When can babies eat pumpkin?
Pumpkin may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of pumpkin
There is so much more to celebrate about the pumpkin than its role as a jack o’ lantern for Halloween. First, not all pumpkins are round and orange; the gourds come in a cornucopia of shapes, textures, and hues—some with brilliant red skin and pale, yellow flesh, others covered by a deep green rind speckled with white streaks, there are even steely blue pumpkins with flesh the color of saffron. Pumpkin is another word for squash—specifically, gourds with thicker skin than chayote, cucumber, zucchini, and other more delicate cousins in the squash family. Pumpkins and squash originated in Central America, where they have been grown by Indigenous people for thousands of years, and today they are cultivated all over the world. Pumpkins also come in a range of flavors. For example, the Halloween carving pumpkins have a watery, flat taste compared to the nutty and sweet calabazas of the Caribbean; the dense, aromatic zapallos of South America; and the smooth, creamy butternuts and cheese pumpkins of North America and Australia.
★Tip: When purchasing fresh pumpkin for cooking, look for smaller squash called “sugar pumpkins” or Long Island Cheese pumpkins. While there are hundreds to try, these two are widely available and delicious when used to make pies and other baked treats.
Is pumpkin healthy for babies?
Yes. Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A to help strengthen baby’s eyesight, growth, and immune system. Depending on the variety, pumpkin also contains other essential nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, and fiber, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and more.1
Pumpkin is also high in carotenoids—a fancy word for plant compounds, some of which our bodies convert to vitamin A, and others like lutein and zeaxanthin which have antioxidant effects on the body.2 Studies indicate that carotenoids may reduce the risk of cancer and help address natural cell damage in the body.3 What’s more, the longer pumpkin is allowed to cure after harvest, the more carotenoids it produces.4
When buying containers of processed pumpkin, look for a BPA-free label. BPA is used to line the interior of food containers and plastic bottles, and studies show that frequent exposure can disrupt baby’s bodily functions.5 6 Increasingly, companies are moving toward “BPA-free” food packaging, however, similar chemicals called BPS and BPF are also used to line containers. While they are also considered to disrupt the endocrine system in our bodies, there is no legislation requiring the labeling of these chemicals on food products.7 8
★Tip: To cut a large pumpkin without losing a finger or a limb, first place the gourd upright on a cutting board with the stem facing up. Insert a sharp knife near the stem and push down on the knife’s handle to cut through the flesh. Hold the opposite side of the pumpkin and continue pushing the knife down into the pumpkin until it reaches the cutting board. Carefully remove the knife, then repeat on the opposite side. Use your hands to crack the pumpkin in two halves, then scoop out the seeds. Now decide what shapes you want to create—chunks, crescent moons, large cubes—and cut accordingly. Now you’re ready to cook!
Is pumpkin a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Cooked pumpkin is not a common choking hazard, but its seeds can be. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and always stay near baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions!
Is pumpkin a common allergen?
No. Allergies to both pumpkin flesh and seed are rare, though it’s not uncommon to get an itchy rash on the hands after handling winter squashes.9 To minimize any reaction, wash your hands after handling, and baby’s face and hands after eating.
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 pumpkin for babies with baby-led weaning?
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.
6 to 9 months old: Offer well-cooked and mashed pumpkin for baby to eat with their hands (or from a pre-loaded spoon) or let baby munch on crescent-shaped pieces of well-cooked pumpkin with the rind on or off (babies will not likely have the jaw strength to bite through the rind at this age). If a too-big piece of food breaks off while eating, stay calm and give the child a chance to work the food forward independently. You can also coach baby to spit food out by sticking out your own tongue and saying, “Ahhh”. Remember that babies have a couple of strong, protective reflexes at this age, including a gag reflex to help keep food forward in the mouth.
9 to 12 months old: Serve bite-size pieces of well-cooked pumpkin if baby has developed their pincer grasp and consider continuing to offer large pieces of well-cooked pumpkin (rind removed) as well. You can, of course, continue with mashed pumpkin as well, which is a nutritious addition to other soft foods like warm cereal, quinoa, or yogurt.
12 to 24 months old: Offer bite-sized pieces of well-cooked pumpkin along with a fork to encourage utensil practice. Help show how it is used by pre-loading the fork for the toddler to pick up independently.
For more information on how to cut food for baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Roast Pumpkin
- 1 small sugar pumpkin (about 3 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 175 degrees Celsius. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
- Cut the pumpkin into your shapes of choice—chunks, crescent moons, or large cubes. Compost the seeds or reserve to make roasted pumpkin seeds.
- Coat the pumpkin shapes with the oil of your choice and space evenly on the sheet tray.
- Roast until a knife easily inserts into the thickest part of one of your pumpkin shapes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool. If the skin is still on the pumpkin, use a spoon to scrape away from the flesh once the shapes are cool to the touch.
- Serve: Place a couple of pumpkin shapes on a plate and serve to the child as finger food. If you’d like to encourage utensil practice, place a fork on the side of the plate, and eat your serving alongside them to show how it’s done!
To store: Place the roasted pumpkin in an air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 1 month.
Pumpkin is nutty and sweet—a taste that pairs well with similar flavors like almond, amaranth, chestnut, coconut, corn, quinoa, or rice. Balance the pumpkin’s sweetness with tart flavor from cranberry, grapefruit, pomegranate, pineapple, tamarind, or tomato. Add cinnamon, curry, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, or your favorite seasonings and spices for extra layers of flavor!
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Kulczyński, B., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2019). The Profile of Carotenoids and Other Bioactive Molecules in Various Pumpkin Fruits (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne) Cultivars. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(18), 3212. DOI :10.3390/molecules24183212. Retrieved October 28, 2020
- Kulczyński, B., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2019). The Profile of Carotenoids and Other Bioactive Molecules in Various Pumpkin Fruits (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne) Cultivars. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(18), 3212. DOI: 10.3390/molecules24183212. Retrieved October 28, 2020
- Zhang, M.K., Zhang, M.P., Mazourek, M., Tadmor, Y., Li, L. (2014). Regulatory control of carotenoid accumulation in winter squash during storage. Planta, 240(5), 1063–1074. DOI:10.1007/s00425-014-2147-6. Retrieved October 12, 2020
- Jaswir, I., Shahidan, N., Othman, R., Has-Yun Hashim, Y. Z., Octavianti, F., & bin Salleh, M. N. (2014). Effects of season and storage period on accumulation of individual carotenoids in pumpkin flesh (Cucurbita moschata). Journal of oleo science, 63(8), 761–767. DOI:10.5650/jos.ess13186. Retrieved October 28, 2020
- Braun, J.M. (2017). Early-life exposure to EDCs: role in childhood obesity and neurodevelopment. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 13(3):161-173. DOI:10.1038/nrendo.2016.186. Retrieved October 28, 2020
- Acconcia, F., Pallottini, V., Marino, M. (2015). Molecular Mechanisms of Action of BPA. Dose-response : a publication of International Hormesis Society, 13(4), 1559325815610582. DOI:10.1177/1559325815610582. Retrieved October 26, 2020
- Wanger, C. (2014). Bisphenol S. Food Packaging Forum. Retrieved September 30, 2020
- Jacobson, M.H., Woodward, M., Bao, W., Liu, B., Trasande, L. (2019). Urinary Bisphenols and Obesity Prevalence Among U.S. Children and Adolescents. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 3(9), 1715-1726. DOI:10.1210/js.2019-00201. Retrieved September 30, 2020
- Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) dermatitis., U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 22, 2019.