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Introducing Yogurt to Babies

Yogurt for babies can be a great source of so many nutrients, such as protein, calcium, and gut-nourishing probiotics. If you’re wondering when you can give yogurt to your little one, this post will break down everything you need to know about introducing yogurt to babies.

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Introducing foods to babies is a very exciting time. You’re opening them up to a whole new world of flavor and spices, and you’re along for the ride.

We love to talk about baby led weaning on this blog. As a dietitian and mom of 3, it’s a huge passion of mine. We have several posts about how to do it and easy baby recipes.

Letting your baby feed themselves the same foods you’re eating helps to develop the skills they need to safely eat.

Plus, they get the chance to explore new flavors. Your only job is to choose when to feed your baby and what you’ll offer.

baby eating yogurt in high chair

When it comes to the what to serve, yogurt is a good option. The probiotics in yogurt can improve digestion and your little one’s digestive tract, and bolster your baby’s immune system.

Yogurt also has bone-building calcium and tissue-supporting protein—excellent for your baby’s rapid growth and development.

Like most foods, there is a nutritional difference in the wide variety of products available at the grocery store. Some yogurts are better for your baby than others.

In this post, I’m sharing the benefits of yogurt, when and how to introduce it, what kind to serve, and how to flavor it without adding sugar.

Benefits of Yogurt for Babies

Plain yogurt is a nutritious food you can introduce to your baby when they are ready for solids because there are so many (nutrition) benefits of yogurt for babies.

Typically made with cow’s milk, yogurt is made by fermenting heated milk with active and live cultures, or good bacteria. The sugars present in plain yogurt are natural sugars from the lactose.

There are a few reasons to add yogurt to the menu. First, kids who regularly eat yogurt in infancy are less likely to have food sensitivities and eczema.

baby in high chair eating yogurt

Even if your child does have a cow’s milk allergy, they may still be able to tolerate yogurt and certain dairy products.

While there are plenty of dairy free snacks for babies, adding yogurt expands their allowable foods.

Why is yogurt so great? It seems to be the combination of nutrients that do the trick, plus it’s a great carrier food, meaning it pairs well with other healthy foods, like fruits, veggies, healthy fats and more.

Here are some of the nutrients found in plain yogurt and how they benefit your baby.

Fat

A major nutrient that we all need as stored fuel, fat insulates our organs, helps regulate our body temperature, produces hormones, and protects and enhances our brain development and nervous system.

Fat also helps us absorb nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K.

So fat is a good thing, especially for your growing baby. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend babies 6 months and up get around 30 grams of fat daily.

honey yogurt sauce for lemon baked chicken tenders

Most of this fat will come from breastmilk or infant formula, but the foods you serve can also help contribute.

While fat-free yogurt is widely available, opt for the full-fat variety for babies. Whole-fat yogurt has about 8 grams of fat in a 1-cup serving.

Probiotics

Because the process of making yogurt includes fermentation, yogurt contains gut-healthy probiotics like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.

These active cultures establish a base of disease-fighting cells in the gut, thereby stimulating the immune system and preventing sickness.

Probiotic-rich foods are good for everyone, including your baby.

It’s been found that infants who eat yogurt have a lower risk of gastroenteritis or stomach flu.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral well-known for its bone-strengthening properties, and it works in tandem with Vitamin D to do so.

As you would imagine, calcium is essential for your baby to grow strong bones and teeth.

The recommended dietary allowance of calcium for infants is 200 mg for 0-6 month-olds and 260 mg for those 7-12 months.

Of course, the breast milk and formula your baby consumes provide calcium, but adding calcium-rich foods, like yogurt, broccoli, and canned seafood, helps.

Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, providing 415 mg per 1 cup serving. Even if your child takes a few bites, they are boosting their overall intake of calcium.

Peptides

I’ve talked a bit about peptides in my collagen posts (collagen for breastfeeding and collagen for pregnancy), which has actually become something of a daily ritual since pregnancy.

Peptides are chains of amino acids—the building blocks that aid in tissue growth, digestion, hormone function, appetite regulation, and cell function.

Yes, the peptides in greek yogurt offer yet another benefit.

DID YOU KNOW?

More recent research attributes yogurt’s allergy-friendly qualities to certain peptides in yogurt. The peptides are why someone with a cow’s milk allergy can eat yogurt without an allergic reaction.


When to Introduce Yogurt to Babies

Wondering when to start introducing yogurt to an infant? First, you’ll want to get the okay from your pediatrician.

