Sweet and silky smooth, custard’s texture seems like a go-to food for babies who are just learning to eat solid foods. There are some caveats to enjoying custard while pregnant, so do these same concerns apply to young babies as well?
Just like during pregnancy, offering custard to babies takes a little bit more prep work to ensure you’re meeting food safety guidelines. Choose pasteurized eggs and milk- or opt for commercially prepared versions – to reduce the risk of Salmonella.
While you’re likely already familiar with pasteurization recommendations from pregnancy, knowing how much and the type of sweetener is used becomes important when starting solids for your little one. I’ll walk you through the differences, as well as ways to swap ingredients to make custard just for the baby.
Is Custard Safe for Babies? When?
Custard is traditionally made with eggs- the yolks in particular. Even frozen custard uses egg yolks to achieve an extra-smooth texture.
Eggs are a wonderful food for babies, as they are high in many key nutrients (more on that below). They are a higher-risk food when it comes to foodborne illness, however. In the US, it’s recommended to avoid serving runny/undercooked eggs to children under 5 years old, as undercooked eggs can carry Salmonella (source: FDA).
Australia and the UK’s guidelines are more lax, permitting them as soon as babies can safely start solids.
When making custard, the eggs are heated for only a short time until the custard is thickened, but this isn’t long enough or hot enough to kill off all potential foodborne illnesses. If you do offer unpasteurized custards or those made with standard eggs, then it’s ‘at your own risk.’
UK Lion Brand eggs are a special exception, as they are specially handled to reduce the risk of Salmonella. Read more about Lion Brand and runny eggs HERE.
Milk and/or cream are also key parts of a good custard. While babies shouldn’t drink cow’s milk until they are at least 1 year old, cow’s milk can be used in cooking for babies 6 months and older starting solids. Just like eggs, it’s important to opt for pasteurized versions.
Note: Custard is made from dairy and eggs, which are both common allergens. Only offer custard if you have already safely introduced dairy and eggs.
While custard can certainly be safe for babies to eat, it tends to be quite high in added sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding added sugars and sweeteners for all children under the age of 2 (source: AAP).
You can also make a special no-sugar custard just for the baby! Swap the sugar for no-added-sugar fruit puree or mashed fruit. You can also use breast milk or infant formula in place of cow’s milk if you’d like.
|6-9 months AND 9-12 months
Choose pasteurized versions or cook with pasteurized milk/cream and eggs to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
|Added sugars aren’t unsafe, but it is recommended to avoid them for children under 2.
There are a number of recipes available online for custards sweetened with fruit only or without any sweetener at all. These are healthier options for little ones.
Steer clear of any custards sweetened with honey, which is unsafe for all babies under 12 months of age.
Other common ingredients in custard are nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and fruit purees. As long as your little one hasn’t shown an allergic reaction to any of these ingredients, then they are safe as well.
As I mentioned above, the added sugar used in traditional custard isn’t recommended for babies. It is still safe, however, so some folks wish to give their baby a try. Offer tastes of custard alongside the meal. You can choose to put a small amount:
– on the baby’s plate to let them explore the texture
– dollop onto a pre-spoon for easy self-feeding
– or smear onto a piece of fruit
Don’t worry if the baby mostly plays with the custard- they’re just exploring this new and exciting texture!
The Benefits of Custard for Babies
Custard’s basic ingredients of egg and milk/cream contain many important nutrients for babies.
- Egg yolks are rich sources of protein, brain-building DHA, B vitamins, and choline.
- Dairy provides similar benefits with protein, healthy fats for the baby’s brain, and calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D to support strong bone growth.
- If you’re making a custard with your breast milk, then your baby’s immune system will also benefit from the antibodies in your milk.
Learning how to handle eating and swallowing thick textures, like that of custard, is an important part of starting solids as well. If you choose not to offer sugar-sweetened versions, there are many other unsweetened foods that can also provide this developmental practice.
Cereals and oatmeals, plain yogurts, mashed potatoes, and unsweet custard are all options to get this important developmental practice sans sugar.
Can Custard be Bad for Babies? Does it Cause Weight Gain?
Some worry that custard will ‘make a baby fat’ and feel shame for letting their baby try custard. There are no foods that are guaranteed to cause excess weight gain. Babies grow a lot, especially in their first year of life, and that’s normal and expected.
Healthy babies will have baby fat- it helps to keep them warm and is an important energy reserve to protect them in case they get sick and aren’t able to eat as much.
Babies also come in all different shapes and sizes – just like adults. The most important thing is that your baby is keeping up with their own growth curve- the tool pediatricians and pediatric providers use to track a baby’s growth compared to what’s expected for their age.
If you’re concerned with your baby’s weight, let your pediatrician know this is a topic you’d like to discuss.
Unpasteurized types of custard and its ingredients are higher-risk foods when it comes to Salmonella risk, but that doesn’t mean they’re off the table. Pasteurized versions are available, and in some countries, the risk is not as concerning.
Added sugar is another hot topic for many parents, and how to approach sweets is up to each family- but know that there are many recipes available regardless of what you choose.