Yogurt is a good choice for your baby’s complementary feeding around 6 months of age*.
First, it is a nutrient-dense food, providing proteins and fatty acids for baby’s growth, as well as calcium and phosphorus for bone strength. Yogurt also contains live microorganisms who make digestion easier, through the fermentation process that breaks down the milk proteins into smaller units. In addition, several studies suggest health benefits of yogurts for toddlers.
For example, yogurt consumption in infancy is associated with reduced risk of eczema and allergy . The study indicates that 6-12 month-old toddlers who ate yogurt at least 2-6 times a week were significantly less likely to develop eczema and allergies than those who ate yogurt less than once a month. Another study suggests a link between yogurt consumption and reduced risk of tummy troubles such as vomiting and diarrhea in 1-year-old babies . The yogurt’s live bacteria may play a role in all these associations. They are also thought to improve lactose intolerance and support immune function . Thus, due to all these health benefits and the absence of adverse effects, yogurt should be included among toddlers complementary foods .
Why is yogurt suitable, but not cow’s milk?
Unlike cow’s milk, yogurt is suitable for babies during complementary feeding because it is easier to digest for tiny tummies and, especially because cow’s milk should not be a substitute for breastmilk or formulas. Cow’s milk must not be given as a main drink before 12 months to prevent the development of iron deficiency . Thus, yogurt should be used as a supplement to the nutrition from breastmilk or formulas when babies start eating solid foods.
What kind of yogurts can be given?
During complementary feeding, plain or whole-fat yogurts are interesting because of their fatty acids content, which is necessary for the baby’s development .
Yogurts rich in protein (like Greek yogurt for example), low-fat yogurts and sweetened yogurts should be avoided. When available, specific “baby yogurts”, developed with infant formula are preferable. They contain less protein and are enriched with iron, essential fatty acids and vitamins.
Like any new food, the introduction of yogurt should be done in small quantities and separated by a few days to look for signs of an allergic reaction.
*Nutritional recommendations regarding the different stages of feeding and complementary food may vary in each country.
WHO and UNICEF recommend an exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life. From the age of six months, children should be introduced to safe and appropriate complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed until two years of age or beyond.
Crane J, Barthow C, Mitchell EA et al. Is yoghurt an acceptable alternative to raw milk for reducing eczema and allergy in infancy? Clin Exp Allergy. 2018. 48:604-606
Morelli L. Yogurt, living cultures, and gut health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014. 99:1248S-1250S.
Nakamura M, Hamazaki K, Matsumura K et al. Infant dietary intake of yogurt and cheese and gastroenteritis at 1 year of age: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study. PLoS ONE. 2019. 4:e0223495.
Donovan M and Rao G. Health benefits of yogurt among infants and toddlers aged 4 to 24 months: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2019;77: 478-486.
Kim Fleischer Michaelsen. Cow’s Milk in Complementary Feeding. Pediatrics. 2000. 106(Supplement 4):1302-1303.
Porto A and Drake R. Cow’s milk alternative: Parent FAQs. Healthy Children.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 2017.