Salmon is an excellent food for babies thanks to its brain-boosting properties and its high nutritional content.
So if this superfood is something regularly consumed in your household, you’re probably wondering when you can starting giving it to your baby.
Thanks to its soft, flaky texture, fully-cooked salmon can typically be introduced to babies from around 6 months of age.
But how should you go about preparing, cooking and serving it to your little one?
And what about many adult’s favorite, smoked salmon – is this also safe for babies to eat as well?
Let’s take a look in more detail.
Is Salmon Safe For Babies
As a parent, safety is always front of mind when it comes to deciding what foods your baby can and should eat.
There are typically two main things you need to consider when selecting foods for your little one: the risk of choking, and whether any ingredients could be harmful to your baby.
Thankfully fully-cooked salmon (with all the bones removed of course) has a beautifully soft, flaky texture, which means it does not pose a choking risk and can therefore be a great choice for when you are weaning your baby on to solids.
Fish, such as tuna, salmon and cod, can be the cause of a food allergen in children.
For this reason it’s a good idea to only introduce salmon to your child at a time when you are not introducing any other new foods.
A popular allergen-testing strategy is to introduce the food slowly / in small doses by offering it once a day for 3-4 days in a row, and then monitor for any adverse reactions such as skin problems, swelling, breathing problems, stomach symptoms and circulation symptoms, as these may indicate your child has an allergy.
Ingredient-wise, salmon is packed full of goodness (more on these in a second).
You may know that some fish like tuna and swordfish are high in mercury, but mercury levels in salmon are much lower, meaning it’s one of the better types of fish to feed your child.
However, as with many foods you give your baby including meat, moderation and variety is key, which is why it’s recommended that babies only eat salmon a maximum of 2-3 times a week.
Is Salmon Good For Babies
Salmon is rightly considered a superfood, because it offers a multitude of nutritional and other health benefits.
Here are some of the most important benefits this superstar food can offer your child:
High In Protein
Salmon is very low in saturated fat and a good source of protein, with around 40g per fillet.
Protein is important to a child’s development because it helps repair tissue in their bodies, and assists in the growth of their bones and muscles.
Good Source of Iron
For the first 6 months of life, breastfed babies will get what they need from their mother’s milk or formula.
But once they move on to solids, it’s important they get nutrients such as iron from the foods you give them.
Salmon is relatively high in iron, meaning that giving giving your child some is an easy and convenient way to help ensure they meet their daily recommended intake.
High In Fatty Acids That Can Support Brain Growth
Salmon has plenty of “good-fats”, which refers to Omega-3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA).
These acids are important for brain development, and given the first few years of a child’s brain development can build a foundation for future health and success, it’s vital your child gets the best nutrition they can to support this development.
You may not have heard of DHA before, but it’s important for supporting visual development, as well as playing a key role in a child’s cognitive development.
Related: Your Must Have Baby & Toddler Feeding Guide
What Age Can Babies Eat Salmon?
Typically, babies can start eating salmon whenever they are ready to begin eating solids.
While all babies develop at slightly different rates, this is usually around 6 months of age.
Some common signs that your little one is eager to move on to solid food include being able to sit upright without needing assistance, holding their head steady, picking up objects and moving them towards their mouth, and swallowing foods rather than spitting them back out.
What will differ by age is how you prepare it, because at each stage of their development you will want to prepare and serve the salmon in the most appropriate way.
How To Cook Salmon For A Baby
The way you prepare and serve salmon for a 6 month old will clearly differ to how it’s served for a toddler, so let’s take a look at the best way to cook and serve this fish for various age groups.
Ensure the salmon (and this applies to any other fish for that matter) never smells “fishy”, because this can be a sign it’s gone bad.
When preparing the salmon for your baby, make sure you keep your hands, chopping boards, and utensils all clean, as this will stop bacteria spreading from the salmon to other foods in your kitchen.
Here’s a great tip – salmon from the freezer can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator, but if you are in a hurry then you can can thaw it in cold water in a leak-proof bag – around 15-30 minutes should do the trick.
When it comes to cooking, you can offer your baby salmon that is baked, broiled, steamed, grilled or poached.
The one thing you should be sure of is to make sure the fish is fully cooked, which in practice means the internal temperature has reached 145 degrees and / or the flesh is opaque.
And of course take extra care to remove all bones, especially those small ones that are hard to see – you can do this by using your fingers to identify any smaller bones.
At this age strips of freshly cooked, skinless salmon work well.
You can either give your child small pieces, flake the fish and mix into other soft foods, or you could even try making a very simple, soft fishcake.
Appetites vary, but one to two teaspoons is likely to be the right amount at this age.
When your baby gets close to the one year mark, you can offer then bite-sized pieces, as well as the strips like above.
1-2 Year Olds
Once your little one becomes a fully fledged one year old, you can start introducing utensils so they can get the hang of how to use these.
At this age you can also include smoked salmon if you wish!
Can Babies Eat Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon or gravlax can be nutritious (not to mention delicious), but it is worth remembering that it’s relatively high in salt (also known as sodium).
Babies should not eat much salt, because their kidneys are simply not developed enough to process it.
It’s recommended that babies under 1 year old should have less than 1g of salt a day, so that rules out giving babies under the age of one any smoked salmon.
Between the ages of 1 to 3 years, children should not consume more than 2g salt (0.8g sodium) per day.
With a 100-gram serving of smoked salmon coming in at around 650 milligrams of sodium – almost the entire daily recommend amount for a toddler – it’s easy to see why you should caution giving your child too much salmon.
Smoked salmon contains around 9 times more salt that fresh variety, so just like pizza, it’s therefore best to only give your child limited amounts of smoked salmon, and only once they’ve passed their first birthday.
Salmon is typically safe for babies to eat once they are around 6 months old.
As a nutritional powerhouse, salmon provides multiple benefits, perhaps most noteworthy is its brain boosting capabilities.
If you are going to serve your baby salmon, always make sure it’s fully cooked, you’ve checked thoroughly to remove any bones, and limit servings to around 2-3 times per week.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about giving salmon to your baby or toddler, you should speak with a doctor.