Choosing the right time to give a baby tuna fish has been a hot debate for many years. The American Academy of Pediatrics used to state that fish, such as tuna, was not safe until after a child’s second birthday.
In 2008, they changed the age recommendation from two years to six months.
Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for a child’s brain and eye development. It is also low in saturated fat and high in protein, vitamin D and other important nutrients.
Tuna is a salt water fish that is highly popular to consume. Tuna can be canned and is very popular in sandwiches, salads and casseroles. Albacore (white) tuna and skipjack (light) tuna are the two most common kinds of canned tuna.
Can I Give My Baby Tuna Fish? Answer: After 6 Months
The right time to introduce tuna to a child’s diet depends on your family’s history of food allergies. Fish is one of the top eight allergenic foods, and there are certain ages that it’s safer for children to consume.
Be Careful with Allergies
If there is not a history of food allergies in your family, tuna can be introduced to your child around the six-month mark. If allergies do run in your family, it is best to wait until your child is three before introducing tuna.
Be advised that tuna does contain small amounts of methylmercury, a metal believed to be harmful to a child’s developing brain and nervous system when consumed in high doses. It is best to limit your child’s intake to no more than twice a week. Canned tuna is lower in mercury than albacore tuna, so it’s the best choice to feed your baby.
When feeding tuna to your baby, always make sure it is thoroughly cooked to avoid bacteria and viruses that can thrive in undercooked meat and fish. Also be sure that the tuna is properly de-boned and minced or pureed so there is no choking hazard. Make sure to only offer a small amount, and do not introduce the tuna with another type of fish.
One New Food at a Time
After the initial introduction, watch for signs of a food allergy. It is recommended to hold off for a minimum of 3 days before introducing another “new” food to your child. Signs of an allergic reaction include the tongue, lips and face has swelled, there is a rash found on the skin; your child is wheezing; there is cramping in the abdomen, they are vomiting, or there is diarrhea. Allergy symptoms vary from child to child and can be moderate to severe. If you notice mild symptoms, call your child’s doctor right away.
If you have given your child tuna and there has not been any allergic reaction, make it a normal part of their diet. The FDA/EDP advisory says it is okay to serve your child two child-size servings of fish per week. A child-size serving is 1 ounce of fish for one and two year olds, 1.5 ounces for children ages three to six; and 2 ounces for a child over six.
Easy Does It
Consuming too much fish that contains mercury can result in mercury poisoning. Also known as hydrargyria or mercurialism, mercury poisoning is a disease caused by exposure to mercury, which can produce toxic effects. Fish high in mercury include tilefish, swordfish, shark and mackeral. Babies should not consume any of these fish, as their mercury levels are too high for a child and can result in mercury poisoning.
Concerns with Mercury
Symptoms of mercury poisoning include sensory impairment (vision, hearing and speech), disturbed sensation and lack of coordination. There are guidelines put in place by the EPA which say that it’s OK to consume up to twelve ounces of light tuna fish each week or six ounces of white tuna every week. If you take into consideration that a single can of tuna weighs 6 ounces by itself, you may be coming close to giving your baby mercury poisoning when too many cans are eaten in one day. If your child starts to exhibit any of the previously mentioned symptoms, please be sure to call 911 immediately.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics believes it is okay to give a child tuna fish around the six-month mark, some pediatricians still advise against it until after a child’s second birthday. Make sure to discuss it with your child’s doctor if you have any questions or concerns.