Oily fish includes fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, trout and herring.
Fish is rich in protein, the nutrient the body needs to build strong healthy muscles and bones as well as to help repair the scrapes and scratches that are part and parcel of growing up. Protein is needed by every part of the body – skin, hair, nails, heart, lungs as well as muscles and it is a vital nutrient for healthy development. Children need to eat a protein food at lunch and dinner and fish can be a very healthy choice.
If your introducing fish to your baby's diet when baby is ready for solid food, it is recommended to start with very small amounts of fish - even a mouthful with a meal (maybe offer it as a starter) and gradually work up. It generally takes about 6 weeks of trying a new food to become comfortable with it, so take your time.
Start with white fish like whiting and haddock which have a milder flavour. As your child gets used to the fish you can add in new varieties and start introducing the stronger tasting oil-rich fish.
Introducing fish to your baby's diet can be worrying as it may cause allergic reactions. It’s always better to consult your pediatrician first especially if your baby has eczema or itchy patches or has any other known allergy. It’s better that you introduce other solid foods such as cereals and vegetables before introducing seafood. If there’s no reaction, then it may be safe to go ahead with seafood in their diet. However, if your child has a history of mild to severe reactions, it’s better to wait a little longer than 6 months and follow your doctor’s instructions to reduce the risk. It's recommended that you start with one type of fish and wait 3-4 days before introducing the same type of fish to your baby again as allergies make take a few days to develop. When a child undergoes an allergic reaction, usually they’ll have intense crying episodes. This tends to happen even before the symptoms appear, so take note of any incessant crying. These are other signs that you need to watch out for after introducing seafood to your baby that we’ve listed below. Whether the reaction is mild or severe, take your child to the nearest doctor as soon as you see it.
- Skin rashes
- Difficulty in breathing
- Stomach pain
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Salmon may be introduced generally around 6 months of age or when your baby is ready to start on solid foods. Salmon contains many essential nutrients that babies need to thrive, including vitamin D (often deficient in babies), iron, selenium, and zinc. Salmon is also one of the top seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, which makes up a large percentage of a baby’s brain and is critical for visual and cognitive development.
Tuna is not recommended for babies or young children as it contains high amounts of mercury. The FSAI is advising pregnant and breastfeeding women, women of childbearing age and young children to limit their intake of predatory fish (shark, swordfish, tuna, etc) while continuing to consume other fish as part of a balanced diet. It recommends that these groups select fish from a wide range of species but not to eat swordfish, marlin and shark, and to limit consumption of tuna to one fresh tuna steak or two 8oz cans of tuna per week. These predatory fish thus have a larger store of mercury, which is found to affect the human nervous system and the developing brain. It is on this basis the FSAI is making this recommendation to pregnant, breastfeeding and women of child bearing age so as to protect unborn, newborn and young children against the negative effects of the build up of methylmercury. Generally the full of thumb is the bigger the fish the higher the levels of mercury.
Mackerel may be introduced from 6 Months+. Not all species of Mackerel are safe for babies and toddlers. Mackerel may have elevated levels of mercury depending on where they are fished. Irish Mackerel, North Atlantic Mackerel (Norwegian or Scottish) can be a healthy addition to your baby’s diet. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, including the critical docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, North Atlantic mackerel helps to support your baby’s cardiovascular health, cell growth, and eyesight during this early stage of life. The fish also contains B-vitamins to provide energy and selenium to power organ function and protect against toxins.
Avoid King Mackerel or Spanish Mackerel (which are species from the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic and South Atlantic ) for babies and toddlers.
If your mackerel sources is canned make sure you opt for "low sodium" or "No Added Salt" and always ensure the can is BPA-free.
Fresh or frozen Trout is a great source of vitamin B12, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important in supporting baby’s brain development. Trout also contains vitamin D, which supports the growth of healthy bones and cells, and selenium for a healthy immune system. These nutrients are particularly important for babies and can be hard to obtain from other foods. Trout have comparatively low amount of mercury levels.
Mackerel may be introduced from 6 Months+. Herring is high in protein and contains all essential amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA to fuel cardiovascular health, central nervous system development, cell growth, and eyesight. Herring is a great source of vitamin B12 for healthy blood and neurodevelopment, as well as other B vitamins for energy production. It is among the few naturally-occurring food sources of vitamin D, which babies and toddlers need to grow healthy bones. The fish even offers vitamin E and selenium for immune function and iron for healthy blood. Herring is a low mercury fish. When choosing Herring, avoid smoked herring and look for lower-sodium options in glass jars or BPA-free cans.
Sardines may be introduced from 6 Months+. Sardines are an excellent food for babies. These tiny oily fishes are one of the top seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA to fuel cardiovascular health, central nervous system development, cell growth, and healthy eyesight. They are high in protein and all essential amino acids, and vitamin B12 for healthy blood and neurodevelopment, as well as other B vitamins for energy production. Sardines are a fantastic naturally-occurring food source of vitamin D, which babies and toddlers need to grow healthy bones. The fish even offers vitamin E to protect cells, selenium for immune function, iron for healthy blood, and calcium for strong bones. When choosing Sardines, look for lower-sodium options in BPA-free cans.