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When can you feed a baby fish sticks?

Fish sticks can be a tasty and convenient food for babies and young children. However, there are some important guidelines parents should follow when it comes to introducing fish sticks into a baby’s diet. The timing of when to start feeding babies fish sticks depends on a variety of factors. In general, most pediatricians recommend waiting until a baby is around 9-12 months old before offering fish sticks, but some babies may be ready sooner or later. The key is making sure your baby is developmentally ready for finger foods and does not have any allergies or intolerances.

When can babies start eating finger foods?

The timing of introducing finger foods, like fish sticks, depends on your baby’s oral motor development and ability to chew and swallow more textured foods. Here is a quick overview:

  • 4-6 months: At this age, babies are typically just starting to eat pureed foods and are not yet ready for finger foods. Their swallowing coordination is still immature.
  • 6-8 months: Many babies are beginning to show interest in foods they can pick up. You can offer very soft cooked finger foods at this stage, such as slices or pieces of soft ripe fruits/vegetables, baby cereal puffs, and teething crackers that easily dissolve.
  • 8-10 months: Babies start improving their chewing skills and moving foods from front to back of the mouth to swallow. Finger foods can include soft pieces of toast or bread, soft cooked vegetables, strips of chicken, and dissolvable crackers.
  • 10-12 months: Babies have more molars coming in and can manage more textures. Soft, flaky fish sticks may be introduced at this stage as long as they are cut into short, manageable sticks.

Always monitor your baby closely when introducing new foods. If they gag, choke or have difficulty managing the texture, they likely need a little more time before trying that food again. Go at your baby’s pace.

Signs your baby may be ready for fish sticks

In addition to your baby’s age, there are some developmental signs that signal they are ready to start finger foods like fish sticks:

  • They can sit upright with little assistance.
  • They pick up and eat “puffs” or other dissolvable snacks well.
  • They open their mouth when they see food coming their way.
  • They chew in an up-and-down motion.
  • They can move tongue sideways to move food around in the mouth.
  • They no longer push foods back out of their mouth.

If your baby is displaying most of these signs, they are probably ready for soft finger foods cut into manageable sizes, including fish sticks. But proceed with caution, as every baby’s development is different.

Choosing appropriate fish for baby

Not all fish are created equal when it comes to babies. Certain types of fish are safer and more nutritious for babies than others due to mercury and omega-3 fatty acid content. Here are some of the best fish options for baby:

  • Salmon
  • Pollock
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Flounder
  • Sole
  • Trout
  • Catfish
  • Tilapia

Avoid large predatory fish that are higher in mercury, like swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. Also limit tuna intake to no more than 2-3 servings per month.

Check any packaged fish sticks to make sure the fish is one of the safer, low mercury varieties. Homemade fish sticks made from the fish above are an even healthier choice.

Nutritional benefits of fish for babies

Fish provides some great nutrition for growing babies:

  • Protein: Helps build strong muscles.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Supports brain and eye development.
  • Vitamin B12: Important for nerve function and red blood cell formation.
  • Iron: Carries oxygen through the blood.
  • Zinc: Boosts immunity and cell growth.
  • Vitamin D: Aids calcium absorption for healthy bones.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants have at least two 3-ounce servings of fish per week once they start eating solid foods. Fish sticks can be a healthy way to meet this dietary recommendation.

Food safety tips

When preparing and feeding fish sticks to your baby, follow these food safety guidelines:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling food.
  • Avoid fish that contains bones, like canned salmon. Bones pose a choking hazard.
  • Use boneless, skinless fillets and cut into sticks no bigger than 1/2 inch wide x 2 inches long.
  • Cook fish thoroughly until opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Don’t season with salt or other spices which are unnecessary for babies.
  • Allow fish sticks to cool before serving – they should be warm but not hot.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours and use within 3 days.

Following safe preparation and handling procedures reduces the risk of your baby getting a foodborne illness.

Fun fish stick recipes for baby

Here are a couple healthy homemade fish stick recipes to try for your baby:

Easy Baked Salmon Sticks


  • 1 lb salmon fillet, skinned, boned and cut into finger strips
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 tsp paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pat salmon strips dry with a paper towel. Place in a shallow bowl.
  3. Whisk egg in a separate shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, mix together panko and paprika.
  4. Dip salmon strips in egg, allowing any excess to drip off. Coat strips completely in panko mixture and place on baking sheet.
  5. Drizzle strips lightly with olive oil. Bake for 10-12 minutes until fish flakes easily and is opaque throughout.
  6. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into smaller sticks for baby to grip. Serve warm.

