Coconut products seem to be everywhere these days, from coconut oil to coconut butter to the ever popular coconut milk. You might even have a carton of coconut milk in your refrigerator right now, maybe as a dairy substitute or simply because you like the taste. If you're a parent, you may also be wondering — can babies have coconut milk, too? The answer will depend on your child's age and dietary needs.
As a general rule, you should wait until your baby turns 1 year old before introducing coconut milk into their diet. But even then, it should be used as a supplement rather than a substitute for cow's milk, breast milk, or another milk alternative. In an interview with Romper, board-certified pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert advises, "It is safe to give your child coconut milk after the age of 1 year, but it is not preferred. Most pediatricians prefer offering a higher fat content beverage, like whole milk, to children from 1 to 2 years due to the continued high rate of brain and body growth that toddlers experience." If your child has a milk allergy, however, Burgert urges you to speak to your pediatrician about other milk sources that your toddler can safely drink.
While coconut milk may not offer the same nutrition as cow's milk or other milk products, you can definitely introduce it to your 1-year-old's palate and see what they think. "Coconut milk is an excellent food to complement pumpkin or sweet potatoes," Dr. Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine and a clinical nutritionist, noted on his website. But remember to keep in mind that coconut milk alone lacks the fat and calcium your child needs to grow and thrive. Out of the four popular milk alternatives — soy, cashew, almond, and coconut — coconut milk is the least nutritious, according to The New York Times.
It's exciting when your baby begins to try new foods. Every meal can be an adventure, from that first taste of carrots to the first spoonful of pureed plums to the first sip of coconut milk. Coconut milk may not pack the nutritional punch that your child needs, but it can still be used as a delicious drink to share as a family.