Updated: Jun 28
Author: Anna Ritan, Paediatric Dietitian, APD, BND
Choosing a yoghurt for your baby can be confusing with so many brands, flavours, and styles on the shelf. This blog will help you choose the best type of yoghurt for starting solids, how much yoghurt is a 'serve' for your baby, when you can introduce yoghurt, and more...
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, traditionally made by adding live bacteria to milk. Full-fat yogurt is full of nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, B vitamins, and potassium. Yogurt is also a great source of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Yoghurt made with live cultures is also a great source of naturally occurring probiotics that can benefit your baby's gut health. As part of a varied diet, yoghurt can be a nutritional whole food that can be introduced to your baby when starting solids...but not all yoghurts are created equal, here are a few points to consider.
When Can Babies Have Yogurt?
Your baby can be introduced to yoghurt anytime from 6 months of age when they are developmentally ready for solids. Small amounts of cow's milk/dairy protein IN FOOD (like yoghurt and cheese) can be introduced before 12 months of age as part of a varied diet.
Is yoghurt a common food allergen?
Yes. Full-fat Yogurt is made from cow’s milk (dairy), which is a common food allergen. If you are introducing dairy for the first time try a small amount initially as the first introduction and if tolerated increase the amount gradually over a few exposures.
If your child has an allergy to cow's milk/dairy (IgE or Non-IgE) already identified before starting solids, then yoghurt should be avoided until advised by your healthcare professional.
My baby loves yoghurt, how much and how often can I serve it?
Yoghurt is smooth and easy to eat and it can quickly become a favourite. Babies from 6-12 months do not need a large amount of yoghurt or any large amount of dairy foods in their diet, breastmilk (or infant formula) will meet your child's nutritional needs for calcium up to 12 months of age. Large amounts of dairy foods in a baby's diet can also displace other nutrients like Iron.
From 6-12 months of age, a serving size of yoghurt is around 1 tablespoon (20 ml) as part of a varied diet, around 2-3 times per week, yoghurt does not need to be served every day. Remember variety is key when starting solids.
It can also help to serve yoghurt in a bowl with a spoon, with other foods, and not directly from a pouch.
What type of yoghurt is best for babies?
Full-fat (or whole milk) plain natural yogurt or Greek yoghurt is best for babies. Full-fat yoghurt is a must because babies need lots of fat at this age to support growth, brain, gut, immune, and nervous system development. The fat content can vary between different yoghurts, so look for full-fat or whole milk. You may also find some yoghurts will use skim milk but then add cream so the fat content is then similar to whole milk. As a guide yoghurt is generally considered full-fat if it contains more than 3.5% total fat (>3.5g fat per 100g), but creamier Greek yoghurt can be higher than this and that is absolutely okay.
Greek yoghurt (full-fat, around 7-10% total fat)
Traditional Greek yoghurt is one of the best yoghurts for babies, made with just full-fat milk and bacteria starter cultures. Traditionally, the yogurt is strained in cloth bags up to three times to remove the whey (liquid), until it reaches the desired texture. Due to this, Greek yogurt is much thicker and tangier and higher in fat than regular full-fat yogurt. It’s also generally more expensive since it requires more milk.
Greek yoghurt is easier for babies to eat and self-feed with, especially hand scooping because it is thicker.
Greek yoghurt is also great for introducing more 'sour' tastes to your baby which can help to develop their palate.
Greek 'Style' Yoghurt (full-fat, around 7-10% total fat)
Greek 'Style' yoghurts are more processed, so it is important to check the ingredients. Typically cream and milk solids are added to achieve a creamier and thicker texture like Greek yoghurt (without the work of straining). Probiotics are still used so there is still benefit there. Just be mindful of avoiding any Greek-style yoghurts that use stabilisers, preservatives, or gum blends to achieve a thicker texture.
Full-fat natural yoghurt (full-fat, around 3.5% total fat)
Regular yogurt is made by heating milk, adding bacteria, and leaving it to ferment until it reaches an acidic pH of about 4.5. Due to its acidic nature, plain yogurt may taste slightly sour. Still, it’s generally sweeter than Greek yogurt.
What about added sugars and flavours?
Choose a plain, unflavoured full-fat yoghurt without any added sugar. There is some naturally occurring sugar in yoghurt from the lactose present in cow's milk, which is not of concern.
But, added sugar, is any sugar or form of sugar that is added to yoghurt, like sugar, glucose, fructose, fruit juice, and fruit juice concentrate to name a few. You will find these listed in the ingredients list.
Some yoghurts also contain added flavours, like vanilla, banana, strawberry, etc, these are also best avoided for babies, even if they are listed as 'natural' flavours.
You can add flavour to plain yoghurt by adding in fresh fruit if you wish.
Choosing the Best Yogurt for Babies
Plain yogurt for adults and children is generally made from the same ingredients, both are made with milk and live active cultures. You won't need to buy a specific 'baby' yoghurt.
The major difference between yogurt that’s made and marketed to babies is the packaging. However, there are lots of varieties of blended baby yoghurts on the shelves, it is important to note that any yoghurt on the shelf (not in the fridge section) has been heat-treated after culturing with probiotics so the benefit of any live bacteria are lost.
How can you tell whether yogurt has this good bacteria? The product label should state that the yogurt contains live or active cultures, which means the organisms haven't been destroyed by heat during processing. However, a label that says "made with active cultures" does not mean that the yogurt still contains living cultures, only that the yogurt was made with them (as all yogurt is).
Here are some of my top picks for plain full-fat yoghurt for babies