Ripe papaya fruit may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Papaya flowers, leaves, roots, and seeds are also edible, but there is limited research on the safety of these foods for babies and toddlers. The same goes for young papaya, also known as green papaya or unripe papaya. Consider waiting until your child is older and has developed advanced eating skills to serve the unripe fruit and other parts of the plant.
Papaya originated in Central America before it was taken by European colonizers to Africa, Asia, and Australia, where it is sometimes called papaw. Today the fruit tree thrives wherever skies are sunny, temperatures are consistently warm, and there is plenty of rainfall to plump up the fruit. Papaya can be eaten raw, like a melon when it is ripe, or cooked like squash when it is still young, firm, and green. As young papaya fruit ripens, its pulp softens and its green skin fades, some to a pale yellow, others to deep gold with blushes of pink. The aroma of papaya fruit also changes as it ripens, at first bright and sweet, then increasingly earthy and musky as the fruit overripens. The pronounced smell comes from papain, a plant enzyme that helps our bodies break down proteins and that can be used in marinades and rubs to tenderize meat.
Amelia, 7 months, tastes papaya for the first time.
Mila, 8 months, eats papaya.
Callie, 11 months, eats papaya.
Yes. Ripe papaya fruit is packed with vitamins A and C—essential nutrients to support your baby’s eyesight, immune system, and skin. Vitamin C also helps your baby absorb iron from plant-based foods, and papaya has loads of vitamin C, even more than apples, bananas, and oranges. The fruit also offers plenty of B vitamins for energy, vitamin E for stronger cells, and fiber for a healthy gut.
It would be wise to start with ripe papaya fruit and wait until your child is older to serve green or unripe papaya. While information and research are limited, studies show that unripe papaya fruit contains more latex and papain than ripe papaya, which can act as irritants (these may also promote contractions in pregnant women). Animal research also suggests that the seeds or seed extract may not be safe for expecting moms.
★Tip: Always wash ripe papaya. The fruit is commonly sprayed with pesticides, and washing the skin before cutting through it can help minimize your baby’s exposure to toxins.
It depends. Ripe papaya that is soft and gives under pressure shouldn’t pose any unusual risk. Green or unripe papaya, however, is firm and slippery—two qualities that can increase the risk of choking. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and stay near your baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions!
No. Papaya is not a common allergen, although individuals with cashew, pistachio, mango, latex or kiwi allergy may be sensitive to papaya. Some individuals may also be sensitive to papain, an enzyme in the papaya plant. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Offer large “handles" or spears of ripe papaya fruit (skin and seeds removed). If the fruit is too slippery for baby to hold on to, sprinkle it with hemp seeds, infant cereal, shredded coconut, or finely ground nuts or seeds to add grip and texture. Mashed papaya can also be served on its own for hand scooping or mixed into warm cereal, chia pudding, overnight oats, or yogurt.
At this age you can try offering smaller pieces of ripe papaya (skin and seeds removed) coated in hemp seeds, infant cereal, shredded coconut, or finely ground nuts or seeds. Adding this bit of texture will reduce the risk of choking and make it easier for the baby to pick up the small, slippery pieces. Alternatively, you can continue with large "handles" or spears of papaya.
Serve bite-size pieces of papaya to be eaten with a fork or fingers, no modifications needed. When you are introducing a fork, manage your expectations: eating with utensils is a skill that can take well into toddlerhood to get the hang of it. Using utensils accurately can also be exhausting for new eaters, so don’t worry if your toddler goes back and forth between eating with fingers and utensils.
How to prepare papaya for babies 6 months+
A different way to prepare papaya for babies 6 months+
Store whole papaya fruit at room temperature away from sunlight. After a couple of days on the countertop, it will be ripe. Eat it soon! Storing ripe papaya fruit in the fridge can help prolong freshness but tends to turn the flesh mushy after a couple of days.
How often should you offer solids? See our sample feeding schedules for babies of every age.
This recipe contains a common allergen: coconut (flakes). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. While coconut allergy is rare, it is classified as a tree nut by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Halve the papaya lengthwise.
Set aside one half to cut into handles and store the other half for another use.
Peel the skin and scoop out the seeds from the papaya half, then cut it into handles about the width of two adult fingers pressed together.
Juice the lime, then sprinkle the juice over the papaya handles.
Roll papaya handles in coconut flakes to add grip.
Serve the Papaya
Offer a papaya handle and let your child self-feed.
If help is needed, hold the papaya handle in the air in front of your child, then let them grab it from you.
Eat some papaya alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Cut papaya keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Ripe papaya is sweet with a soft, smooth texture that melts in your mouth. To play up the sweetness, pair with other tropical fruits like banana, kiwi, or mango, or balance it with tart flavor from lemon, lime, pomegranate, or tamarind. Ripe papaya also tastes delicious with creamy foods like cashew, coconut, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, or yogurt and with savory flavors from avocado, black beans, or corn.
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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