Baked Tilapia Sticks


  • 1 lb tilapia fillets, cut into finger strips
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Lemon wedges


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, parmesan and garlic powder.
  3. Brush tilapia strips lightly with olive oil then roll strips in breadcrumb mixture to coat.
  4. Place coated strips on baking sheet. Mist with olive oil spray.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until fish is opaque and flakes easily. Allow to cool before serving.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over fish.

Introducing fish sticks to baby

When you’re ready to introduce fish sticks, follow these tips for success:

  • Start with just 1-2 sticks at a time – no need to overload their plate.
  • Cut sticks into manageable sizes, no longer than 2 inches.
  • Make sure fish is moist, tender and flaky – not too dry or rubbery.
  • Monitor closely while baby is eating in case of choking.
  • Offer with a vegetable or fruit puree they are used to help make it more familiar.
  • Don’t force it if they seem uninterested. Try again in a couple weeks.

If your baby has no allergies, consider rubbing a tiny bit of fish stick on their lip before their first taste. This helps introduce the flavor. Introduce just one new food at a time and watch for any reactions.

Choking hazards and prevention

Fish bones are an obvious choking risk with fish sticks. Carefully remove all bones when preparing homemade sticks. When buying pre-made fish sticks, inspect them closely and avoid any brands containing bones.

Fish can also pose a choking risk if served in pieces that are too large, hard, or cylindrical in shape. Follow these tips:

  • Cut fish sticks no larger than 1/2 inch wide x 2 inches long.
  • Trim off any hard tail ends so sticks have soft, rounded edges.
  • Cook fish thoroughly until it flakes apart easily with a fork.
  • Allow fish to cool slightly before serving so it’s warm versus hot.
  • Sit with baby during meals and keep an eye on their chewing.
  • Avoid distracting baby during mealtimes.

Know the signs of choking – difficulty breathing, gagging, unable to make noise – and how to properly respond by doing infant CPR and calling emergency services if needed. Preventing choking when feeding solids to babies is so important.

Potential food allergies

Around 8% of children have food allergies, most commonly to eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Food allergies seem to be increasing among children.

Fish is one of the more common food allergens. An allergy to fish can develop early in life and symptoms may include:

  • Hives, itching, eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue
  • Runny nose, congestion
  • Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Anaphylaxis – difficulty breathing, fainting

Allergies are often inherited. If you have a family history of allergies, or if your baby has experienced allergic reactions to other foods, talk to your pediatrician before introducing fish sticks. They may recommend allergy testing. Hold off on feeding fish if any close family members have a fish allergy.

When introducing fish for the first time, feed during the daytime so you can monitor for any reaction. Start with just a small amount. Discontinue immediately if any concerning symptoms develop and contact your pediatrician. Fish allergy symptoms usually begin within minutes to two hours after eating fish. Keep epinephrine (EpiPen) on hand if your child has a known food allergy.

Mercury risks

Fish can accumulate mercury in their tissues from contaminated water sources. In high doses, mercury is toxic to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system. That’s why it’s important to avoid large, predatory fish that tend to be higher in mercury.

The fish used for homemade fish sticks or found in most store-bought brands have very low mercury levels when eaten in recommended amounts. Still, there are some guidelines for limiting mercury exposure:

  • Avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel
  • Eat no more than 2-3 servings per month of canned albacore tuna
  • Adhere to FDA/EPA safety guidelines on how much fish to eat while pregnant/breastfeeding
  • Limit baby’s tuna intake to no more than 2-3 servings per month

Following safe fish recommendations for babies keeps mercury well below levels of concern while allowing them to enjoy the great benefits fish provide.


Most babies can start eating soft, flaky fish sticks around 9-12 months of age as part of starting finger foods. But timing varies based on your baby’s development and readiness for textures. Fish provides wonderful nutrition for babies, but be mindful of food safety, choking risks, allergies and mercury exposure. With some care, fish sticks can be a healthy, safe and tasty addition to your little one’s menu.