Most will encourage you to wait until your baby is 6 months old to start baby-led weaning and introducing new foods.

baby led weaning with baby in high chair

However, some babies are ready as early as 4 months. You’ll want to look for the signs of readiness for introducing solid foods.

The signs of readiness include:

  • Baby can sit up well and hold their head up without support
  • They have lost the tongue reflex (so baby doesn’t automatically push everything out)
  • Age is around 6 months old (Of note, the World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until 6 months of age, and then adding complementary foods in addition to breastmilk/formula).
  • They have a pincer grasp, meaning they can grasp objects and bring them to their mouth

When serving yogurt for babies under 1, you just want to ensure it is plain and full-fat. Avoid the flavored yogurts that have added sugars.

How to Introduce Yogurt to Babies

Once you’ve been given the go-ahead to introduce solids, yogurt for babies is easy to introduce in a few different ways. Much of how you offer yogurt will depend on the month and year of age.

Baby feeding self yogurt
  • In a baby bowl – Get plain, whole-milk yogurt and either put it in a baby bowl (I like these) or place it right on the tray.
  • With their fingers – Let your baby touch the yogurt and bring it to their mouth. It’s okay for them to use their fingers to scoop the yogurt into their mouths. It’s all a part of the learning experience!
  • With a pre-loaded spoon – You can give them a pre-loaded spoon so they can work on those fine motor skills.
  • As a dip – As babies get older, you can start to offer yogurt on the side of other options, such as a dip for chicken tenders or on top of sweetpotato pancakes for baby.
  • Mixed with other things – I tend to do this when serving yogurt to babies 9 month olds and up, once I know there are no allergies or allergenic reactions to yogurt. I’ll use it as a healthy fat ingredient in baked goods, like in smoothies for babies or baked goods.

When just beginning, offering yogurt to babies a few times a week is a good start.

Most parents begin by offering solids once per day, when you are sitting down to a meal. It doesn’t matter when— breakfast, lunch, or dinner—any time is a good time to practice.

Introducing Yogurt to a 6-Month-Old vs. 12-Month-Old

When you are serving yogurt to a 6-month-old, you’re keeping it simple. Stick with just the plain yogurt and let them explore its taste and texture.

In the beginning, you are just trialing foods and letting them explore. It doesn’t have to be overly structured.

These DIY yogurt pouches are easy to prep and you have complete control of the ingredient list (ie – plain yogurt, fruit, veggies, no added sweeteners, etc.)

9 month old baby eating yogurt off spoon

As they get a bit older, you can get more creative and use it in recipes or mix in ingredients to enhance the flavor and texture.

Approaching the one-year mark, your infant is likely turning into a toddler—or is very close. At this point, they are usually down to one to two naps and you have a little more of a predictable schedule.

That makes it a bit easier to plan meals. I’ve shared our 1 year old eating schedule, in which it’s easy to offer yogurt as a morning snack with a muffin, for example.

pouring yogurt from blender into pouch

Another difference when serving yogurt to a 1 year old and up is that you can add more ingredients, since they are more proficient eaters and they’ve probably tried multiple things.

How to Sweeten Yogurt Without Sugar

You want to avoid added sugar when offering food to your baby because sugar has no nutrients and baby’s palate is still expanding.

So what can you do to plain yogurt to make it taste a little better?

Add fruit! This can be fresh, frozen, canned or mashed fruit.

Research shows that combining prebiotic- and antioxidant-rich fruit with yogurt containing beneficial bacteria adds to the health benefits.

yogurt parfait with fruit

I love adding this strawberry chia jam to plain yogurt to increase healthy fats and fiber. You can also use sliced bananas, berries, unsweetened applesauce, or diced mangos to add flavor and nutrition.

Another option for add-in’s are more healthy fats, like peanut butter or another nut butter.

It’s important to introduce peanuts early on to prevent allergies. Combining peanut butter with yogurt is a great place to start.

In addition to fruit or nut butter, you could try adding cinnamon or another spice.

What Kind of Yogurt Is Best for Babies?

When deciphering which kind of yogurt is best for babies in the yogurt aisle, there are things you’ll want to look for, and things you’ll want to avoid.

