Can Babies Have Coconut Milk? Right Age, Benefits And Precautions

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Many parents have been exploring the nutritional benefits of coconut milk for babies since it is a popular plant-based milk alternative. Of course, substituting coconut milk for breast milk or infant formula is a no-go. However, you may add a little coconut milk to the weaning baby’s or toddler’s diet.

Coconut milk is obtained from mature coconut pulp. Its peculiar taste and creamy texture make it a common choice in savory and sweet recipes. Although it cannot substitute breastmilk, it has nutritional and therapeutic properties. Therefore, it is best to opt for fresh coconut milk prepared at home than canned coconut milk.

Read on to know the benefits of coconut milk and some interesting recipes with coconut milk for babies and toddlers.

When Can You Introduce Coconut Milk To Your Infant?

Babies older than 12 months may have calcium-fortified coconut milk as the main drink (1). If you wish to introduce coconut milk sooner, adding it to the baby’s weaning food is suitable (2). You could try coconut milk-based cheese, yogurt and desserts for babies older than six months occasionally (3). In any case, consult a pediatrician before giving coconut milk to the baby.

Nutritional Value Of Coconut Milk

The nutritional composition and qualities of coconut milk vary depending on the quality of coconut pulp. Coconut milk sold as a dairy alternative, that is, a milk substitute, is fortified with nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D.

One fluid ounce (30.5g) of coconut milk fortified with calcium, vitamins A, B12, and D offers the following nutrients (4) (5).

NutrientsAmountRDA (12-36months)
Water28.8g
Energy9.46kcal
Protein0.064g
Total lipid (fat)0.634g
Carbohydrate, by difference0.891g
Calcium, Ca57.3mg500mg
Potassium, K5.8mg1000mg
Sodium, Na5.8mg225mg
Vitamin A63µg400µg
Vitamin B120.63µg0.7µg
Vitamin D1µg10µg

Sources: US Department of Agriculture and World Health Organization

Coconut milk is often considered an alternative for lactose intolerant babies. However, whether to use coconut milk for a baby is a decision you need to make with a pediatrician. Some other dairy alternatives are soy milk, rice milk, oats milk, almond milk, and hemp milk.

Possible Health Benefits Of Coconut Milk For Babies

Coconut milk has nutritional elements, such as medium-chain triglycerides and bioactive compounds that could benefit health over time (6) (7). Below are some notable benefits of coconut milk that a baby may reap.

  1. Offers nutrients: Coconut milk is calorie-rich, has high amounts of saturated fat and minerals (8). This nutritional profile could make it a good choice for babies who need these nutrients to maintain their rapid growth and development.
  1. Improves digestion: Coconut milk is considered to improve digestion and alleviate constipation through its high water content and bioactive compounds (9). However, clinical evidence to support this theory is limited.
  1. Strengthens immunity: The nutritional components of coconut milk could stimulate the immune system (10). Also, it contains bioactive compounds possessing antioxidant properties. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), such as lauric acid, present in coconut milk, may help fight infections and illnesses (11).
  1. Supports brain development: Research shows that coconut milk contains considerable amounts of saturated fatty acid (10). These fatty acids may support the baby’s healthy brain development in the long run.

Besides these, coconut milk may also reduce inflammation and promote heart health over time.

Possible Side Effects Of Coconut Milk For Babies

Although coconut milk offers certain benefits, its use among babies is not promoted. One cup of coconut milk offers 0.51g of protein, which is significantly lower protein than whole cow milk, which contains 7.69g of protein (12). Also, coconut milk is high in saturated fat, which may fill your baby’s little tummy and suppress their appetite for breast milk or formula milk, and other foods. It will be a good idea to keep saturated fat intake to a minimum.

Commercial coconut milk, usually sold as a milk substitute, is often diluted and may contain artificial sweeteners and thickeners (10). These compounds may not be good for the baby’s health, and parents might want to avoid. Coconut is also a potential allergen though the allergy is not as common.

Note: If you wish to use coconut milk for cooking, use canned coconut milk specifically made for cooking purposes.

Precautions To Take While Using Coconut Milk For Babies

Here are some precautions to observe while using coconut milk for babies.

  1. Prefer to buy packaged coconut milk from a reputable and trusted brand. Look for no-sugar options fortified with essential nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D.
  1. Introduce coconut milk as a part of other foods, such as mash, puree, or porridge. Keep the intake occasional as its protein and calcium content is not enough. Being rich in calories and fats, it can keep your baby full for longer and suppress its appetite.
  1. Begin by feeding a teaspoon of coconut milk as a part of food preparation and gradually increase the intake to a tablespoon and then to two.
  1. After ingesting coconut milk, if the baby experiences discomfort or shows signs of sensitivity or intolerance, discontinue feeding, and try later.
  1. Allergy after eating coconut is rare, but the allergic reaction after touching coconut, called contact dermatitis, is relatively common (13). If the baby has an existing dermatitis condition or a family history of skin allergies, consult a doctor before introducing coconut milk.
  1. Cross-reactivity of coconut with walnut and hazelnut has been reported. Most individuals with a tree nut allergy can eat coconut and its products (14). Nevertheless, if your baby has nut or other food allergies, consult a doctor before introducing coconut milk.
  1. Serve coconut milk as a drink to toddlers occasionally. Plain coconut milk, coconut milkshake, and coconut milk smoothie are some options to try.
  1. Keep the intake of coconut milk occasional, even for older toddlers. Toddlers older than two years should consume low-fat foods for effective weight management and optimum heart health (15).

