Papaya For Babies: Safety, Benefits, Side Effects and Recipes

Papaya For Babies

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Once your baby starts eating solids, your quest to feed them nutritious foods begins. One fruit that is often considered as baby food is the ripe papaya (Carica papaya) that has several prominent nutritional and medicinal properties (1). But do the vast benefits of this sweet fruit apply to babies as well?

Keep reading this Momjunction post where we provide the information about the safety of papaya for babies along with the benefits and precautions to observe.

Is Papaya Safe For Babies?

The U.S Food and Drug Administration considers papaya fruit as “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” for infants (2). Thus, depending upon the age of your baby, you can serve papaya to the baby.

When Can Papaya Be Introduced To Babies?

Once your baby starts consuming solids with comfort, you can introduce papaya in your baby’s diet (3). Some paediatricians, in general, recommend introducing papaya to a baby around seven and eight months. However, you could introduce the fruit early, provided your baby has started solids such as apple, banana, potato, etc. A few recipes that you might consider while introducing papaya to babies are papaya puree, papaya pudding, papaya pancake, and papaya smoothie.

Please note, papaya is usually hypoallergenic. However, some cases of papaya allergy have been documented (2). Therefore, consult a pediatrician before introducing papaya to your baby.

Nutritional Value Of Papaya

Papaya is considered as one of the most nutrient-rich fruits known. It is a rich source of a potent form of vitamin-A, beta-carotene (4).

Below is the approximate composition of 100grams of raw papaya with the recommended dietary allowance of nutrients for infants.

NameAmountRDA
Water88.06g
Energy43Kcal
Fiber, total dietary1.7g
Sugars, total including NLEA7.82g
Calcium, Ca20mg210mg (0-6 months)

270mg (7-12 months)

Magnesium, Mg21mg30mg (0-6 months)

75mg (7-12 months)

Phosphorus, P10mg100mg (0-6 months)

275mg (7-12 months)

Potassium, K182mg500mg (0-6 months)

700mg (7-12 months)

Sodium, Na8mg120mg (0-6 months)

200mg (7-12 months)

Vitamin C60.9mg20mg
Folate, total37µg24µg (0-6 months)

32µg (7-12 months)

Choline, total6.1mg
Vitamin A, IU950IU1166 IU
Vitamin K2.6µg

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture (5) and World Health Organization (6)

Health Benefits Of Papaya For Babies

Papaya has some prominent benefits for babies, as mentioned below in detail.

  1. Could support immunity: Papaya is considered to have nutraceutical properties. These properties are believed to enhance immunity and improve the quality of life in terms of good health. The fruit contains considerable amounts of vitamin-A, B, C, and proteolytic enzymes like papain and chymopapain. These constituents are believed to provide antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties to the fruit (7).
  1. Helps in digestion: In traditional medicine, papaya has been used as a remedy to treat digestive disorders. Papaya contains biologically active compounds such as papain, which is believed to help digestion (8). In addition, papaya has considerable amounts of water and fiber that could potentially help in maintaining digestive harmony by keeping constipation at bay.
  1. Supports healing: Papaya is believed to be helpful in healing wounds and sores. It has good amounts of vitamin-C and proteolytic enzyme, papain, which both aid in wound healing. A recent research study showed that topical application of papaya extract could possibly help in prompt wound healing (9).
  1. Works against intestinal worms: Papaya is considered as one of the oldest fruit antihelmintic plants (10). However, its effectiveness was mostly anecdotal until a few years ago. But now, much in-vitro clinical research shows that certain bioactive compounds in papaya could possibly help work against gastrointestinal worms (11).
  1. Supports body functions: Papaya is one of the foods with considerable amounts of dietary folate. Folate is crucial for babies, as it supports many biochemical functions that are necessary for growth, development, and sustenance. The most crucial functions that folate performs are – metabolism, brain development, and DNA-RNA synthesis (12) (13).
  1. Supports vision: Papaya is one of the rich sources of vitamin-A, which is a vital nutrient for growth and development. In particular, vitamin-A helps in vision development that is crucial during the early years of life (14). A research study has shown the effectiveness of vitamin-A derivatives in treating retinal degenerative diseases (15).
  1. Boosts overall health: Papaya has various vital nutrients with considerable amounts of antioxidants and biologically active compounds such as papain. It also has a lipidic composition that reduces inflammatory markers (16). These valuable components of papaya make it a fruit that must be included in the diet, especially for babies.

