Safest Way to Introduce Fish & Seafood to Toddlers

If you like fish and other seafood, you might be anxious to introduce your toddler to one of your favorite foods. Safely introduce fish and seafood to your toddler at any time, as long as you follow a few guidelines and watch closely for any signs of allergy. Fish and shellfish make the top eight list of common food allergens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

First Tastes

When introducing a new food, especially one that has a high allergenic potential, start with a small amount to minimize a potential allergic reaction. Pediatrician and author Dr. Alan Greene advises against starting a new food when your toddler is taking antibiotics. Antibiotics can reduce the "good" bacteria in the gut that help protect against reactions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until 4 to 6 months to start any solid foods, including possible food allergens such as fish and seafood. The toddler period normally includes children ages 1 through 3, so you can start fish and seafood at any time for toddlers.

One at a Time

Two raw salmon fillets

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Introduce just one new type of seafood at a time. If your child has a reaction, it will be much easier to pinpoint the offender if he didn't eat everything on the seafood buffet table. Wait at least three days before introducing another new food. Introduce fish or seafood at home rather than at a restaurant. Cross-contamination from cooking utensils or cooks touching different foods occurs easily in restaurants. If your child has a reaction after eating shrimp, the crab that contaminated his dish might actually be the culprit.


Fish supply omega-3 fatty acids, important for brain and eye development in infants and toddlers. But fish also contain environmental contaminants such as mercury, a toxin that can affect your toddler's brain development. Avoid fish with high mercury levels and limit others to two times per week to reduce the risk of mercury poisoning. Children under age 2 should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, the United States Food and Drug Administration recommends. Your toddler can eat up to 12 ounces per week of the fish lowest in mercury, which include:

  • canned light tuna
  • catfish
  • pollack
  • salmon
  • shrimp

Toddlers should not eat raw or undercooked shellfish, which can contain potentially harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Signs of Allergy

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It's usually not hard to recognize signs of an allergic reaction. Food allergies normally occur within a few minutes to a few hours after eating a new food. If your toddler breaks out in a rash or hives or develops facial swelling, itching, irritability, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, he might have a fish or shellfish allergy. Let his medical practitioner know. If he shows any signs of breathing difficulty such as wheezing, turning blue, gasping for breath or choking or he suddenly loses consciousness, seek immediate medical attention. A toddler with a severe allergy might develop symptoms just from breathing the steam from cooking seafood.