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Can Babies Eat Fish? Safety, Benefits, and More – Healthline

Aug 28th, 2021

Introducing your little one to solid foods is an exciting sometimes overwhelming time. It can be tricky to figure out which foods are safe and which should be avoided for babies under a certain age.

Infant cereal, fruits, and vegetables are popular choices for babys first foods, but you may wonder whether other foods, such as fish, are safe for your baby.

This article discusses how to introduce your baby to fish, as well as the related benefits, safety considerations, and precautions.

Parents often begin introducing solid foods to their babies around 46 months of age. Breast milk or formula is the main source of nutrition for babies under 1 year, and any solid foods offered to babies are considered complementary (1).

Babies get almost all of the nutrition they need through breastmilk and formula. However, vitamin D and iron are two nutrients that breastfed babies may not get enough of, so its beneficial when the foods they eat contain them.

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones and brain development, and iron is an essential mineral thats important for many bodily functions, including transporting oxygen (2, 3, 4, 5).

Formula is fortified with these nutrients, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends iron and vitamin D supplement drops for breastfed babies (6).

Many parents start solids by offering infant cereals, which are typically fortified with iron. Fish is another great food for your baby, as its a source of iron (7).

Some types of fish, such as salmon, are also a great source of vitamin D, which breastmilk lacks (8).

Additionally, fish is a great source of protein, an important nutrient that builds and repairs tissues in the body, allowing for healthy growth in little ones.

Fish also offers a healthy amount of zinc, another mineral that plays a crucial role in a healthy immune system and cellular growth (9, 10).

Some types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that provide several health benefits for both babies and adults.

In babies specifically, omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy brain, eye, and immune system function and development (11, 12, 13, 14).

Vitamin B12 and iodine are two more nutrients found in fish that are beneficial for healthy brain development and red blood cells in babies (15, 16).

Its considered safe for babies to eat a wide variety of foods once they begin eating solids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is 6 months before introducing any solid foods (17).

Fish is among the most common allergens, known as the Big 8, which is a list of foods responsible for most allergic reactions (18).

In the past, experts recommended delaying these foods. However, more recent research has shown that theres no need to delay introducing allergens, and introducing them early, at age 46 months, may help prevent an allergy (19, 20).

Most experts recommend introducing fish and other potential allergens when you introduce other solid foods, but its best to focus on one new food at a time.

By introducing one potential allergen every few days, you can monitor your baby for a potential reaction and identify the trigger more easily (17, 21).

Not all fish are considered safe for babies, as certain types contain high levels of mercury. Here are some safe fish choices to offer babies (22):

Currently, there are no recommendations regarding the amount of fish to serve babies. However, the recommendation for children ages 23 is 1 ounce (28 grams) of fish once or twice per week (23).

While all fish contain some mercury, certain types have higher amounts than others. Too much mercury can lead to toxicity and be a severe health concern. For babies, its best to avoid high mercury fish, such as (22):

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, babies and young children should not consume raw fish, so avoid offering sushi or sashimi to your little one (24).

There are several ways you can offer fish to your baby. If you are using a baby-led weaning approach, you can simply cook the fish to a soft texture and cut it into appropriately sized pieces.

If youve chosen to stick with pures, you can cook the fish and pure it yourself. Alternatively, buy it premade.

In order to prepare the fish safely for your baby, remove the skin and debone the fish (lookout for small bones, too) to reduce their risk of choking.

Next, be sure to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 145F (62.8 C). A meat thermometer can help ensure the fish reaches a safe temperature (24).

Ideally, the fish will be soft so that your baby can chew it easily. Try cutting the fish into small pieces or flakes before offering it, or you can pure it if you prefer to offer the fish on a spoon.

Canned and frozen fish provide the same nutritional benefits and often come boneless and skinless. They can also be more affordable and easier to keep on hand.

You can prepare these for your baby similarly to how you would cook fish for yourself. Try baking, broiling, or poaching fish. Fish cakes are another popular way to serve fish to your baby.

Sodium and added sugar should be limited for babies, so avoid adding salt, as well as sugary or sweet sauces. Be sure not to add honey to the fish you prepare for your baby, as babies under 1 year should avoid honey.

While theres no specific recommendation regarding how much fish babies should consume, the CDC recommends that adults eat 23 servings, or 812 ounces, of low mercury fish per week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving for children 23 years of age, so your baby will likely eat a little less than that (23, 25).

When offering any type of food to babies, its important to make sure it has been handled, stored, and cooked safely to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Fish should first be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F (62.8 C), and then cooled to a safe temperature for your baby (24).

Cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for 23 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Raw fish should only be kept in the fridge for 1 or 2 days before cooking or freezing. Fish should not be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (26).

Because fish is considered a top allergen, its a good idea to become familiar with the signs of an allergic reaction.

Call your pediatrician if you notice a mild reaction to fish. That may include swelling around the lips and mouth, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Call 911 if you notice a more severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis, which often presents as drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, scratching, and drowsiness in babies. Other signs might include wheezing, coughing, or hives (27).

Allergic reactions can happen either immediately or over time, so its recommended that you introduce one potential allergen every few days so that you can identify any triggers.

Fish can provide a good source of protein, iron, zinc, omega-3, iodine, and vitamin B12 for your baby, all of which are important nutrients for healthy growth and development.

Be sure to choose a fish that is low in mercury, and prepare it safely by cooking it to an internal temperature of 145F (62.8 C) and either cutting it into appropriately sized pieces or pureing it.

Before introducing any solid food, be sure to talk with your babys pediatrician, especially if food allergies run in your family.

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Can Babies Eat Fish? Safety, Benefits, and More - Healthline

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