Coconut Milk for Babies: Nutritional Value, Health Benefits & Recipe

Coconut Milk for Babies – Benefits and Recipe

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Pediatrician)
View more Pediatrician Our Panel of Experts

We all agree with the health benefits of coconut and its derivates, like coconut milk and coconut water. Coconut milk is creamy in texture, rich in taste and is absolutely loved in the kitchen. The milk derived from coconut is nutritious, and many gravy dishes are simply incomplete without it. If you love coconut milk, you might want to introduce it to your baby to see if they like it. Hold that thought – before you think of including coconut milk in your baby’s diet, it is highly essential to check whether it is safe for your little one, as the reputation of coconut milk for babies is slightly not so on the bright side. 

What Is Coconut Milk?

Contrary to popular belief, coconut milk is not technically ‘milk’. Even though it has the colour and texture of milk, it is a mixture of coconut water and coconut pulp. The pulp or meat of the coconut is grated, boiled, and then squeezed to extract the coconut milk.

Is Coconut Milk Good for Babies?

Coconut milk is rich in nutrients and fats (mostly saturated fats) that are good for children below two years of age. Babies need essential fats for brain development, insulation, and skin development, for all of which coconut milk is beneficial. Coconut milk also contains several vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C and E. All these nutrients help maintain your baby’s health and development and boost immunity, improve digestion, and aid in muscle build-up.

Unfortunately, coconut milk is not safe for babies.

Coconut milk can be very beneficial for one’s health, but it is not a safe choice for babies. It should not be used as a substitute for breast milk as it lacks most of the nutrients that the baby may derive from breast milk. The FDA has now included coconut in the list of ‘tree nuts’. Hence, it should not be given to a baby if he has a tree nut allergy. You should also avoid adding coconut to your baby’s diet with other new foods if you haven’t your little one’s reaction to the food. By introducing one food at a time, you will be able to find out whether or not your child is allergic to a new food.

It is not a replacement for breast milk or formula as it lacks the nutrients present in breast milk. In fact, even cow’s milk is also not a replacement for breast milk. Cow’s milk can lead to dehydration and iron deficiencies in babies. There’s no substitute for breast milk – you must remember that. As a general rule, you should wait until your baby turns 1 year old before introducing coconut milk into their diet.

Coconut milk alone has the fat and calcium your baby needs to grow and thrive. Out of the four popular milk alternatives—soy, cashew, almond, and coconut, coconut milk is the least nutritious. So don’t give it to your baby. But if you want, you can enjoy it with your family!

Nutritional Value of Coconut Milk

Nutrients Nutritional value per 100 g
Protein 2.3 g
Minerals:  
Iron 1.6 mg
Zinc 0.67 mg
Potassium 263 mg
Magnesium 37 mg
Calcium 16 mg
Phosphorus 100 mg
Vitamins:  
Thiamine 0.03 mg

Health Benefits of Coconut Milk for Babies

Coconut milk is a nutritious alternative for babies, offering numerous health benefits. Packed with essential nutrients, it can be a valuable addition to your baby’s diet. Here are six key coconut milk benefits for babies:

1. Rich in Healthy Fats

Coconut milk is high in healthy fats, particularly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which support brain development in infants.

2. Nutrient-Rich

It provides essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, and iron, vital for your baby’s growth.

3. Easy Digestion

Coconut milk is gentle on a baby’s digestive system and can help alleviate colic or constipation.

4. Allergen-Friendly

It is a dairy-free alternative, making it suitable for babies with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.

5. Immune Support

The lauric acid in coconut milk has antimicrobial properties, bolstering your baby’s immune system.

6. Hydration

Coconut milk is hydrating and helps prevent dehydration, especially in hot climates.

7. Skin Health

Is it safe to use coconut milk for baby skin whitening? Well, when used topically, coconut milk for skin whitening can soothe and moisturise your baby’s sensitive skin, reducing dryness or irritation. Coconut milk massage for babies can prove to be miraculous for their skin!

Reasons Why Coconut Milk Should Not Be an Alternative to Breast Milk or Formula

Coconut milk has several health benefits, but it is not enough for a baby as a replacement for breast milk or formula; here’s why –

1. Not Enough Protein Content

Proteins are necessary for the development and repair of muscles and tissues in the body. A baby needs a minimum of 11 grams of protein each day, and a measure of 100 grams of coconut milk gives only about 2 grams of protein, which clearly isn’t enough for the growing baby.

2. Not Enough Calcium Content

Calcium is required for the development of bones and teeth, and coconut milk has barely 10% of the necessary calcium content that your child needs.

3. Can Suppress Your Baby’s Appetite

Coconut milk is rich in essential fats and calories, and this can make your baby feel full for a few hours, without really providing enough nutrients that your baby requires. Since the baby’s tummy is full, he will refuse to consume breast milk or food for a few hours.

How to Select and Store Coconut Milk?

