Fish is an amazing source for crucial fatty acids like DHA and EPA, known as Omega-3s. DHA is particularly important to children. It helps the brain grow! But before you start throwing down the grouper, it’s important to know when you should give your baby fish and which fish to give them. You wouldn’t want to accidentally give them Phish, which is only a source for MDMA and makes the brain … melt.
As for the “when,” babies can start eating fish whenever they start chowing on solid foods — usually between about 4 and 6 months of age. It’s a perfect time to introduce a piscine diet to replenish all those Omega-3s lost in the transition away from breast milk and formula.
Before you get that “Yum, yum, bumble” song stuck in your head (crap, too late), there’s one huge caveat from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP): fish are one of the leading causes of food allergies. Be extremely cautious if your kid has asthma or eczema that sticks around after a doctor’s treatment plan, or if you have a family history of food allergies. You may have to introduce them to Bruce, not a new, finned food group.
If you choose to proceed with fish — or any high-allergen food for that matter — do so close to home. Start with small amounts, keep a watchful eye, and allow for a couple days after to monitor for anything screwy in their system.
A final recommendation from the AAP is to avoid the big, muscular fish at the top of the food chain, which are typically the ones that can have high concentrations of mercury. So no swordfish … or Bruce. This is actually one of the places where Phish is acceptable, since they’ve never really been into heavy metal. (Heyo! To the Punderdome!)
For loads of fish you and your baby can safely enjoy, this site has a plenty of suggestions including farmed rainbow trout, anchovies, and sardines. This book also has lots of fish, too, although the nutrition information is questionable at best. Whatever you give your kid, make sure it’s free of bones. Consider mincing or pureeing. What, pureed anchovy doesn’t sound delicious to you?
Whichever way you do it, make sure you get the good stuff into them before 5 years of age or they might not like fish later in life. No matter how many times they go out with you and catch a live one.