When can babies eat carrots?
Carrots may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
The popular orange carrot that we know and love was developed in Holland in the 17th century, though the root vegetable’s cultivation dates back to classical and medieval times.1 While the orange carrot reigns supreme in American markets, other varieties are increasingly available, such as purple carrots with yellow cores, golden carrots, and ruby red carrots.
Are carrots healthy for babies?
Yes. Aside from being a great source of fiber, carrots are the single richest vegetable source of alpha- and beta-carotene, which are carotenoids that convert to vitamin A in the body.2 Vitamin A is a critical nutrient for eye development and enhances our immune system. It also helps regulate the growth of virtually every cell in the body—an important nutrient to fuel this stage of your baby’s development. Babies are born with low levels of vitamin A and rely on their mother’s diet or formula to receive adequate amounts.3 Once babies start solids, food sources of vitamin A are absolutely essential. Fruits and veggies that are bright orange and yellow (hello, carrots!), as well as leafy greens, are highest in carotenoids. Fun fact: different colors offer different plant nutrients to support your baby’s body. For example, purple carrots contain anthocyanin, which is a potent antioxidant; while red carrots contain lycopene, a heart-healthy antioxidant.
It’s important to note that carrots, along with rice, sweet potatoes and seafood contain trace amounts of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from the soil they grow in (this includes organic farms). If you are offering your baby a wide variety of foods, you need not worry. However, if you are relying on carrots multiple times a week or regularly offering your baby rice puff snacks, baby rice cereal, or processed baby food in jars or pouches (organic or not), you may want to rethink your meal planning to limit your baby’s exposure to these metals.
Are carrots a choking hazard for babies?
If they are raw, yes—carrots are a choking hazard. To minimize the risk, cook carrots until soft before serving to your baby (ideally soft enough to smash with your finger but not so soft that it falls apart when your baby tries to pick it up), and avoid cutting raw or cooked carrots into coin-shape pieces. (Matchstick or square cuts are best.)
Are carrots a common allergen?
No. That said, in theory an individual can be allergic to any food. As with introducing any new food, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first couple of times, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare carrots 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: Offer large, long pieces of well-cooked carrot and encourage self-feeding by offering the carrot to your baby vertically in the air. To reduce the risk, cut cooked carrots lengthwise. Alternatively, you can mash cooked carrots and pre-load your baby’s spoon to encourage self-feeding or grate raw carrots.
You may, at your own risk, also offer your baby raw carrots cut into thin matchsticks to chew on, an activity that won’t lead to much food in the belly, but has immeasurable benefits for strengthening the jaw, helping the tongue learn to move food to the side of the mouth where the molars will eventually grow in, and providing sensory feedback to “map” the inside of your baby’s mouth—all of which supports the development of chewing coordination. If your baby has teeth and a strong jaw, it is possible that he or she will bite off a piece of that carrot. If this happens, take a deep breath and give your baby a moment to spit it out. Keep your fingers and hands out of your baby’s mouth. You can help by putting your hand on your baby’s back and gently leaning your baby forward to allow gravity to help pull the piece of food forward towards the front of your baby’s mouth, while your baby works on spitting it out. Those moments can feel scary but valuable because your baby is learning what isn’t safe to swallow and practicing spitting it out.
9 to 12 months old: At this age you can move down in size to cooked matchstick cut carrots or small, bite-size pieces to increase consumption as your baby’s pincer grasp develops. You can also continue to offer raw carrot (matchstick cut is safest, while thicker cut carrot sticks are a bigger risk for choking, they offer your baby the opportunity to build jaw strength and practice biting then spitting out large pieces which continues to be a valuable safety skill). Raw carrots are a common choking hazard so make sure you are creating a safe eating environment by minimizing distractions (no cell phones, no tablets) and making sure your baby is in a supported seat while you stay next to your baby during the meal.
12 to 24 months old: At this age you have a number of options. You can continue to offer large, long sections of cooked carrot as finger food; cut cooked carrots into small pieces as finger food or for fork practice; or offer raw carrot (quartering all carrots lengthwise is safest), while thicker cut carrot sticks increase the chewing challenge and build your baby’s chewing skills, but also increase the choking risk). You may find your toddler is able to handle raw carrots around 18 months old. As always, quarter raw carrots (including baby carrots) to reduce the risk and follow your toddler’s cues as you work towards the goal of helping them learn to chew and safely swallow challenging yet healthy foods. Again, to reduce the risk, make sure you are creating a safe environment for your baby and stay within an arm’s reach at mealtimes.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★Tip: Carrot tops are edible! Despite modern myths that they are toxic, the leafy green tops are packed with nutrients. They can be used as herbs in salads, turned into pesto, or chopped and folded into quinoa, rice, and other grain dishes.
Recipe: Carrots in Tarragon Butter
- Tarragon (fresh or dried)
- Wash the desired number of carrots and chop off the stem ends. Save the greens; they can be used to make pesto or homemade veggie broth. Slice the carrots lengthwise into two halves. Place in a steamer and cook until soft, about 20 minutes.
- While the carrots are steaming, finely mince a handful of tarragon if you’re using a fresh herb. Melt a generous pad of butter in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the tarragon and sauté until fragrant. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer the steamed carrots to the skillet with the butter mixture and toss to coat. Let them cool in the pan, then serve at room temperature.
The sweet flavor of carrots goes well with apple, beef, cabbage, celery, olive, onion, and of nuts, walnut in particular. Carrots also pair well with spices such as anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin.
- McGee, H. (1984). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York, NY: Scribner.
- Holden, Eldrige, et al. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. Carotenoid Content of U.S. Foods: An Update of the Database. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
- World Health Organization, Vitamin A supplementation in infants 1–5 months of age. Retrieved May 15, 2020.