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 baby’s 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.
Benefits of fish for babies
Parents often begin introducing solid foods to their babies around 4–6 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 (
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 it’s beneficial when the foods they eat contain them.
Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones and brain development, and iron is an essential mineral that’s important for many bodily functions, including transporting oxygen (
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 (
Many parents start solids by offering infant cereals, which are typically fortified with iron. Fish is another great food for your baby, as it’s a source of iron (
Some types of fish, such as salmon, are also a great source of vitamin D, which breastmilk lacks (
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 (
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 (
Vitamin B12 and iodine are two more nutrients found in fish that are beneficial for healthy brain development and red blood cells in babies (
When to introduce your baby to fish
It’s 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 (
In the past, experts recommended delaying these foods. However, more recent research has shown that there’s no need to delay introducing allergens, and introducing them early, at age 4–6 months, may help prevent an allergy (
Most experts recommend introducing fish and other potential allergens when you introduce other solid foods, but it’s 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 (
- whitefish like cod, pollock, or halibut
- canned, light tuna
- tuna, yellowfin
Currently, there are no recommendations regarding the amount of fish to serve babies. However, the recommendation for children ages 2–3 is 1 ounce (28 grams) of fish once or twice per week (23).
Fish to avoid
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, it’s best to avoid high mercury fish, such as (
- bigeye and bluefin tuna
- orange roughy
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 (
How to introduce your baby to fish
There are several ways you can offer fish to your baby. If you are using a baby-led weaningapproach, you can simply cook the fish to a soft texture and cut it into appropriately sized pieces.
If you’ve chosen to stick with purées, you can cook the fish and purée 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 145°F (62.8 °C). A meat thermometer can help ensure the fish reaches a safe temperature (
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 purée 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 there’s no specific recommendation regarding how much fish babies should consume, the CDC recommends that adults eat 2–3 servings, or 8–12 ounces, of low mercury fish per week.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving for children 2–3 years of age, so your baby will likely eat a little less than that (23,
When offering any type of food to babies, it’s 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 (
Cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for 2–3 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, it’s 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 (
Allergic reactions can happen either immediately or over time, so it’s recommended that you introduce one potential allergen every few days so that you can identify any triggers.
The bottom line
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 145°F (62.8 °C) and either cutting it into appropriately sized pieces or puréeing it.
Before introducing any solid food, be sure to talk with your baby’s pediatrician, especially if food allergies run in your family.