We’re sometimes asked if it’s safe for babies to eat liver.
The answer is yes… and no!
Liver can be a nutritious food, but too much of it can be harmful. On this page, we look at the reason why, and share some tips for cooking liver perfectly for your tiny diner.
Liver is a rich source of vitamin A, a nutrient that plays an important part in the development and support of many of the body’s organs, plus contributes to good vision and a healthy immune system.
There are two kinds of vitamin A that we receive through our diets.
Too much provitamin A is not harmful – if your baby eats a lot of carrots, for example, then any carotenoids that are not needed and used by the body are simply deposited in the skin.
This is why baby food beginners – enjoying a diet rich in ‘first foods’ such as carrots and sweet potatoes – often tend to have a harmless orange tint to their skin, particularly around the nose!
Too much preformed vitamin A, however, CAN be harmful.
You probably remember being advised NOT to eat liver when you were pregnant. That was because too much preformed vitamin A can cause congenital birth defects.
Toxicity from excess preformed vitamin A (known as hypervitaminosis A) can lead to an increased risk of bone fracture.
This is because the vitamin A blocks the activity of vitamin D, leading to reduced bone mineral density. Vitamin A toxicity can also cause liver damage.
Including too much liver in your baby’s diet may mean that he receives too much preformed vitamin A, particularly if he is already receiving preformed vitamin A from another source (a fortified cereal, for example, or a supplement prescribed by your doctor).
Some sources, therefore, suggest offering liver to baby just once a week – we’d suggest offering only a couple of teaspoons at that meal, from AT LEAST 6 months of age.
Nevertheless, it’s very important that you speak to a medical professional before offering liver to your baby – he or she will know your little one best and is able to advise you about the introduction of liver based on your baby’s family history and requirements.
It’s also important to discuss with your doctor the type of liver you want to feed to your baby. Liver from animals more ‘exotic’ than chickens, lambs and calves may be particularly hazardous for various reasons.
Liver is nutritious in many respects and, once you have the go ahead to include it in your baby’s diet, you’ll be pleased to know that – in addition to vitamin A – it provides…
Calf’s liver is particularly nutritious, with a good flavour (we find lamb’s liver a bit too strong in taste) and a pleasing texture (if cooked correctly!).
And because it comes from a calf – as opposed to a full grown animal – it will contain far less of the harmful toxins such as antibiotics and hormones to which animals are exposed.
Buying organic liver will offer the greatest protection of all.
Cook fresh liver for your baby within 24 hours of purchase, or transfer it to the freezer and store for up to one month. Liver is VERY perishable.
If (like us) you have horrible childhood memories of leathery lumps of liver – possibly swimming in gravy! – then let us assure you that liver doesn’t HAVE to be this way! The liver you remember was probably overcooked.
A slice of liver generally needs cooking for just a few minutes each side – it should still have a vaguely pinkish hue to it when it’s done.