Nutrients to Look For

  • High in fat – As mentioned earlier, the best yogurt for babies is plain, whole milk yogurt. Whole milk is high in fat. Skip the fat-free yogurts for babies.
  • Live active cutures – These live and active cultures (the more, the better) are what offer the digestive tract and immunity benefits for babies, as well as a myriad of other health benefits. The human microbiome (our live microbe “party”) is warranting so much research now because it’s so unique!
  • Plain flavor – Babies under age 1 (and even until age 2) have no nutritional need for added sugars and flavorings. Therefore, stick with a plain, full fat version for baby.
  • Greek yogurt If you prefer, you can try plain, whole milk Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt and may be easier for your baby to grasp or swallow. Greek yogurt is also higher in protein.
  • Plant-based yogurts – If baby is lactose intolerant or is allergic to dairy products, you can find plain, plant-based yogurts or yogut alternatives, like those made with coconut milk or cashews. There are some plant-based yogurts that have no added sugars and have probiotics added in, such as:

Nutrients to Avoid

  • Added sugars– Some yogurt brands have quite a bit of added sugar in them, which is something you’ll want to avoid when feeding yogurt to your baby. Make sure to look at the nutrition label to avoid any ingredients like corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave, or anything ending in “-ose.”
  • Long ingredient lists– There is no need to buy yogurts with long ingredient lists, beyond the basics of what should be in it. Extra fillers, preservatives or colorings are things to avoid.
  • Artificial sweeteners – Another thing that manufactureres do to increase sweetness but still market their product as “zero sugar” is use artificial sweeteners. This is not something we want to introduce to baby. Look for terms like stevia, splenda, truvia, aspartame, sucralose, saccharin and Acesulfame K, among others. Here is a complete list of names of artificial sweeteners.

DID YOU KNOW

Alot of the yogurt marketed to babies surprisingly have sugars added to them, when there is no need for this!


Alot of the yogurt marketed to babies (like Gerber yogurt pouches or Happy baby yogi bites, surprisingly have sugars added to them, when there is no need for this!

How to Use Yogurt in Recipes

Yogurt is incredibly versatile and can be used in many recipes to enhance nutritional value.

It is a common substitution for ingredients like sour cream, heavy whipping cream, or mayo—interchangeably used in a 1:1 ratio.

It can also be used in place of milk (1:1) in your baked goods and snack recipes. Yogurt makes your homemade treats more moist.

plain greek yogurt in mini ramekin with gold spoon

Have a recipe that calls for buttermilk, but you don’t have any? For every cup of buttermilk, you can substitute 2/3 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup milk.

Want to use less butter? Use 1/4 cup Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup butter to equal 1 cup butter.

Additionally, yogurt can be the base for dips, like this honey yogurt dipping sauce,. Yogurt is a great source of protein and adds healthy bacteria and creaminess to your favorite dip.

Furthermore, yogurt can be used as a marinade or sauce when you’re looking for a bit of tang.

Key Takeaways of Serving Yogurt to Babies

  • Yogurt is a nutrient-rich food that you can introduce to your baby when they are ready for solid foods.
  • There are several reasons to introduce yogurt, including its immune-boosting probiotic content. Yogurt also has fat, protein, and calcium—all important for your baby’s growth and development.
  • Regularly serving yogurt to babies can help prevent food sensitivities, eczema, and the stomach bug.
  • The best yogurt for baby is plain, full-fat yogurt. You can get regular or Greek. Greek yogurt is thicker and may be easier for your baby to spoon.
  • Choose unsweetened yogurt. You can serve plain or enhance the flavor by adding fruit, peanut butter or nut butter, chia jam, or spices like cinnamon.
  • Yogurt can also be used in baked goods and other recipes to enhance the nutrient value of your foods.

References:

  • Shoda T, Futamura M, Yang L, Narita M, Saito H, Ohya Y. Yogurt consumption in infancy is inversely associated with atopic dermatitis and food sensitization at 5 years of age: A hospital-based birth cohort study. J Dermatol Sci. 2017;86(2):90-96. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.01.006
  • Ashraf R, Shah NP. Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(7):938-956. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.619671
  • 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;14(10):e0223495. Published 2019 Oct 7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0223495
  • Fernandez MA, Marette A. Potential Health Benefits of Combining Yogurt and Fruits Based on Their Probiotic and Prebiotic Properties. Adv Nutr. 2017;8(1):155S-164S. Published 2017 Jan 17. doi:10.3945/an.115.011114
  • Huang M, Yang F, Wu Y, et al. Identification of peptides sequence and conformation contributed to potential allergenicity of main allergens in yogurts. Front Nutr. 2023;9:1038466. Published 2023 Jan 5. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.1038466
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