​​Can Babies Have Kefir? Safety and Risks by Age

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Kefir is a popular fermented dairy beverage known for being a rich source of probiotics. First, let’s start by talking about if it is safe to give your baby kefir and when.

Since kefir is based on cow’s milk or goat’s milk, it should not be given to babies to drink until they are at least 12 months of age. After this age, pasteurized kefir can be a safe and nutritious beverage to incorporate into your baby’s diet.

Let’s talk more about the specifics of the safety considerations for giving your baby kefir. Read on to learn more!

Can Babies Have Kefir? 

Babies can have kefir as long as it is pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating a beverage or food to very high heat so that the dangerous bacteria and microorganisms that could be present are killed. 

Since kefir is made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk, it is essential to ensure that the milk used is pasteurized. 

Unpasteurized milk can contain a harmful bacteria called E. Coli that can cause severe illness. Babies and children under the age of five are at an increased risk of severe complications if they get sick from E. Coli, so special precautions are needed to keep the risk low (source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]). 

homemade kefir in a glass

Therefore, babies and children under five should not be given “raw” milk, such as in unpasteurized kefir. Avoid any homemade kefir or kefir found at farmer’s markets or health food stores that do not specifically say that it has been pasteurized. Unpasteurized products are required to have a warning label on their packaging. 

If you are in doubt about whether your kefir is pasteurized or unpasteurized, stay on the side of caution and do not give it to your baby. Many commercially-made and store-bought kefirs are pasteurized. But, again, always be sure to check the label. 

Additionally, babies can only have kefir at the appropriate age — see below for more information! 

When Can Babies Have Kefir?

Since most kefirs are made through the fermentation process of cow’s or goat’s milk with healthy bacteria cultures, kefir contains probiotics that can benefit the gut microbiome. 

However, since babies are not safe to drink cow’s or goat’s milk until they are 12 months old, avoid giving your baby kefir until they are about twelve months old (source: Cleveland Clinic).

Consuming cow’s milk to drink for a baby not yet 12 months old does not provide them with the appropriate combination of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for their age. For example, milk does not have enough vitamin E, essential fatty acids, or iron compared to infant formula or breast milk. 

Additionally, drinking cow’s milk before age one has been associated with micro-bleeds in the baby’s gastrointestinal tract (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

Otherwise, your younger baby can have kefir mixed in or cooked with other foods, such as fruit puree or baby cereal, when they are younger. 

Let’s outline this information in a simple table format below. 

Age (Months)Can Your Baby Have Kefir?
6Yes, in small amounts mixed with other foods (not to drink)
7Yes, in small amounts mixed with other foods (not to drink)
8Yes, in small amounts mixed with other foods (not to drink)
9Yes, in small amounts mixed with other foods (not to drink)
10Yes, in small amounts mixed with other foods (not to drink)
11Yes, in small amounts mixed with other foods (not to drink)
12Yes, can have kefir to drink. 

Is Kefir Good for Babies? 

Kefir is suitable for babies as it is cultured and rich in probiotic content. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that support a healthy gut microbiome.

More specifically, the gut microbiome is the community of good and bad bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract. A diet rich in probiotics can help balance the bad bacteria in the gut. 

In other words, probiotics, such as kefir, have a wide variety of health benefits and improve the overall nutrition of your baby (source: Journal of Pediatrics and Pediatric Medicine). 

Of course, since kefir is made from cow’s milk, it is rich in the protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals your baby needs to grow and develop. More specifically, kefir is a rich source of calcium, supporting strong bones and teeth (source: National Institutes of Health [NIH]). 

In conclusion, I hope you found this article helpful in breaking down the safety and risks of feeding your baby kefir, a fermented milk beverage full of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.