When can babies eat sweet potato?
Sweet potatoes, when fully cooked and soft, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready for solids, which is usually around 6 months of age. Note: This page is about sweet potato. See our yam page for information about the larger tuber.
Need more first food ideas? See our guides.
Where do sweet potatoes come from?
Sweet potato goes by many names: apichu, camote, dìguā, goguma, kumara, and satsumaimo to name a few. Its name in Spanish, batata, comes from the language of the Taino people of the American tropics, where sweet potato originated. Another common name is yam, a word used interchangeably with sweet potato in North America. Though the two tubers are botanically different, they are both connected by history. In the United States, sweet potatoes were an important food for enslaved people from Africa, who referred to the tuber as “yam” since it resembled yams from Africa.1 The beloved tuber also shows up in soetpatats, a caramelized sweet potato dish with lots of butter, cinnamon, and sugar that is popular in South Africa. In Peru, ceviches of fish marinated in citrus juice often feature cubes of cooked sweet potato. Across the Pacific Ocean, sweet potatoes are ground into flour to make dangmyeon, a glass noodle often served with protein and vegetables in Korean homes.
Are sweet potatoes healthy for babies?
Yes. Sweet potatoes contain an array of nutrients and are especially high in beta-carotene—a nutrient that the body converts to vitamin A, which babies need for healthy eyesight, skin, and immune health. Sweet potatoes also offer vitamin B6 for brain development and fiber to support digestive health and a flourishing gut microbiome.
Sweet potatoes come in white, orange, and purple varieties, all of which are healthy for babies. Overall, orange sweet potato varieties (sometimes called moist-fleshed) are high in vitamin A; white sweet potatoes (dry-fleshed) contain little or no vitamin A; and purple sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins that contribute to immunity and cell health.2 3
Sweet potatoes, like some other food crops, contain trace amounts of heavy metals (such as lead and arsenic) from the soil, as a result of industrial pollution and contamination leaching into the ground over many years.4 5 6 7 Organically grown produce may also contain heavy metals.8 As long as you offer a wide variety of foods to baby without relying too heavily on foods that tend to be high in heavy metals, like rice and sweet potato, you need not worry.9
★Tip: Store raw sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place but not in the refrigerator; doing so can harden the core of the potato.10
Are sweet potatoes a common choking hazard for babies?
If cooked to a soft consistency, sweet potatoes should not be a choking hazard for babies. To minimize the risk, make sure sweet potato is fully cooked and soft before serving to baby. Babies may be challenged by the tougher sweet potato skin and work around it, or spit it out. The skin does help a young baby grasp the sweet potato. 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 section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Are sweet potatoes a common allergen?
No, sweet potatoes are not a common cause of IgE-mediated allergies, although allergies to sweet potatoes have been reported.11 12 In theory, an individual can be allergic to any food. Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) to sweet potato has also been reported.13 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Cooking sweet potato can minimize the reaction.14 15
However, sweet potatoes can be a trigger for FPIES—Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, a relatively uncommon food allergy in children that can be severe and life-threatening.16 Unlike most food allergy reactions that occur within minutes of contact with a specific food trigger, FPIES allergic reactions occur within hours after consuming a particular food. For this reason, FPIES is sometimes known as a delayed food allergy. Symptoms include delayed vomiting (typically 1-4 hours after ingesting the food trigger) and/or experiencing diarrhea 5-10 hours after ingestion. Other symptoms include low blood pressure, low body temperature, extreme pallor, repetitive vomiting, and significant dehydration. Thankfully, most cases of FPIES will completely resolve during toddlerhood. Children who have been diagnosed with FPIES must be followed closely by an allergist or immunologist. If your baby has pre-existing FPIES to another food, talk to your allergist about how best to introduce other solid foods that may have a higher risk for inducing FPIES.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare sweet potatoes 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: Cook sweet potato until soft (at least pierceable with a fork), peel it if you’d like, cut it into spears, lightly mash it, or puree it. You can also season the sweet potato with liquids like human milk or formula, or a fat like butter, oil, or yogurt to add nutrition, and a pinch of your favorite spice to add flavor. If you’d like to encourage use of a utensil, pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the food for baby to try to pick up or pass it in the air for baby to grab.
9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies develop a pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. When you see signs of this development happening, try serving bite-sized pieces of cooked sweet potato for baby to try to pick up. You can continue to offer cooked sweet potato spears for practice with biting and managing bigger pieces of food. Consider serving thinner slices of cooked sweet potato with the skin. Babies often chew on the skin and spit it out, and while this seems like waste, building familiarity with skin can help encourage a child to eat fruits and vegetables with the skin later in life. Of course, you may continue serving mashed sweet potatoes for baby to eat with hands or a utensil if it would make you feel more comfortable.
