Watermelon

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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Chunks of watermelon with the rind on and seeds removed being prepared for a baby starting solid foods

When can babies eat watermelon?

Watermelon may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note that the juices of watermelon often cause a fair amount of gagging in babies and toddlers.

Where does watermelon come from?

Today, watermelon is the quintessential hot weather treat: brightly colored and refreshingly crunchy and juicy. But in Africa, where the watermelon originated, it served much more practical purposes. In a hot, dry climate, the melon’s thick rind and moisture-rich interior made it a valuable source of water when and where people needed it.

Our modern watermelons are the result of thousands of years of change and human tinkering. Those early African watermelons had green flesh that was much firmer and more bitter or bland than those of today. Now, naturally seedless watermelons have eliminated those hard, black seeds, and the melon’s colors, shapes, and sizes have expanded far past the traditional dark greens and deep reds. Some melons are small enough to easily fit in the fridge, while others can weigh hundreds of pounds, and the color of watermelon flesh ranges from delicate pinks to dark reds, pale yellows, peachy oranges, and even white. Watermelon rind, seeds, and flesh are all edible: the rind is often pickled, fermented, candied, or stir-fried, the seeds can be roasted, and the flesh, while often just eaten fresh, can be grilled or added to salads.

Kalani, 6 months, eats watermelon for the first time.
Levi, 7 months, tastes watermelon and gags a bit. Gagging is common with watermelon and is usually harmless.
Adie, 15 months, eats watermelon with the rind on. Watermelon rind is edible, but monitor baby closely as the rind is a choking hazard.

Is watermelon healthy for babies?

Yes. Watermelon boasts the powerful antioxidant lycopene (with higher levels in red watermelon than in tomatoes) and other phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene, that support immune function, and a unique amino acid called citrulline that may promote healthy blood pressure.1 2 3 Watermelon also contains some vitamin C, which can support iron absorption from plant-based foods, so think about pairing watermelon with ingredients like quinoa, lentils, chia seeds, or leafy greens.4

In many cultures, it is quite common to consume watermelon rinds in a variety of ways, such as pickled, fermented, stewed, stir-fried, candied, or made into a jam. Offering fiber, vitamins, and minerals, watermelon rinds also contain the amino acid citrulline, which means the rind may be as beneficial for blood pressure as watermelon flesh.5 6 While a taste of pickled, fermented, candied, or jam renditions of watermelon rind here or there is fine once in a while, hold off until after the child’s first birthday to serve these products regularly to minimize baby’s exposure to salt and sugar.

Melons are susceptible to bacteria. Whole watermelon can be stored at room temperature until ripe (usually about 1 to 2 days from the date of purchase) after which time it should be transferred to the refrigerator. Once cut, store watermelon in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To extend the shelf life, blend watermelon flesh, strain out the seeds, and freeze the juice for up to 1 year.

★Tip: When shopping for watermelon, consider choosing whole melon over pre-cut. Pre-cut melon has been associated with a number of outbreaks related to salmonella infection.7 For this reason you should always wash the rinds of all melons before cutting into them.

Is watermelon a common choking hazard for babies?

While watermelon is not typically considered to be a common choking risk, it can be a challenging food for young babies and watermelon seeds can pose an aspiration risk.8 9 10 11 Watermelon is a “mixed consistency,” which means it has both solid parts that need to be chewed and a high amount of liquid which moves differently than the solids as baby chews. This tends to cause a fair amount of coughing and gagging when it is eaten as baby learns to manage both a solid consistency and the juice at the same time. To minimize risk for young babies, serve seedless watermelon on the rind (with the rind cut into large, thick pieces) with much of the fruit cut off so baby can use the rind more like a teether. 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.

Is watermelon a common allergen?

No, watermelon is not considered to be a common allergen. However, some individuals with grass or ragweed allergies or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to watermelon.12 13 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Individuals with known allergies to latex, avocado, banana, tomato, kiwi, and other melons may also be sensitive to watermelon.

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.14

Can watermelon cause diarrhea in babies?

Yes. Watermelon is over 90% water, which helps promote healthy digestion, especially if baby is experiencing harder stools.15 When a significant quantity is consumed, it is not unusual to see looser stools. When that poop does come, know that red-fleshed watermelon can result in red-pigmented stool; don’t worry, it isn’t blood.

How do you prepare watermelon for babies with baby-led weaning?

an infographic showing how to cut watermelon by age: a rind teether or small rectangle of the flesh for babies 6 months+, bite-sized pieces for 9 months+, a triangular wedge with rind on for 15 months+

6 to 8 months old: You have two options: Serving watermelon on a large rind with most of the fruit cut off (so the rind acts more as a teether) or offering watermelon sticks about the width of two fingers pressed together, and about the thickness of a ruler, without the rind. If baby is just getting started on solids, serving on the rind may be easier for them to pick up and manage in the mouth. This also acts as an “unbreakable” food for baby to practice the skills of chewing and moving the tongue. If baby is closer to 8 months old or has strong biting skills, you may want to serve a rectangular piece without the rind. Also keep in mind that watermelon is a “mixed consistency,” with liquid and chewable components. This tends to lead to coughing as baby learns to manage both consistencies in the mouth at the same time.

