With all the talk about the dangers of mercury in fish (which it is something to be concerned about) most parents are scared to give fish to their family. Truthfully, all of us should be eating fish at least twice a week including our kids, too!
Our limited fish consumption really does have an impact on our health and we fall short in getting the nutrients we need like Omega-3’s and in particular DHA. DHA is essential for brain development in young children and it is important for maintaining a healthy brain in adults, too… not to mention all of the other benefits. See my article on Omega-3’s for more information.
As for whether or not you can give fish to a baby or toddler, the short answer is “yes.” Fish other than shellfish is actually the safest meat to introduce to your baby. Most pediatricians recommend not giving fish to babies younger than 6 months because of the possibility of allergic reactions. Only about 4-6% of children will develop an allergy and there usually is a family history of the same allergy. If you are really worried, don’t give your baby shellfish – the majority of fish allergies are to shellfish (its actually an iodine reaction, not because of the fish – shellfish has high iodine content).
Most children really like the taste of tilapia, haddock & pollock. Most fishsticks are made with these fish. Other good fish to start with are salmon, cod, trout and sardines. Kids don’t really know that certain foods “taste bad” unless you tell them. Remember, if you aren’t eating it, they probably won’t either.
Don’t forget about watching the mercury content of the fish. To be safe, use the same guidelines for fish in your children as for pregnant women. Check out the American Pregnancy Association’s recommendations at http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/fishmercury.htm