Properly selecting and storing coconut milk is essential to maintain its freshness and flavour. Here’s a guide to help you make the right choices and ensure the longevity of your coconut milk:

1. Choosing the Right Coconut Milk

You have two main options when selecting coconut milk: canned and carton. Canned coconut milk is thick and concentrated, perfect for cooking and baking. Carton coconut milk, often labelled as “coconut beverage” or “coconut milk drink,” is a lighter dairy milk alternative suitable for drinking and cereals. If you want a more neutral flavour, read the label to ensure it’s unsweetened.

2. Storage Tips

  • For opened canned coconut milk: Transfer unused portions to an airtight container and refrigerate. It can last in the fridge for 4-5 days.
  • Unopened canned coconut milk can be stored in a cool, dark pantry for several months, usually up to a year. Check the expiration date.
  • Carton coconut milk should be refrigerated once opened and consumed within 7-10 days.
  • Store both types away from strong-smelling foods, as they can absorb odours.

3. Freezing Coconut Milk

If you have surplus coconut milk, freezing is an option. Pour it into an ice cube tray or airtight containers with room for expansion. Thaw frozen coconut milk in the refrigerator and shake or stir it well before using, as it may separate during freezing.

By following these guidelines, you can keep your coconut milk fresh and ready to enhance your recipes or beverages.

When and How to Introduce Coconut Milk in Your Infant’s Diet?

You can start giving coconut milk to your baby when he turns twelve months of age or when he starts on solids. The first time you give coconut milk to your baby, start with just a couple of spoons to check your baby is not allergic to it. You can then continue by using coconut milk instead of cow or goat milk for mixing your baby’s formula. You can add coconut milk to boiled and mashed rice or potato, with a little bit of sugar or jaggery for sweetness.

However, too much sugar can cause dental problems, so limit it to about half a teaspoon. You can also make milkshakes with coconut milk and fruits like strawberries, mangoes, and bananas. Coconut milk and baby food recipes are transforming these days, as coconut milk has a rich, creamy, and slightly sweet taste that most babies love.

STRAWBERRY COCONUT MILKSHAKE

Precautions to Take While Giving Coconut Milk to Your Baby

Here are some essential precautions to take while giving coconut milk to your baby in bullet format:

  • Consult Your Pediatrician: Always consult with your paediatrician before introducing coconut milk to your baby, especially if they have underlying health conditions or allergies.
  • Age-Appropriate Introduction: Introduce coconut milk to your baby’s diet when they are ready for solids, typically around 6 months of age. Start with small amounts and observe for any adverse reactions.
  • Allergies: Coconut allergies are relatively rare but can occur. Watch for signs of allergic reactions, such as hives, rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, or difficulty breathing. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Dilution: If using canned coconut milk, consider diluting it with water to reduce its thickness and richness. A good starting point is a 1:1 ratio of coconut milk to water and adjust as needed.
  • Moderation: Coconut milk is high in saturated fats, so use it in moderation. Excessive consumption of saturated fats can be harmful, even for adults.
  • Unsweetened Varieties: Opt for unsweetened coconut milk options, especially when using it as a milk substitute for babies. Avoid sweetened or flavoured varieties that may contain added sugars.
  • Avoid Carrageenan: Check the ingredient list for carrageenan, a thickening agent sometimes found in coconut milk products. Some infants may be sensitive to it.
  • Hydration: Coconut milk is not a suitable replacement for breast milk or infant formula, as it lacks essential nutrients. It can be a part of a diversified diet but should not replace essential sources of nutrition.
  • Monitor Digestion: Pay attention to your baby’s digestion when introducing new foods. Some babies may have difficulty digesting coconut milk, so watch for signs of colic, gas, or constipation.
  • Quality and Freshness: Choose high-quality coconut milk products, and always check the expiration date. Store any opened containers properly, as mentioned in the previous response.

Tasty Coconut Milk Recipes for Babies

Introducing your baby to new flavours and textures can be an exciting culinary journey. Coconut milk can add a delightful twist to their meals. Here are four tasty coconut milk recipes suitable for babies, along with the ingredients and preparation instructions:

1. Creamy Banana Coconut Oatmeal (6+ months)

What You Will Need

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

How to Cook

  1. Combine rolled oats and coconut milk in a small saucepan.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until oats are tender and creamy.
  3. Mix in mashed banana and cinnamon (if desired).
  4. Let it cool before serving to your baby.

2. Sweet Potato Coconut Mash (8+ months)

What You Will Need

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

How to Cook

  1. Steam or boil sweet potato until soft.
  2. Mash the sweet potato and mix in coconut milk.
  3. Add a pinch of nutmeg for extra flavour (if desired).
  4. Serve this creamy and nutritious mash to your baby.

3. Coconut Rice Pudding (10+ months)

What You Will Need

  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

How to Cook   

  1. Cook rice in coconut milk over low heat until the rice is soft, and the mixture thickens.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract and maple syrup (if desired).
  3. Allow it to cool before serving as a tasty dessert.