To serve the rind: First, wash the melon before cutting into it. Offer baby a thick watermelon rind at least an inch thick and a few inches long with a small amount of fruit flesh left on (about 1 inch or less). If the rind is long and curved, cut a bit of each end off so it’s more straight as a piece. Also, if there are any sharp corners, simply slice them off or blunt to soften (pounding the corner on a cutting board can do the trick). Over time, as baby’s skills build and your confidence in baby’s ability to handle more challenge increases, you can leave on more and more of the flesh on the rind. Foods like watermelon rinds that act like teethers are fantastic for developing the oral motor skills needed to chew and move food around in the mouth for swallowing. If baby is able to bite off a piece of the rind, remain calm and give baby a chance to work the piece out of their mouth independently. You can lean them forward or kneel next to them so they look down, allowing gravity to help move the piece forward. Then, take the rind away from baby and move on to the next age bracket for serving suggestions.

To serve watermelon sticks: The sticks should be about the size of two adult fingers together, or a larger piece about the size of a deck of cards for baby to hold with two hands. Remove any seeds as you cut. Remember, it’s common for watermelon juices to cause a fair amount of coughing and gagging. If a too-big piece of flesh breaks off, stay calm and give baby a chance to work it forward independently before intervening. Baby’s gag reflex is very active to help keep things away from their airway, but if you feel that baby is struggling excessively with watermelon served in this way, return to watermelon served on the rind with only a small amount of flesh for a little longer, or avoid this food entirely for a few more weeks before trying again.

9 to 14 months old: Offer watermelon sticks about the size of two adult fingers together or watermelon cut into small, bite-sized pieces. If you’d like to continue serving watermelon on the rind, by all means do so; serving on the rind can be a good strategy for babies and toddlers who shovel too much food in their mouths at once. Keep in mind that while the rind helps some 9–14-month-old babies manage this challenging mixed consistency food, others may be strong enough to bite through the rind by this age. If this happens, stay calm, let baby work it forward and out then consider removing the watermelon rind and instead offering bite-sized pieces or sticks. Either way, know that as baby becomes more confident in their biting skills, they may bite off a piece that makes you uncomfortable. Trust your baby to chew the fruit, and if needed, allow them to spit it out on their own before intervening.

15 to 24 months old: At this age, you can either serve watermelon in small bite-sized pieces, or in the classic triangular pieces, with the rind on (it is edible, so don’t worry if the child teethes and munches on that part). If the child successfully bites off too-big pieces of the rind, simply cut some of the rind off before serving. In the dead of summer with a teething toddler? Puree watermelon and freeze into small popsicles for a tasty teething treat—or just insert a popsicle stick into a wedge of watermelon and freeze.

a hand holding a thick slice of watermelon rind with most of the flesh cut off for babies 6 months+
A thick slice of watermelon rind with most of the flesh cut off for babies 6 months+
a hand holding a thin rectangular slice of watermelon for babies 6 months+
A thin rectangular piece of watermelon for babies 6 months+
a hand holding a thin rectangular piece of watermelon sideways
A thin rectangular piece of watermelon for babies 6 months+
a hand holding five bite-sized pieces of watermelon for babies 9 months+
Bite-sized pieces of watermelon for babies 9 months+
One way to cut watermelon for babies 6 months+

If you’re stuck in a puffs and pouches rut, check out our 100 Snacks for Babies & Toddlers.

Recipe: Watermelon Dusted with Ground Nuts

five thin rectangles of watermelon dusted with ground nut on a white background

Yield: 1 cup (125 grams)
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 watermelon wedge (150 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) ground almond, macadamia nut, or nut of choice

This recipe contains an ingredient that is a common allergen: almond, macadamia nut, or other tree nuts. Only serve to a child after this allergen has been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Rinse the watermelon wedge.
  2. Cut off and discard the rind and white pith, or reserve for another use.
  3. For younger babies, cut the watermelon flesh into rectangular pieces about the size of a deck of cards, or if you’d like to go smaller, a shape that is about the same size as two adult fingers pressed together. Check that all seeds have been removed from the strips. For 9 months and up, you can cut the watermelon into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Roll the watermelon pieces in ground almond or nut of choice.
  5. Serve and let the child self-feed by passing the pieces of watermelon over to baby in the air and waiting for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Store any leftover watermelon in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

★Tip: When choosing a watermelon, it should feel firm and heavy for its size. A good sign of a ripe and sweet watermelon is the presence of a “sugar spot,” which is the yellow spot on its underside, which indicates the melon has spent enough time ripening.

Flavor Pairings

Watermelon has a sweet, juicy crispness tastes great with fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint, as well as creamy cheeses like goat cheese and feta, and hot spices like cayenne. The flavors of watermelon also pair well with pistachios, walnuts, honey, vinegar, citruses like lemon and lime, rosewater, and orange blossom water.

Reviewed by

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

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  4. National Institutes of Health. (2021). Iron. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
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  15. U. S. Department of Agriculture. (2019). Watermelon, raw. FoodData Central. Retrieved July 2, 2021