Millet may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Millet is a gluten-free grain that can be offered to those with wheat allergy, celiac disease, and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Millet is one of the oldest grains cultivated by humans. The tiny seeds grow abundantly on cereal grasses that thrive worldwide, particularly in regions of Africa and Asia where the ancient grain is a staple food. There are many varieties to try, including finger millet, fonio, foxtail millet, kodo millet, proso millet, sawa millet, and pearl millet—the most widely available type across the world. Pearl millet descended from wild grasses on the savannahs of West Africa, and over time, traveled east with trade to Asia. In modern times, most of the world’s supply of pearl millet comes from India, where the grain is called bajra and is used daily to make dosa (pancake), idli (steamed dumpling), khichdi (lentil stew), roti (flatbread), tikki (fritter), upma (porridge), and more.
Riley, 8 months, eats millet and vegetables.
Malden, 9 months, eats millet porridge.
Riley, 16 months, eats millet.
Yes. A versatile gluten-free grain, millet provides good amounts of zinc to aid immunity, taste, and smell; plus B vitamins (notably B6) to provide energy to cells. Millet is not as nutritionally dense as other grains, though the pearl millet variety provides more fats than rice, maize, wheat and sorghum and more protein than brown rice or maize. Millet also contains some fiber, which helps nourish baby’s developing gut microbiome. Together, these nutrients all support baby’s rapid growth and development.
★Tip: Before cooking, soak millet in a covered bowl of water at room temperature overnight (up to 12 hours) or as directed by the recipe or package’s instructions. It is not necessary, but when you have the time, soaking helps reduce the grain’s phytates, which inhibit the body’s absorption of iron and zinc.
Yes. Millet offers good amounts of fiber, particularly insoluble fibers (which help bulk up bowel movements) and phenols. Together, these qualities contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity. Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.
No. Millet is not a common choking hazard, though in theory an individual can choke on any food. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
No, millet is not a common allergen. Allergies to millet are rare, but can be severe. Individuals who are allergic to rice may be sensitive to millet. In some cases, individuals with wheat or corn allergies may be sensitive to millet as well, however more research is needed. Fortunately, since millet is gluten-free, it is appropriate for individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity to consume.
Millet has a nutty taste, a fluffy texture, and is easy to cook. Millet tastes delicious in warm cereals like ngalakh, a creamy porridge sweetened with baobab and peanut in Senegal. The tiny grains work best when soaking up sauces, soups, and stews like leksour, a lamb stew on millet pancakes from Mauritania. Try millet as a gluten-free alternative in recipes that call for barley, bulgur, couscous, and wheat, and use it as a binder in burgers, energy balls, meatballs, and patties. You can also experiment with millet flour in baked goods and doughs like tô, a starchy dumpling served with stewed okra and other flavorful sauces in Burkina Faso.
★Tip: Did you know that you can pop millet like popped corn? Popped millet is best for older children, as it presents a choking hazard for the youngest eaters.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Mix cooked millet into a soft, scoopable food like mashed vegetables, raita, or yogurt to bind the tiny grains. Alternatively, use millet to make warm porridges or use cooked millet as a binder in oatmeal balls, fritters, meatballs, pancakes, or patties.
Incorporate cooked millet into finger foods such as burgers, dosa, dumplings, energy balls, fritters, idli, meatballs, pancakes, patties, or roti, and break the food into bite-sized pieces before serving. Of course, you may continue offering millet porridge and millet mixed into soft, scoopable foods as well.
Spice it up! Serve cooked millet in savory sauces, stews, and stir-fries. If you press the millet with the back of a fork, it sticks together a bit and may be easier for the child to self-feed. If you like, serve the millet alongside an age-appropriate utensil to encourage practice. If the child is not interested in using a utensil, don’t worry: using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils. Consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time, probably between 18 and 24 months of age.
For more information on the most important nutrients for babies, check out our Nutrient Cheat Sheet for Babies.
1 cup (240 milliliters)
30 minutes + overnight soak
½ cup (90 grams) pearl millet
1 cup (240 milliliters) unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (ideally from a BPA-free can)
¾ cup (180 milliliters) water
1-inch knob fresh ginger (optional)
1 teaspoon (2 grams) finely ground peanut (optional)
salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: only for children 12 months+)
This recipe contains common allergens: peanut and coconut (coconut milk). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced. While coconut allergy is rare, it’s classified as a tree nut by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Start by washing the millet to remove any dirt. If you do not have a fine-mesh sieve with tiny holes to prevent the millet from falling through, place the grains in a bowl of water, swirl to loosen any grit, then tip the bowl to slowly pour out the water. Repeat until the water runs clear.
Place the millet in a large bowl and add enough water to cover the grains by 3 inches. Cover the bowl and let the millet soak at room temperature for a few hours or overnight.
Drain and rinse the millet with fresh water, then transfer the grains to a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend the millet and coconut milk until the grains are broken down.
Decide if you’d like to include the ginger. In Ghana, hausa koko is traditionally made with spices like cloves, ginger, grains of paradise, nutmeg, and selim. Skip the ginger if you like or use whatever spices that you prefer. If you’d like to include the ginger, wash, peel, and chop the root, then blend with the millet and coconut milk.
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a saucepan, then pour the millet mixture into the sieve. Let the liquid drain into the bowl, pressing and swirling the mixture to separate the chaff (seed coatings).
Once most of the liquid has drained, transfer the chaff to a bowl and whisk in the water until smooth, adding more water as necessary. Repeat the straining process, straining the liquid into the saucepan. Discard the chaff or reserve it for another use.
At this point, hausa koko is traditionally left to ferment at room temperature for another few hours or overnight. Do so if you’d like to add a bit of tangy flavor—or move straight to cooking the porridge. Place the saucepan on medium heat, then cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has started to thicken, about 10 minutes.
If you’d like to serve the porridge to older children, you may season it with salt to taste.
Scoop the porridge into baby’s bowl and let cool until warm, not hot. If you like, sprinkle finely ground peanut or any ground-up nut that has been safely introduced on top. If you are introducing peanut for the first time, use a scant amount, about ¼ teaspoon (~1 gram). For older children, you may stir in a small amount of sweetener like date syrup or maple syrup if you like.
Serve and let baby try to self-feed. If you’d like to encourage baby to use utensils, pre-load a utensil and place it next to the food for the child to pick up. Alternatively, pass a pre-loaded utensil in the air for the child to grab.
To Store: Coconut Pearl Millet Porridge keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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