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.
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.
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.
★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?
No, but watermelon seeds can pose an aspiration risk.8 To minimize the risk, purchase a seedless watermelon or remove any seeds before serving to babies. (The thin, flimsy white seeds should be fine to leave in).
Watermelon also 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. If this becomes problematic, simply serve thinner slices of watermelon or a large, thick watermelon slice on the rind with much of the fruit cut off so baby can use the rind more like a teether. If offering the rind on its own, make sure the pieces are very large, at least an inch thick and a few inches long. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals.
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.9 10 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.11
How do you prepare watermelon 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: The easiest way to serve watermelon for the youngest eaters is to cut the flesh into rectangular slices 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 black seeds as you cut (the white seeds should not be an issue). Remember, it’s common for watermelon juices to cause a fair amount of harmless coughing and gagging. If this happens, stay calm and give baby a chance to swallow or spit the extra juice out. If you’d like to work on building chewing skills, you can also offer baby a washed watermelon rind, at least an inch thick and a few inches long (the bigger the better at this age) with the skin and any sharp corners or edges removed or blunted to soften the corners. Foods like watermelon rinds that act like teethers are fantastic for developing the skills needed to chew and swallow. If a too-big piece of rind breaks off, give baby a chance to work it forward independently before intervening. Remember, baby’s gag reflex is very active to help keep things away from their airway.
9 to 12 months old: At this age, as baby’s pincer grasp develops, you can serve watermelon in small bite-sized pieces. You can also continue to offer rectangular pieces of watermelon but know that as baby becomes more confident in their biting skills, they may break off a piece that makes you uncomfortable. Trust your baby to chew the fruit, and if they need, allow them to spit it out on their own before intervening.
12 to 18 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.
18 to 24 months old: For more advanced eaters, try serving watermelon half-moon shapes or continue with the triangular cut. If there are black seeds, remove them and as the child grows older, teach them about the seeds and to spit them out.
★ If you are stuck in a puffs and pouches rut, check out our snack guide for 100 healthy and easy ideas for babies and toddlers.
Recipe: Watermelon Dusted with Ground Nuts
Yield: 1 cup (125 grams)
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 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.
- Rinse the watermelon wedge.
- Cut off and discard the rind and white pith, or reserve for another use.
- 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.
- Roll the watermelon strips in ground almond or nut of choice.
- 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.
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.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP
E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN
A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC
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
- Tamburini, E., Costa, S., Rugiero, I., Pedrini, P., & Marchetti, M. G. (2017). Quantification of Lycopene, β-Carotene, and Total Soluble Solids in Intact Red-Flesh Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) Using On-Line Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, Sensors, 17(4), 746. DOI: 10.3390/s17040746. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Naz, A., Butt, M. S., Sultan, M. T., Qayyum, M. M., & Niaz, R. S. (2014). Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims, EXCLI Journal,13, 650–660. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Figueroa, A., Wong, A., Jaime, S. J., & Gonzales, J. U. (2017). Influence of L-citrulline and watermelon supplementation on vascular function and exercise performance. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 20(1), 92–98. DOI: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000340. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- National Institutes of Health. (2021). Iron. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Rimando, A. M., & Perkins-Veazie, P. M. (2005). Determination of citrulline in watermelon rind. Journal of chromatography, 1078(1-2), 196–200. DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2005.05.009. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Naknaen, P., Itthisoponkul, T., Sondee, A., & Angsombat, N. (2016). Utilization of watermelon rind waste as a potential source of dietary fiber to improve health promoting properties and reduce glycemic index for cookie making. Food science and biotechnology, 25(2), 415–424. DOI: 10.1007/s10068-016-0057-z. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pre-Cut Melons. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Eren S, Balci AE, Dikici B, Doblan M, Eren MN. (2003). Foreign body aspiration in children: experience of 1160 cases. Annals of Tropical Paediatrics, 23(1), 31-7. DOI: 10.1179/000349803125002959. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2020). Oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Kato T, Tajima N, Kitamura K, Takasato Y, Tajima I, Ono M, Tagami K, Sakai K, Furuta T, Sugiura S, Ito K. (2018). [Oral and systemic symptoms in children with fruit allergy]. Arerugi, 67(2):129-138. Japanese. DOI: 10.15036/arerugi.67.129. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
- Rodriguez J, Crespo JF, Burks W, Rivas-Plata C, Fernandez-Anaya S, Vives R, Daroca P. (2000). Randomized, double-blind, crossover challenge study in 53 subjects reporting adverse reactions to melon (Cucumis melo). Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 106(5), 968-72. DOI: 10.1067/mai.2000.110467. Retrieved June 30, 2021.