Is "Baby" Yogurt Really Better for Babies?
There are lots of food products marketed specifically for babies. And sometimes, these products are more expensive than the regular versions. Is baby yogurt just a marketing scheme to get you to spend more money on yogurt? Or is it really better for your little one?
When can babies start to eat yogurt?
You don’t have to wait to offer your baby this delicious and healthy food! As soon as your baby is ready to start eating solid foods, you can offer them yogurt. Not sure how to get started with solid foods, or if your baby is even ready? Check out my post 6 Tips for Starting Baby On Solid Foods for some practical advice.
You may have heard that before your baby is one year old, it’s best to hold off on giving them cow’s milk to drink. That’s correct. As far as liquids go, breast milk and formula are the best options for your baby before their first birthday. We don’t want to offer any other liquids (except maybe a few sips of water with solid foods) because those liquids might displace breast milk and formula, and then baby might not get all the nutrition they need.
So, while milk (including cow’s milk, soy milk, or any other “milk” that’s not breast milk or formula) as a drink is something to avoid, other dairy foods, like yogurt, are fine to give. If you have any concerns about starting solids, or if you’re worried about food allergies, take a look at my article Does my Child Have a Food Allergy, and always have an open conversation with your pediatrician to discuss any questions or concerns.
Why is yogurt such a popular first food for babies? For one, yogurt is full of vitamins and minerals, like calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and potassium, which are all valuable nutrients for your baby.
Yogurt is also a good source of protein and fats, both of which are important for your baby’s growth and development. Remember, babies don’t need to be on a low fat diet. Fats are important for brain development, and since there is a ton of brain growth happening in first few years of a baby’s life, fat is an important nutrient to give. I recommend including a source of healthy fats with every meal you give your baby (including foods like yogurt, avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, and nut butters). When giving yogurt, I always recommend to serve your baby whole milk yogurt (not low fat or fat free), because it has the most fat.
One thing to look out for in yogurt is added sugars. When you look at the nutrition label of yogurt, you will see an amount of sugar on the label, usually 5-6 grams per 1/2 cup serving. This is from the natural sugars present in milk, and it’s totally normal. But for babies and kids (and even for adults too), I like to avoid added sugars. To find added sugars, look on the list of ingredients. If you see any sugar listed in the ingredient list, you know that it’s an added sugar.
Most flavored yogurts have a significant amount of added sugar. Some yogurts can have an additional 10 grams or more of added sugars in one 1/2 cup serving! For your baby, I always recommend choosing a whole milk plain yogurt. You can always add your own fruit to give it a nice natural sweetness, and your baby will get all the benefits from having fruit without the added sugars.
Greek yogurt is another popular choice among parents. If you like greek yogurt, it’s fine to give your baby whole milk plain greek yogurt, just be aware that the texture of greek yogurt is very thick and you might want to thin it out depending on your baby’s needs. Also, the taste of greek yogurt tends to be a bit more tangy than regular yogurt, so you might find your baby is sensitive to that strong flavor. It’s really up to you!
Baby yogurt vs regular yogurt
When you first go shopping for yogurt for your baby, you’ll likely notice special little cups of “Baby Yogurt” in the dairy aisle. So, what’s the difference between the two? Is ‘baby’ yogurt really better for your baby? I did some browsing in the market recently and am here to share my findings!
Regular Yogurt: Cultured Pasteurized Organic Whole Milk, Pectin, Vitamin D3, Live active cultures (S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium BB-12®, L. acidophilus, L. paracasei and L. rhamnosus)
Baby Yogurt: Cultured Pasteurized Organic Whole Milk, Pectin, Vitamin D3, Live active cultures (S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium animalis lactis BB-12®, L. acidophilus, L. paracasei and L. rhamnosus)
Results: Both types of yogurt have identical ingredients
Nutrition (per 1/2 cup)
Regular Yogurt: 80 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 5.5 grams sugar (natural sugar, not added)
Baby Yogurt: 80 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 5 grams sugar (natural sugar, not added)
Results: Both types of yogurt have identical nutrition*, not surprising since the ingredients are the same
*The regular yogurt does have 5.5 grams sugar vs 5 grams sugar in baby yogurt, but this is probably due to rounding since 1 serving of regular yogurt is 1 cup, and 1 serving of baby yogurt is 1/2 cup. On nutrition labels the amounts are rounded.
Regular Yogurt: $5.19 for a 32oz container = 16 cents per ounce
Baby Yogurt: $5.29 for a 6 pack of 4oz containers = 22 cents per ounce
Results: The baby yogurt costs 37% more per ounce than regular yogurt!
*Prices might be different at your local market, so I encourage you to see what cost is per ounce of yogurt to be able to compare the two.
The bottom line
Yogurt is a delicious and healthy food that you can give your baby from the time they start to enjoy solid foods. There is no difference in the ingredients or the nutrition in “baby” yogurt vs regular yogurt. The only difference is the label on the package, and of course, the cost. Baby yogurt costs more per ounce than regular yogurt. In my store, the baby yogurt was 37% more expensive per ounce than regular yogurt.
Why the extra expense? My guess is it has to do with packaging. Baby yogurt tends to be packaged in individual cups, while you can buy regular yogurt in larger containers. Packaging adds expense, so this could be part of the reason why baby yogurt is more expensive than big containers of regular yogurt.
Some other thoughts on baby yogurt vs regular yogurt:
I do like that baby yogurt is already packaged in 4 ounce (1/2 cup) containers, which makes it easy to bring when you’re out of the house and want to give baby a meal or snack. But, especially when your baby is just starting to eat solids, they likely won’t eat all 4 ounces, so the rest of the yogurt will have to get thrown out (you don’t want to save any leftovers when it’s got baby’s spoon going in and out of it, as this could lead to bacterial growth). By using a big container of yogurt, you can scoop out a smaller portion for your baby, and always get more with a clean spoon if they are still hungry.
If you’d like to serve your baby flavored yogurt, I recommend to compare the different brands of whole milk yogurt to find the option with the least amount of sugar. Based on my searching at the grocery store, it does look like ‘baby yogurt’ when it’s flavored may have less added sugar than regular yogurt that’s flavored. Plus, it’s easier to find whole milk yogurt when it’s labeled ‘baby’, many of the regular flavored yogurts are low fat or fat free, which isn’t what we want for babies.
There are now some interesting and exciting flavored yogurts with no added sugar! Stonyfield has a new flavor in their ‘baby’ line that has purple carrot and sweet potato, with no added sugar! This could be an excellent choice for your baby if you’re looking for a flavored option.
Whatever yogurt you choose to feed your baby, or if you even choose to feed yogurt at all, remember to allow your baby to explore it with all their senses. The whole eating experience is new to babies, and every new food is full exciting sensations to explore. Let your baby look at it, smell it, and play with their food. Model healthy behaviors by showing your baby how to eat yogurt and telling them what it tastes like. Make it fun, and don’t be afraid to get messy!
Has your baby tried yogurt yet? What’s their favorite flavor? Leave any questions or stories about yogurt in the comments below!