Papaya also has considerable amounts of other micronutrients such as potassium and phosphorus, which are also important for babies.

Note: All the nutrients available in papaya can support the growth and development of your baby. However, papaya cannot be a standalone food for your baby, especially after six months of age. Introduce a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other food groups in your baby’s diet to ensure optimum nutrition.

You must also practice caution while introducing papaya in your baby’s diet. This is important as, like any other food, papaya could have its side-effects.

Side Effects Of Papaya For Babies

The following are the probable side effects of papaya for babies.

  1. Allergy: IgE-mediated hypersensitivity via pollen inhalation and fruit consumption has been documented in the case of papaya (17). If your baby is allergic to latex, then papaya allergy is likely to happen (18). If your baby has a history of allergies or anyone in the family has a history of allergy, then pediatric consultation is wise before feeding papaya to your baby.
  1. Stomach ache or cramps: Unripe papaya is known to have high amounts of latex. Latex can potentially upset the stomach leading to stomach cramps and aches (19). The amount of latex is known to reduce as the fruit ripens. Therefore, it is important to serve only ripe papaya to babies.

Following some precautionary steps could ensure the safe consumption of papaya for babies. So let’s check some of them in brief.

Precautions To Take While Serving Papaya To Babies

Depending upon the signs of readiness, you can start feeding papaya to the baby with the following precautions in mind (20) (3).

  1. Never introduce two new food items together, as the same creates confusion to determine which one is not suitable for your baby. Always follow a three to five days ‘wait and watch’ rule.
  1. While preparing any item with papaya, maintain hygiene as babies under two years of age are most vulnerable to infections. Therefore, wash and peel the fruit properly and remove any seeds or piths carefully.
  1. Select only ripe papaya to ensure easy digestibility.
  1. Start with the puree form of papaya. Ensure no lumps are there in the puree to avoid choking.
  1. Initially, feed only small amounts such as a teaspoon or two.
  1. As the baby grows, you can give papaya as finger food, and then you can mix it with other food items such as porridge to amplify the nutritive value of the diet as a whole.

After knowing the basics about papaya, it’s time to check some recipes that you might like to try for your baby.

Quick Papaya Recipes

As you plan to give papaya to your baby, refer to the age group of your baby and choose the best way to feed. Below are some age-specific recipes that you can try.

For Babies 4-6 months

Babies between the age of four to six months have a very vulnerable digestive system. Therefore, it is wise to introduce papaya to them in puree form. Below is a recipe for papaya puree that you may like to try.

Papaya puree

Papaya puree

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped papaya
  • Water

How to:

  1. Blend the peeled and chopped papaya pulp in a blender. Ensure that no seeds are there in it.
  1. If there are any lumps, then add ¼ cup of water and blend the mixture again.
  1. As you see a smooth paste, transfer that in a bowl.
  1. Serve fresh puree to your baby and store the left-over in a steel container. Do not use a puree if it is more than two days old. You can also add breastmilk or formula milk in the puree.

For babies 6-8 months

As per WHO, you can feed half a cup of soft food two to three times a day to babies of six to eight months of age. Your baby can eat anything except honey until the age of one year (21). So, now is the right time that you mix papaya with other foods to make a more wholesome recipe.

Papaya and blueberry yogurt

Papaya and blueberry yogurt

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped papaya
  • ½ cup blueberry
  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt

How to:

  1. Take a blender and put peeled and chopped papaya with thoroughly cleaned, de-skinned, and deseeded blueberry in it.
  1. Blend the mixture well. Ensure no lumps are formed.
  1. Now add yogurt to the mixture and blend the mixture once again until you get a smooth paste.
  1. Serve this delectable snack to your baby during midday or as an early evening snack.

For babies 9-12 months

As your baby reaches this age group, you can start feeding soft food into small pieces instead of mashing or blending them. It is likely that by this age, your baby might even start to eat food with fingers.

