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.
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.
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.
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. Organically grown produce may also contain heavy metals. 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.
★Tip: Store raw sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place but not in the refrigerator; doing so can harden the core of the potato.
No, sweet potatoes are not a common cause of IgE-mediated allergies, although allergies to sweet potatoes have been reported. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Ronan, 7 months old, eats mashed sweet potato.
Isar, 11 months, eats roasted sweet potato sticks.
Bobbi, 17 months, eats sweet potato spears. Notice her ability to gauge how much to pull off and put into her mouth.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Peel and cook sweet potato until soft (at least pierceable with a fork), cut it into spears, lightly mash it, or puree it. You can also season the sweet potato with liquids like breast 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.
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. 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.
Continue serving cooked sweet potatoes in any form. 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 after 24 months of age.
Is baby truly ready to start solid foods? Learn more on our Readiness page.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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