Can Babies Eat Tilapia? Safety + How to Serve It

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Many parents are hesitant to give their baby seafood or fish, including tilapia. However, is tilapia a good source of nutrition for your baby? 

Tilapia is safe for your baby once they are around six months old as long as it is fully cooked. Make sure the fish is prepared in the appropriate texture for their age. 

In this article, we will cover more information about serving tilapia to your baby, including considering the source of the fish, mercury content, potential allergies, and more. 

Can You Give Tilapia to Babies? Is it a Safe Fish? 

Babies can have fish, including tilapia, when they are four to six months old. However, the mercury content is the primary concern of many parents considering feeding their baby fish or seafood.

Too much mercury is dangerous for babies because it can harm their nervous system and brain (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]). 

steamed tilapia fish with salad and slices of lemon

However, tilapia is low in mercury, so it can be given to your baby a few times a month (source: Environmental Defense Fund [EDF]). Tilapia is also nutritious for your baby because it is rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. 

There are also different types of tilapia that you may give your baby, including farmed tilapia. Tilapia is farmed in many different countries, including China and Latin America. The tilapia found in the United States is primarily from Latin America and Asia (source: EDF).

While tilapia that is famed anywhere is technically safe, tilapia that is farmed in China raises some concerns for chemical use (source: EDF).

When Can Babies Eat Tilapia? [by Month]

Babies can safely have tilapia when they are between four and six months old (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). The fish should be pureed to a thin and watery consistency at this stage. When they reach the six to nine-month stage, you can provide a thicker consistency puree at about two to four tablespoons at each feeding.

Finally, when your baby is closer to ten to twelve months old, they can have small pieces of food, such as soft chunks of tilapia. At this stage, it is appropriate to offer your baby finger foods they can pick up and feed themselves, also known as baby-led weaning. 

This information is summarized in the table below (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia): 

Age (in Months)Can Your Baby Have Tilapia?
6Yes, pureed to a thin consistency.
7Yes, pureed to a thicker consistency.
8Yes, pureed to a thicker consistency. 
9Yes, served in small, soft chunks.
10Yes, served in small, soft chunks.
11Yes, served in small, soft chunks.
12Yes, served in small, soft chunks.
pan fried tilapia with slaw and potatoes

Can Babies Be Allergic to Tilapia? 

Your baby can be allergic to tilapia as fish is one of the top 8 most common allergens. However, this does not mean you should avoid giving fish to your baby.

In fact, once your baby has tolerated foods less likely to cause an allergic reaction, it is beneficial to gradually introduce foods with common allergens, such as tilapia, into your baby’s diet when they are between four and six months old (source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology). 

Introduce new foods, especially foods that are common allergens, one at a time so that if an allergic reaction does occur, you know which food caused it. 

There is no need to be worried about an allergic reaction occurring if your child does not have a diagnosed food allergy. However, after introducing any new food, monitor for symptoms of a food allergy. These symptoms include hives, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and more (source: American Academy of Pediatrics).

If you notice symptoms in multiple body areas, seek medical attention immediately. 

How to Cook and Serve Tilapia to Babies

It is important to ensure that the tilapia is fully cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for safety (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). Use a sanitized metal stem thermometer to take the temperature of the thickest part of the fish. The tilapia will flake apart and will be completely opaque in the center instead of translucent.

As mentioned above, ensure to serve the tilapia in the appropriate texture and consistency for your baby’s age. 

I hope this article provided some helpful information regarding how to give your baby tilapia safely.