Papaya pancake

Papaya pancake

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 ½ cups multigrain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp extract
  • 2 medium papayas (peeled, seeded and diced)
  • Pure maple syrup (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped almonds (optional)

How to:

  1. In a bowl, add multigrain flour, sugar, salt, eggs, and baking powder. Whisk the mixture well and keep it aside.
  1. Now, take a blender and add chopped almonds and diced papaya in it. Blend them together until you get a smooth paste.
  1. Add the blended papaya and almond mix to the mixture prepared earlier. Whisk the entire mixture again and keep it aside.
  1. Take a flat pan and keep it on medium heat, pour the pancake batter. Cook for a minute and flip. Cook the other side for one minute too. You can see the sides turning brown, and that is an indication that pancakes are cooked.
  1. Serve hot pancakes with maple syrup.

Tip: As you have added papaya to the mixture, chances are there that the pancakes might stick to the pan. In such a scenario, drizzle a few drops of oil on the pan before spreading the batter.

Recipes involving papaya are countless; however, choose a recipe that meets the nutritional needs of your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is papaya leaf juice safe for babies?

A few research studies have indicated the use of papaya leaf extract in babies but only for medical concerns such as dengue fever and thrombocytopenia. Its safety and efficacy as a herbal therapy to manage dengue and thrombocytopenia are documented (22) (23).

However, consuming papaya leaf juice otherwise is not common, especially in babies. Therefore, consult your pediatrician if you are planning to give papaya leaf juice to your baby.

  1. Can babies have papaya during fever?

Babies can have papaya during fever. It is a nutritious fruit that is easy to digest and can provide your baby with essential nutrients needed to support immunity.

Whether as a snack or a main dish ingredient, papaya can be given to babies in many forms. This tropical fruit has the potential to boost your baby’s nutrient intake to support overall health and well-being. However, treating it as a standalone superfood is unwary. Therefore, make papaya a part of a well-balanced diet which has a variety of food groups in moderation.

Have something to share about papaya for babies? Let us know in the comment section below.

References:

1. Milind Parle and Gurditta, Basketful Benefits of Papaya; Researchgate
2. Papaya; National Center For Biotechnology Information
3. How to Make Homemade Baby Food; Eat Right; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
4. Go Tropical with Super Fruits; Eat Right; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
5. Papayas, raw, (SR LEGACY, 169926); Fooddata Central; USDA
6. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
7. Karunamoorthi Kaliyaperumal et al., Papaya: A Gifted Nutraceutical Plant – a Critical Review of Recent Human Health Research; Researchgate
8. Kadry Mohamed Sadek, Antioxidant And Immunostimulant Effect of Carica Papaya Linn. Aqueous Extract In Acrylamide Intoxicated Rats; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2012)
9. Rachmi Fanani Hakim et al., Effect of Carica papaya Extract toward Incised Wound Healing Process in Mice (Mus musculus) Clinically and Histologically; Hindawi
10. Jerzy M Behnke et al., Developing novel anthelmintics from plant cysteine proteinases; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2008)
11. Dayane Moraes et al., In vitro efficacy of latex and purified papain from Carica papaya against Strongyloides venezuelensis eggs and larvae; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2017)
12. Lubna Mahmood, The metabolic processes of folic acid and Vitamin B12 deficiency; Journal of Health Research and Review In Developing Countries
13. Folate; National Institute of Health; U.S Department of Health and Human Services
14. Vitamin A; FAO
15. Lindsay Perusek and Tadao Maeda, Vitamin A Derivatives as Treatment Options for Retinal Degenerative Diseases; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2013)
16. Lidiani F. Santana et al., Nutraceutical Potential of Carica papaya in Metabolic Syndrome; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2019)
17. Moumita B. Sarkar et al., Cari p 1, a Novel Polygalacturonase Allergen From Papaya Acting as Respiratory and Food Sensitizer; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2018)
18. Latex Allergy; American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
19. G et al., Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Carica papaya; Journal of Medicinal Plant Studies (2013)
20. Tips to Keep Your Child Healthy; Healthy Children; American Academy of Nutrition
21. Feeding your baby: 6–12 months; UNICEF
22. Chandra Prakash Kala; Leaf Juice of Carica papaya L.: A Remedy of Dengue Fever; Medicinal And Aromatic Plants
23. Aakash Pandita et al., Use of papaya leaf extract in neonatal thrombocytopenia; Wiley Online Library

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