When can babies eat cantaloupe?
Cantaloupe may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note: Melons are notorious for carrying bacteria from the ground as well as for causing diarrhea in babies, so wash well and start with small serving sizes.
Background and origins of cantaloupe
Cantaloupe is a type of muskmelon—a family of melons with roots in Iran that has grown to include many varieties, including canary, casaba, cavallion, crenshaw, crown, honeydew, winter melons, and more. Cantaloupe goes by different names depending on where you are in the world: rock melon in Southeast Asia and Australia, spanspek in South Africa, and in North America, the name is commonly used for a muskmelon variety that has a grey, net-like rind and sweet orange flesh. Meanwhile in Europe, cantaloupes can sometimes have a smooth white rind with green ribbing and a sweeter orange flesh. Color, shape, and size differ depending on the variety, but all share a key characteristic: sweetness!
Like all muskmelons, you’ll get a great deal by purchasing whole cantaloupe versus pre-cut. There’s also a hidden benefit to whole melons: they are less likely to contain harmful bacteria than pre-cut melon pieces.1
Is cantaloupe healthy for babies?
Yes. While cantaloupe doesn’t top the nutrition charts, it contains vitamins A and C—two powerful antioxidants that support cellular repair, eyesight, and immunity. Compared to its popular sister the honeydew melon, cantaloupes offer almost twice as much vitamin C and about 67% more beta-carotene, which gives the melon’s flesh its bright orange color. In addition to offering essential nutrients, cantaloupe can also alleviate constipation in babies because they are mostly water, which helps move things along in their little digestive systems. (And often a bit too helpful!)
Is cantaloupe a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Cantaloupe is firm and slippery—two qualities that can increase the risk of choking. The risk is even greater when cantaloupe is served as melon balls; never use a melon ball scooper when preparing foods for babies. It’s easy to prepare cantaloupes in a safe way for babies of all ages. Check out our age-specific preparation ideas!
Is cantaloupe a common allergen?
No, allergies to cantaloupes are rare. However, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called food-pollen allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to cantaloupe.2 As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare cantaloupe for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Start by removing the rind and seeds before serving. Now to the cut. At this stage, there are two ways to do it: rectangles that are approximately the thinness and width of ruler or in thin crescent moons that your baby can hold like a handle. To encourage self-feeding, hand a piece in the air for your baby to grab.
9 to 18 months old: As your baby masters the pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet), trying serving smaller pieces of food, which will increase the amount consumed. Thin rectangles or crescent moons will still work well, but sometimes babies bite off too much, leading to gagging and spitting (neither of which is harmful for babies, but wastes food). To encourage consumption, offer small, bite-sized pieces and consider introducing a fork when your child is ready. Remember: never use a melon ball scooper when preparing food for babies or toddlers.
18 to 24 months old: At this age, your toddler may be ready to handle large wedges of melon, with the rind on. Just make sure to wash the outside rind before cutting into the melon and remove any lingering seeds.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
You’ll know when a cantaloupe is ripe when the blossom end gives a little when pressed.
Recipe: Cantaloupe-Coconut Bites
- 1 whole cantaloupe
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
Wash the melon rind and pat it dry. Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds. Slice one half again to cut the desired amount and wrap the other half in plastic wrap or place in a sealed container and store in the fridge for future meals.
Cut the other half into age-appropriate sizes (see suggestions above) and transfer to your baby’s serving plate or bowl.
Sprinkle the shredded coconut on the cantaloupe, which will not only add some grip to make it easier for babies to hold, it will also boost the nutritional value of the meal.
Note: This recipe contains coconut, which is classified as an allergen by some institutions. Only offer to your baby after coconut has been safely introduced and allergy ruled out.
The sweet muskiness of cantaloupe pairs well with savory foods like almonds, cashews, chicken, and fish. It also balances tart fruits like citrus, green grapes, or strawberries. Try pairing cantaloupe with its cousins in the gourd family: cucumber and other muskmelons like honeydew. Adding layers of flavor like freshly grated ginger or herbs like basil, lemongrass, or mint will lend complexity to the dish.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Food Safety Alert: Salmonella Infections Linked to Pre-Cut Melon. Retrieved June 15, 2020
- Figueredo, E., Cuesta-Herranz, J., De-Miguel, J., Lázaro, M., Sastre, J., et al. (2003). Clinical characteristics of melon (Cucumis melo) allergy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology: official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 91(3), 303–308. doi: 10.1016/s1081-1206(10)63534-x Retrieved June 15, 2020