12 to 24 months old: Continue serving cooked sweet potatoes on their own and if your child is enamored with sweet potatoes, as many toddlers are, use them as a gateway to introduce other nutrient-rich foods like lentils, beans, and vegetables. You can also take this opportunity to encourage utensil practice: offer bite-sized pieces of cooked sweet potato along with a fork and help show how it’s done by pre-loading the fork for baby to pick up independently. You can also try spearing the sweet potato while making a sound (boink!) to make it fun to use the utensil. If the child is not interested in using a fork or spoon, keep in mind that using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils. Try not to apply too much pressure—consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time—probably between 18 and 24 months of age. Want to spend time creating something delicious in the kitchen? Try this Sweet Potato “Toast” recipe—perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Is baby truly ready to start solid foods? Learn more on our Readiness page.
Recipe: Easy Sweet Potato Wedges
Yield: 3 cups (400 grams)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) avocado oil, sunflower oil, or high-heat oil
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) spice of choice
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius).
- Peel the potatoes, discarding the skins.
- Wash, dry, and cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut the halves into spears.
- Coat the potato spears with oil, then evenly space the potato spears on a sheet tray.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the wedges and bake until done, about 10 minutes more. The sweet potatoes are done when a knife easily inserts into the thickest part.
- Remove the tray from the oven. Set aside some sweet potato wedges for baby. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
- Season sweet potato wedges for adults and older children with salt to taste, if desired. Keep warm while baby’s sweet potato wedges cool.
- Serve the sweet potato wedges as finger food. If you’d like to encourage use of a utensil, simply preload an age-appropriate utensil and rest it next to the food for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the preloaded utensil in the air for the child to grab.
To Store: Sweet Potato Fries keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 days.
E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN
A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Science Reference Section. (2019). What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? Library of Congress. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Shekhar, S., Mishra, D., Buragohain, A. K., Chakraborty, S., & Chakraborty, N. (2015). Comparative analysis of phytochemicals and nutrient availability in two contrasting cultivars of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.). Food Chemistry, 173, 957–965. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.09.172. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Li, A., Xiao, R., He, S., An, X., He, Y., Wang, C., Yin, S., Wang, B., Shi, X., & He, J. (2019). Research Advances of Purple Sweet Potato Anthocyanins: Extraction, Identification, Stability, Bioactivity, Application, and Biotransformation. Molecules, 24(21). DOI: 10.3390/molecules24213816. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Vela, N. P., & Heitkemper, D. T. (2004). Total arsenic determination and speciation in infant food products by ion chromatography-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Journal of AOAC International, 87(1), 244–252. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. (2021). Baby foods are tainted with dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Callen, C., Bhatia, J., Czerkies, L., Klish, W. J., & Gray, G. M. (2018). Challenges and Considerations When Balancing the Risks of Contaminants with the Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables for Infants and Toddlers. Nutrients, 10(11), 1572. DOI: 10.3390/nu10111572. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Healthy Babies Bright Futures. (2019). What’s in my baby’s food ? Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- González N, Marquès M, Nadal M, Domingo JL. (2019). Occurrence of environmental pollutants in foodstuffs: A review of organic vs. conventional food. Food Chem Toxicol, 125:370-375. DOI: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.01.021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- HealthyChildren.org. (2021). Heavy metals in baby food. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- McGee, Harold. (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner.
- Velloso, A., Baeza, M., Tornero, P., Herrero, T., Fernandez, M., Rubio, M., de Barrio, M. (2004). Anaphylaxis caused by Ipomoea Batatas. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Xu, Y. Y., & Yin, J. (2018). Identification of a thermal stable allergen in yam (Dioscorea opposita) to cause anaphylaxis. Asia Pacific allergy, 8(1), e4. DOI: 10.5415/apallergy.2018.8.e4. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- Kim, J. H., Kim, S. H., Park, H. W., Cho, S. H., & Chang, Y. S. (2018). Oral Allergy Syndrome in Birch Pollen-Sensitized Patients from a Korean University Hospital. Journal of Korean medical science, 33(33), e218. DOI: 10.3346/jkms.2018.33.e218. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved August 27, 2021.
- Sussman, G., Sussman, A., Sussman, D. (2010). Oral allergy syndrome. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 182(11), 1210–1211. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.090314. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
- Nowak-Węgrzyn, A., Chehade, M., Groetch, M. E., Spergel, J. M., Wood, R. A., et al. (2017). International consensus guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food protein–induced enterocolitis syndrome: Executive summary—Workgroup Report of the Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 139(4), 1111-1126.e4. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.12.966. Retrieved September 23, 2021.