Can Babies Have Mac and Cheese? When?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Mac and cheese is a favorite staple food all over the world. However, can you feed it to your baby?

Some research suggests that babies can have mac and cheese starting at eight months old. However, other research has found that cow’s milk, an ingredient in mac and cheese, shouldn’t be given to babies under one year of age due to potential adverse reactions. Salt content can also be a problem.

What is the right age to give mac and cheese to your baby, and what ingredients should be on your radar? Read on to find out!

When Can Babies Have Mac and Cheese?

According to the USDA, noodles, pasta, and macaroni are good options for babies aged eight months and up (source: USDA). 

Whether you make it at home or order it from a restaurant, typical mac and cheese contains the common ingredients: elbow macaroni, milk, cheese, and butter.

Elbow macaroni, the preferred macaroni in mac and cheese, is round and could cause choking when swallowed whole. Because of this, it should be cooked until soft and easily mashed, then cut up into smaller pieces (source: Public Health Seattle & King County). 

We recommend using straight macaroni, which is a great finger food (source: USDA). 

Cow’s milk and wheat, which are present in macaroni and cheese, are some of the most common allergens in infants. However, they shouldn’t be a problem unless your baby is allergic to these ingredients or is lactose- or gluten-intolerant.

delicious mac and cheese with bacon in a bowl

Food allergies and intolerances only occur in 2%–8% of infants. Family history is a major factor (source: USDA).

According to one study, the introduction of allergenic foods to infants is beneficial and lowers the risk of developing allergies (source: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing).

However, another study argues that early exposure might increase the risk and incidence of food allergies instead. The study also provides guidelines on how to go about introducing allergenic foods to high-risk and low-risk infants (source: UpToDate). 

We recommend asking your baby’s pediatrician about this issue. 

In general, when a baby can stand up and walk around with the help of furniture or the wall, he or she is ready for macaroni and cheese (source: Washington State Department of Health).  

The estimated serving size of mac and cheese for an infant of 10–12 months is 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup. Note that this is an estimate and the child might eat more or less (source: Colorado State University Extension). 

This serving is similar to the Missouri Department of Health’s recommendation of 4–6 tablespoons for a 10–12-month-old infant. By this time, he or she has learned to self-feed and might use hands or a spoon (source: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services).

See the table below for recommended ages to give mac and cheese:

Age in MonthsIs it safe to give mac and cheese?
6No
7No
8No
9No
10Yes
11Yes
12Yes

(source: Colorado State University Extension).

According to a study, cow’s milk and products with cow’s milk like baked goods are restricted for infants younger than one year because of adverse reactions (source: UpToDate). 

We recommend talking to your baby’s pediatrician about the right age to introduce mac and cheese to your baby. 

creamy mac and cheese in pan

Can Babies Have Mac and Cheese Made with Milk?

Based on the information above, the best age to introduce cow’s milk to an infant is still being researched. We recommend talking to a pediatrician or immunologist to make an informed decision that takes your baby’s family history into account. 

Most milk alternatives are not recommended for babies under one year of age. Fortified soy milk and soy beverages are the only ones that help meet a baby’s dairy needs (source: CDC). You can substitute whole milk with unsweetened soy milk in mac and cheese recipes.

Can Babies Have Store-Bought Mac and Cheese?

Store-bougth mac and cheese, including the popular Kraft mac and cheese, might be safe for babies.

Kraft’s mac and cheese recipe used to include artificial food colorings and preservatives. Now, the company uses natural colorings such as turmeric and annatto, spices like paprika, and the good old preservative, sodium (source: CNN).

Unfortunately, the sodium content is pretty high. A 100g serving has 686 grams of sodium (source: USDA). 

Infants fed with foods high in sodium are at risk for developing high blood pressure and other adverse effects (source: PubMed). 

vegan mac and cheese in a pink bowl

According to another study, salt taste sensitivity might be connected to renal changes and high blood pressure. Therefore, it is recommended to limit your baby’s salt intake.

Not only will this lessen their consumption of salty foods, but it will also make them less likely to prefer salty foods. However, don’t remove sodium altogether as this can also cause deficiency (source: NIH). 

Mac and cheese shouldn’t be a regular meal for your baby, and you should be sure to follow the suggested serving per age. You can also remove some of the cheese or sauce from the pasta when giving it to your baby. 

Gerber mac and cheese, like Kraft’s, doesn’t contain artificial colors and flavors. It also has minerals and vitamins. But unlike Kraft’s, it has comparably lesser sodium and is already pureed.

The Gerber mac and cheese brand can be a great way to introduce flavors, saltiness, and nutrients to your baby as it is specially made for them. 

We hope you’ve found this article helpful!