in Yogurt Dips
Adding nut butter to yogurt can be a great and easy way to enhance the flavor and add more protein & healthy fat to each bite your litte one eats! In fact, after introducing yogurt to your litte one first (from 6m+), you can then use yogurt to help introduce nut butter (read more about introducing top allergens here) to your little one. Personally, I like to add either peanut butter or almond butter to yogurt! *nut-free recommendation below*
Nut butter, on its own, in large quantities is considered to be a choking hazard for children under 4 years old. Mixing it with yogurt makes it both safer and easier to use for dipping!
Some fun nut butters you should consider adding to your child’s yogurt (with exclusion of chidlren with nut allergies) are :
- Peanut Butter
- Almond Butter
- Sunflower Butter *nut-free*
- Pistacchio Butter
- Granola Butter *nut-free*
- Cashew Butter
- Hazelnut Butter
Just like almost everything else, watch out for nut butter with added sugar!
Savory Herb Yogurt Dips
One of the easiest ways (and most cost efficient) to add variety to plain yogurt is by adding seasonings and spices!
- Diced Tomatoes
- Lemon Juice
- Lime Juice
Yogurt is such an easy food to serve to your baby and for them to self-feed! It is also so versatile making it the perfect food to start with when starting solids.
(1) BabyCenter, T. A. (2018, September 15). Why yogurt but not milk for babies? Retrieved from https://www.babycenter.com/609_why-yogurt-but-not-milk-for-babies_20004590.bc
(2) Kuzemchak, S. (2018, January 08). When Can Babies Eat Yogurt? Retrieved from https://www.stonyfield.com/blog/when-can-babies-eat-yogurt