After Baby is ready for more than cereal, vegetables are commonly the next solid food introduced, according to Peggy O'Shea, a Boston-based registered dietitian and president of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. "Sweet potatoes are a good choice because they have a soft consistency and can be easily strained and finely mashed," she says. "Also, orange and yellow vegetables are generally some of the easiest to digest." Plus the sweet taste means most babies will be excited to eat them.
Sweet potatoes are also a nutritious choice for Baby. "They are high in beta-carotene and also provide a good amount of vitamin C and vitamin B6," says O'Shea.
Introducing Sweet Potatoes
O'Shea reminds parents to remember that introducing new foods is a process. "Don't be discouraged if Baby doesn't like sweet potatoes the first time he or she tries them," she says. "If Baby refuses the sweet potatoes, try again—even after a couple of days—but don't push or force Baby to eat them. It may be that they never end up liking sweet potatoes, or it may just take time to get accustomed to this new food. Just as adults may be apprehensive about trying a new food, babies, too, may take time to like new foods."
She says if there are other foods Baby has tried and likes, such as applesauce, try mixing a bit of it with the sweet potatoes to allow some familiarity with the taste.
Preparation and Safety
When serving sweet potatoes to younger babies, be sure they are very soft, strained, and "mushy," due to choking hazards. "Make certain that the sweet potatoes are very soft and strained when initially introducing them," says O'Shea. "Remember that babies will push them around their mouth with their tongue before swallowing, so they should be very mushy." And always feed babies while they are seated—don't hand them food while they are on the go in order to minimize choking. "By the time they are toddlers, soft pieces of sweet potato are generally well tolerated," O'Shea adds.
An Orange Glow?
Although not too common, it is possible for babies to develop an orange/yellow tint to their skin, called carotenemia, from eating a lot of foods high in beta-carotene, says O'Shea. "It is generally harmless, but it is something to keep in mind for parents of kids who eat lots of yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes," she says.
Sweet Potato Recipes
Here are some delicious sweet potato recipes to try on your baby or toddler!
Pineapple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato Fries
(For older babies and toddlers)
Give Me S'more Sweet Potatoes Bites