Oranges may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Oranges range in flavor from bitter to sweet. The sweet ones are descendants of the mandarin and the pomelo—a happy pairing thousands of years ago in Southeast Asia that spawned hundreds of varieties that now grow in warm, humid climates around the world. Some oranges have seeds, others do not, and the flesh reflects shades of the sun, from the coral pink Cara Cara, to the ruby red Tarocco, to the bright golden Satsuma, to the fiery saffron Valencia. Orange season varies depending on where you live but considering that the citrus is the world’s most cultivated fruit tree, you will likely find one variety or another in your local market all year long.
Kalani, 8 months, eats an orange cut out of its membrane.
Callie, 12 months, eats bite-size pieces of orange with the membrane removed.
Bobbi, 16 months, eats orange sections with the membrane still intact.
Yes. Oranges contain tons of vitamin C, which powers baby’s immune system and aids the absorption of iron from plant foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Oranges also contain some B-vitamins (including folate), as well as beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A), and many other beneficial plant nutrients such as carotenoids and phenols. The pulp also contains fiber to promote gut health, antioxidants, and other plant chemicals like beta cryptoxanthin, which offers anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory benefits, and more.
Are canned oranges okay? Yes, but try to choose fresh fruit when possible. Canned fruit is often soaked in a lye solution to remove the fruit skins and usually contains added sugar which often shows up as “100% fruit juice” for preservation. Food preferences start early, and kids who are regularly offered canned fruit (which is softer and sweeter) naturally learn to love it. Of course, fruit is better than no fruit. Do what you can with the budget and resources available to you.
★Tip: Some types of oranges may interact with medications. If a child is taking medications of any kind, talk with your health care professional to learn more.
Yes. Citrus segments (if left in the surrounding membrane) and seeds are choking hazards for babies and children. To minimize the risk, serve the orange on the rind for baby to gnaw and suck on and/or supreme the fruit to cut the orange segments away from the membrane. 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.
It’s complicated. Orange is not classified as a common food allergen in the United States. However, self-reported sensitivity to citrus is described frequently in medical literature around the world. Also, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to citrus fruits such as oranges. In particular, individuals who are allergic to grass and certain tree pollens may also be more sensitive to citrus fruits. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
In some cases, allergy to proteins in orange can result in serious reactions. There is evidence to suggest that the major allergens causing serious allergic reactions to orange are concentrated within the seed of the fruit—and while uncommon, chewing the seeds may be responsible for allergic reactions.
There are also reports of orange ingestion contributing to eczema. In addition to being sweet, many oranges are also acidic, and the acid in citrus fruit can cause a harmless rash on the skin, typically around the mouth. It usually dissipates shortly after it shows up.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
No. Juice of any kind should not be given to babies unless directed to do so by a health provider. After the first birthday, small amounts of juice (less than 4 ounces a day, ideally diluted with water to reduce sweetness) may be safely offered. That said, we believe that it is best to wait to serve juice until age two and even then, to limit the amount offered to minimize sugar (including natural sugar) in a child’s diet. Regular and especially excessive consumption of sweet beverages (even naturally sweet drinks like orange juice) may reduce the diversity of foods and nutrients consumed and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and dental caries. Plus, whole oranges are more nutritious than juice.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Wash the orange (the skin often contains pesticide residue) then cut into large wedges (with the peel on but seeds removed) and hand them to baby, who will suck and munch on the flesh. The rind helps baby hold the orange and allows them to independently bring it to their mouth. If baby bites through the rind, take a deep breath, and trust baby to either chew on it or spit it out. It can help to dramatically stick out your tongue to help baby move the rind forward to spit it out. Remember the airway is the size of a drinking straw, so a large piece of rind, even if unchewed, is unlikely to get lodged in this small tube. Alternatively, you can supreme an orange by cutting each segment out of the membranes and offering whole segments that way (see video below). Avoid offering whole segments of clementines, mandarins, or other small oranges in their membranes as they can be choking hazards.
As baby’s pincer grasp develops (where the pointer finger and thumb meet), move down in size to bite-size piece of oranges that have had the membrane and seeds removed. If you feel comfortable with it, you may continue to offer whole, large segments of oranges with the membrane and seeds removed for biting and tearing practice. Remember that clementines, mandarins, and other small citrus fruit segments left in their membrane can be a choking hazard, so when in doubt, supreme the fruit, which will be easier to do with a large orange.
Graduation time! At this age, if you feel comfortable with the toddler’s chewing and swallowing skills, try offering large orange segments with the membrane left intact. Bigger pieces to bite and scrape will be less of a choking risk than say, a small segment of mandarin orange in the membrane (which a toddler may attempt to swallow whole.) Of course, you can also continue to supreme the fruit and offer bite-sized pieces or large wedges of orange on the peel for biting and tearing practice.
Chef Bruna Chavez demonstrates how to supreme an orange (to remove the segments from the papery membrane).
A mom uses a grapefruit knife to cut mandarins out of the membrane.
Learn about which foods to avoid when starting solids in our guide 25 Foods Never to Feed Your Baby.
2 c (240 ml)
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (goat cheese). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.
Peel and supreme the oranges, then cut the segments into age-appropriate sizes.
Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese, olive oil, and vinegar over the oranges.
Season the salad with black pepper and torn mint leaves. Feel free to swap the seasoning for any herb and spice that you want baby to learn to love. Babies tend to like flavors that they try early and often, and there is no need to wait to introduce seasoning.
Set aside some salad for baby, then season the rest with salt to taste for yourself.
Serve the Salad
Offer orange salad to baby, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, pierce an orange segment with an age-appropriate fork, then hold the utensil in the air in front of baby and let the child reach for it. Once baby grabs the utensil, let go.
Eat some orange salad alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Orange Salad keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Oranges are sweet and tangy—flavors that pair well with hearty fats in bacon, beef, and walnuts; briny foods like olives and sardines; warm spices like cloves, coriander, saffron, and vanilla; and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. Try serving oranges alongside other fruits and vegetables like beet, carrot, fig, honeydew melon, mango, parsnip, peach, pineapple, and strawberry.
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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