Can Babies Have Mozzarella? Types and Ages

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Dairy is a hot topic. From what kind, how much, and when to start offering dairy to your little one, it can feel like everyone from Aunt Sally to your well-meaning neighbor down the street has an opinion. 

Soft and lower in sodium than many other types of cheese, mozzarella is a great choice when offering cheese to your baby- not to mention a nutritious topping to many meals. Just like many other foods, the way to cut and serve the food makes all the difference when it comes to safety. 

I’ll walk you through what types of mozzarella are best, how to cut and serve to prevent choking hazards, as well as a few meal ideas for babies of all ages.  

Is Mozzarella Safe to Give to Babies? When?

Mozzarella is often a favorite cheese among parents for its mild taste- not to mention many children enjoy it (hello, string cheese). Mozzarella is found in both fresh and low-moisture varieties and is traditionally made from the milk of Italian buffalo, though many modern versions found in grocery stores are made with cow’s milk. 

The most simple mozzarella cheeses are made from milk, vinegar (or other acid), enzymes, and salt. Even though mozzarella is made with salt, it is still a lower-sodium cheese with only 175 mg of sodium in 1 ounce (source: USDA).

Even flavored versions with a few more ingredients, like garlic or smoked mozzarella, are safe for babies to eat- when served properly, of course. 

Mozzarella cheese and basil on a wooden board

When picking out mozzarella for your little one to try, opting for fresh versions can make the cheese easier for the baby to eat as they are softer than the ‘low-moisture’ options. Fresh mozzarella also tends to have less sodium content.

Regardless of which style of mozzarella is your favorite, do ensure that you’re sticking to pasteurized versions to protect your little one’s developing immune system. 

Note: fresh mozzarella doesn’t mean straight from the cow, rather it refers to the soft slices, logs, or ‘pearls’ packed in water. 

Many new parents are familiar with the recommendation to avoid cow’s milk until the age of 1 and wonder whether this means they should stick to buffalo mozzarella. 

When introducing dairy to babies, it’s true that cow’s milk should be avoided before the age of 1. However, introducing other forms of cow’s milk, such as cheeses and yogurt, is safe. If your baby has a dairy allergy, such as cow’s milk protein allergy, ask your pediatrician about the appropriate time to introduce cow’s milk cheese.

Style of Cheese6-9 months9-12+ months
Fresh
Low-moisture
Buffalo
Cow’s Milk
Slices
Offer fresh mozzarella slices for baby to self-feed.

Offer fresh mozzarella slices for baby to self-feed.
Spears/sticks
Cut a fresh mozzarella log into spears.


String cheese should not be given whole, as it is a choking hazard. 

Pre-shred string cheese to make it safe for baby, but serving this way is most appropriate for ages 9+ months with their pincer grasp for picking up the small pieces.

Cut a fresh mozzarella log into spears.


String cheese should not be given whole, as it is a choking hazard. 

Pre-shred string cheese to make it safe for baby, but serving this way is most appropriate ages 9+ months with their pincer grasp for picking up the small pieces.
Pearls 
Whole mozzarella peals are a choking hazard.

Whole pearls are still a choking hazard, but once your baby can use their pincer grasp you may quarter the pearls in the same way you’d quarter grapes.
Shreds
Mozzarella shreds can be served to babies of all ages. However, older babies who can grab small pieces will be able to enjoy shredded mozzarella more easily.

Try sprinkling on top of roasted veggies or serving alongside smashed beans.

Mozzarella shreds can be served to babies of all ages. However, older babies who can grab small pieces will be able to enjoy shredded mozzarella more easily.

Try sprinkling on top of roasted veggies or serving alongside smashed beans.
Melted
Offer only small amounts of melted cheese, as large amounts can become globby and difficult to swallow. 

Sprinkle small amounts in warm soups or purees, make a low-sodium cheese sauce to pair with noodles, or melt a sprinkle of shredded cheese on toast. 

Offer only small amounts of melted cheese, as large amounts can become globby and difficult to swallow. 

Sprinkle small amounts in warm soups or purees, make a low-sodium cheese sauce to pair with noodles, or melt a sprinkle of shredded cheese on toast. 

Fresh Mozzarella for Babies

Fresh mozzarella is a great choice when offering cheese to your young baby. Once your baby is ready for solid foods, you can start offering fresh mozzarella right away, but the way you serve it might change as the baby gets older. 

Bigger pieces such as slices or spears will be easier for babies between 6-9 months of age to pick up and self-feed. Fresh mozzarella is softer than the typical low-moisture blocks of mozzarella or string cheeses and will also be easier for babies to mouth and chew. 

fresh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes

Fresh mozzarella balls, sometimes called mozzarella pearls, are a fun shape for littles. Despite being fun, the little balls are airways-sized and are a choking risk if not cut before serving. Just like grapes, olives, and other small round foods, mozzarella pearls need to be quartered (source: CDC). 

Offer the baby a slice of fresh mozzarella or slice a log of mozzarella into spears and allow the baby to self-feed. Quartered mozzarella pearls or small pieces make a great snack pairing with fruit. 

Can Babies Have Shredded or Grated Mozzarella?

Shredded mozzarella is an easy way to sprinkle some added nutrition and flavor, while continuing dairy exposure for babies of all ages.

Mozzarella shreds are typically made from low-moisture mozzarella in order to get the shredded shape. Because it’s made from low-moisture mozzarella, shreds aren’t quite as soft in texture when compared to fresh but are still plenty soft for your baby to eat safely. 

Bagged mozzarella shreds, like those found in grocery stores, will have additional anti-caking powders to coat the shreds and prevent them from sticking together in the package. Even with the additives, pre-shredded mozzarella is just as nutritious, not to mention much more convenient. 

Risks of Cooked or Melted Mozzarella for Babies

Cooked and melted mozzarella, such as what’s found on pizza, can be safe for babies if it’s in small amounts. 

It’s not the ingredients in melted cheese that make it safest in small amounts, but how melted cheese sticks together. When too much cheese is melted it can glob together. If a baby eats a big glob of melted cheese it can get stuck in their throat and become a choking risk. 

A freshly baked pizza margherita with olive oil, tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese.

But melted cheese is a mainstay in many recipes, not to mention delicious, so is there a safe way to serve melted cheese? 

Small sprinkles of melted cheese are safe for babies, though older babies with more developed swallows might do better than those just starting solids. A good rule of thumb is that if the melted cheese pulls into strings or sticks together into one layer, then it’s likely too much for a baby to eat safely. 

If you’d like to offer your baby food with cheese melted on top, cutting the pizza into small bite-sized pieces can disperse the cheese enough to limit any risk. 

Is Mozzarella Good for Babies? The Benefits

Whether fresh or low-moisture, whole slices or shredded, all types of mozzarella are a nutrient-dense addition to your little one’s diet. 

Just 1 tablespoon of mozzarella contains 50 milligrams of calcium, meeting nearly 20% of your baby’s daily needs (source: USDA, NIH). 

Mozzarella cheese is also a good source of fat, which is needed to support your baby’s brain development and does not need to be limited for young babies and children. Sprinkling mozzarella on toast or roasted veggies will add brain-boosting fat, but can also help aid in the absorption of some of their essential vitamins. 

Mozzarella is versatile and easy to incorporate into many healthy meals and snacks for your baby. Cutting into age-appropriate sizes and choosing softer options for little ones just starting solids can help keep everyone safe at the table.