4. Creamy Spinach and Coconut Puree (6+ months)

  What You Will Need

  •  1 cup spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  •  1/4 cup coconut milk

 How to Cook

  1. Steam or blanch spinach until tender.
  2. Blend spinach and coconut milk to create a smooth puree.
  3. Let it cool, and offer a nutritious green puree to your baby.

How to Make Coconut Milk at Home?

You can buy coconut milk from the grocery stores – it is convenient, but since it is about your baby, we suggest that you make it at home. By making coconut milk at home, you can be sure that your baby is not consuming preservatives. Remember to give it to your baby after they turn one year of age. Here’s how you make fresh coconut milk for your baby at home –

 Ingredients 

 Method

  • Break the coconut, collect the coconut water in a bowl, and keep it aside.
  • Grate the de-husked coconut and then boil it with some warm water.
  • Mix the coconut water with the boiled coconut pulp and grind until it forms a thick paste.
  • Pour this paste/puree into a clean muslin cloth and squeeze it.
  • Collect the coconut milk in a clean bowl and allow it to cool.

Tips for Preparing Coconut Milk for Babies With Baby Led Weaning

Introducing coconut milk to your baby through Baby-Led Weaning can be an exciting culinary adventure. Here are some tips on preparing coconut milk for babies in different age groups:

1. For 6-12 Months

  1. Start with small amounts of diluted coconut milk to Baby-Ledit’s easily digestible. A 1:1 ratio of coconut milk to water is a good starting point.
  2. Remember, coconut milk for babies 6 months can be offered as a part of mixed purees or soft foods like oatmeal or mashed vegetables.
  3. Pay attention to your baby’s response and watch for any signs of allergies or digestive issues.

2. For 12-18 Months

  1. Gradually increase the thickness of coconut milk in your baby’s diet as they become more accustomed to solids.
  2. Coconut milk can be used in cooking, such as adding it to curries, soups, or rice dishes, to enhance flavour and nutrition.
  3. Continue monitoring your baby’s tolerance and preferences, adjusting the use of coconut milk accordingly.

3. For 18-24 Months Old

  1. At this stage, your toddler can enjoy full-fat coconut milk without dilution.
  2. Diversify their diet using coconut milk in recipes like smoothies, yoghurt, and desserts.
  3. Ensure they receive a balanced diet with other food groups for proper nutrition and growth.

FAQs

1. Can Coconut Milk Be Harmful to My Baby’s Stomach?

Coconut milk is generally safe for babies, but some infants may have difficulty digesting it due to its high fat content. To reduce the risk of stomach discomfort, start with small amounts and consider diluting it with water, especially for younger babies. Monitor your baby for any signs of digestive issues, and consult your paediatrician if you have concerns.

2. Is It Safe to Give Canned Coconut Milk to Babies?

Canned coconut milk is safe for babies, but choosing varieties with no added sugar or additives is essential. You may want to dilute canned coconut milk for younger babies to make it easier to digest. Always check the label and ingredients to ensure they suit your baby’s age and dietary needs.

3. Is Coconut Milk a Choking Hazard for Babies?

Coconut milk is not a choking hazard, but coconut flakes or shredded coconut can be if not prepared appropriately. Ensure that any coconut products you offer to your baby are finely shredded or blended to prevent choking hazards. As with any food, always supervise your baby while they are eating.

4. Can Coconut Milk Cause Allergies in Babies?

Coconut allergies are relatively rare, but they can occur. Watch for signs of allergic reactions when introducing coconut milk, such as hives, rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, or difficulty breathing. If you notice these symptoms, discontinue use and consult your paediatrician immediately. If your baby has a known nut allergy, consult your healthcare provider before introducing coconut products.

From working as an antimicrobial to having a cooling effect on your body, coconut milk is a healthy drink.  Though it is not a substitute for breast milk, it has several other benefits. Breastfeed your baby, and your baby will grow healthily!

References/Resources:

1. Milk Free Diet for Babies; Healthier Together; NHS; https://www.what0-18.nhs.uk/professionals/gp-primary-care-staff/safety-netting-documents-parents/milk-free-diet-babies

2. Nuts, coconut milk, raw (liquid expressed from grated meat and water); USDA;  https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170172/nutrients

3. Cow’s Milk Free Diet Information For Babies and Children; AllergyUK; https://www.gloshospitals.nhs.uk/media/documents/Cows_Milk_Free_Diet_Information_for_Babies_and_Children_original_2_2.pdf; May 2017

4. Dietary fat and children; MedlinePlus – NIH; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001979.htm

5. Ariola. J; The Benefits of Coconut Milk; Jamaica Hospital Medical Center; https://jamaicahospital.org/newsletter/the-benefits-of-coconut-milk/; April 2018

6. Kate Geagan; Good Fats for an Infant’s and Toddler’s Healthy Growth and Development; Earth’s Best Organic Infant and Toddler Foods; https://www.earthsbest.com/resource/good-fats-for-an-infants-and-toddlers-healthy-growth-and-development/; February 2019

Also Read: 

Benefits of Coconut Oil for Babies
Health Benefits of Soy Milk for Infant
Is it Safe to Give Toned Milk to Babies

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