Healthy Coconut Milk Recipes For Babies And Toddlers

Below are some easy-to-prepare, healthy coconut milk recipes that can enhance the nutritional value of your baby’s diet.

1. Coconut milk puree (6 months+)

Mango puree with coconut milk for babies

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • ¼ cup mango puree
  • ¼ banana puree
  • ½tsp dry fruit powder
  • 2tbsp coconut milk

How to prepare:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl thoroughly. Ensure no lumps are present.
  2. Transfer some amount in a feeding bowl and feed the baby. Store the remaining amount in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than two days.

2. Creamy lentil veggie curry (8 months+)

Creamy lentil veggie curry with coconut milk for babies

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 50g red lentil (cooked)
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • ½ carrot (peeled and finely chopped)
  • ½ capsicum (finely chopped)
  • 1 small onion(finely chopped)
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1½ cup water
  • 2tbsp olive oil

How to prepare: 

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over low heat. Add onions and fry them until they turn golden brown.
  2. Stir in the lentil, corn kernels, carrot, and capsicum. Cook for five minutes until the veggies turn soft.
  3. Add water and coconut milk to the mixture and bring to boil over medium heat.
  4. Lower the flame, cover the pan and simmer the mixture for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. When the lentils are soft, turn off the heat and set the pan aside to cool. The curry is ready.
  6. Mash or blend to appropriate texture before feeding it to the baby.

3. Sago and coconut milk porridge (10 months+)

Sago porridge with coconut milk for babies

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • ¼ cup sago (washed, drained, and soaked)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1cup water
  • 1tsp dry fruit powder
  • ⅛ tsp cardamom powder

How to prepare: 

  1. Boil coconut milk and water mix in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add cardamom powder, dry fruit powder, and sago. Cook for seven to eight minutes while stirring occasionally. Ensure no lumps are present.
  3. As the milk boils, it will thicken. Add more water to adjust the porridge’s consistency.
  4. Once the mixture thickens as desired, turn off the flame, and set the porridge aside to cool. Pour some porridge into a feeding bowl and feed.

4. Banana and coconut milk smoothie (12 months+)

Banana smoothie with coconut milk for babies

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 mashed banana
  • ½tsp jaggery
  • 1tsp dry fruit powder

How to prepare: 

  1. Blend all the ingredients into a smooth-flowing smoothie in a blender. Ensure no lumps are present.
  2. Pour the smoothie into a serving glass and serve.
  3. You can add more seasonal fruits, such as mango, peach, berries, and pineapple.

Coconut milk for babies is an energy-dense beverage that they can consume along with other weaning foods. Feeding coconut milk to babies under 12 months is strongly discouraged. However, toddlers can consume a cup of coconut milk as their main drink or as a part of other foods such as soups, curries, porridge, and cakes. But never replace whole cow’s milk or breast milk with coconut milk since it lacks certain essential nutrients that babies and toddlers need for proper growth and development. Instead, include coconut milk in moderation as a part of a balanced diet to enjoy its benefits.

Key Pointers

  • Babies older than 6 months may occasionally consume coconut milk-based products.
  • Coconut milk is nutritious and also available fortified with calcium and vitamins.
  • Make sure you buy packaged coconut milk from a reputable and trusted brand and keep the intake occasional for babies.
  • Check out coconut milk puree, creamy lentil veggie curry, and other recipes to enhance the nutritional value of your baby’s diet.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Milk free diet for babies; NHS
2. Milk free diet for babies; NHS
3. Cow’s Milk Free Diet for Infants and Children; NHS
4. Coconut milk, FDC ID: 1097553; Fooddata Central; USDA
5. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
6. Kokilavani et al.; Identification of Volatile Compound in Coconut Milk Samples Using GC-MS; International Journal Of Current Microbiology Applied Sciences
7. Asiri N. Karunasiri et al.; Antioxidant and Nutritional Properties of Domestic and Commercial Coconut Milk Preparations; NCBI
8. Victor Ephraim Edem et al.; Optimization of Coconut (Cocosnucifera) Milk Extraction Using Response Surface Methodology; International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences
9. The Benefits of Coconut Milk; Jamaica Hospital Medical Center
10. Elvira Verduci, et al.; Cow’s Milk Substitutes for Children: Nutritional Aspects of Milk from Different Mammalian Species, Special Formula and Plant-Based Beverages; NCBI
11. SaifAlyaqoubi et al.; Study of antioxidant activity and physicochemical properties of coconut milk (Patisantan) in Malaysia; Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research
12. Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs; AAP
13. Coconut Allergy; Australian Society Of Clinical Immunology And Allergy
14. Coconut Allergy; Anaphylaxis Campaign
15. Dietary fat and children; Medline Plus; US National Library Of Medicine
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Seeemaa Budhraja

(DDHE & DNHE)
Seeemaa Budhraja is a Delhi-based dietitian and nutritionist. She specializes in weight and lifestyle management. She is a healthy recipe designer, works as a health motivator and wellness coach as well. She has worked as a slimming head with one of the top organizations in India. She excels in therapeutic diets for various lifestyle-related diseases. This renowned nutritionist is a... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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