Skip to main content

When can babies eat spinach? Don’t feed it to them too early

Know how to make spinach baby food safely and when to introduce it to your little one

We all want to see our kids eat more green food. That starts when they start eating solid foods as an infant. If you’re hoping your baby will be “strong to the finish,” just like Popeye by eating spinach regularly, then you may wonder when a suitable time would be to introduce that iron-rich food to your little one. This little green leaf’s ability to pack on the nutrients makes it such a great food for parents to feed their tots.

But when are babies able to eat spinach safely? More importantly, how can you make spinach baby food that your child will actually eat? Whether or not they like it makes the difference between a lifelong love of the veggie or a world without it. Let’s break down the when and how to get your nugget to enjoy this mineral-rich superfood.

Why you should use caution when feeding baby spinach

Adding a small amount of spinach to your baby’s regular diet adds much-needed iron to their bodies. Iron is a critical nutrient in the preliminary stages of a baby’s development. It’s needed to produce red and white blood cells as well as for overall lung and brain development.

Strictly speaking, spinach is an excellent source of iron for humans, and is used often in baby foods to help enrich their diets. Where the problem occurs is when the spinach is processed, nitrates begin to build up. This can cause damage to your baby’s red blood cells – more specifically, the hemoglobin protein within them. Nitrates can convert hemoglobin into methemoglobin, creating a lack of oxygen being shared from the red blood cells to the tissues.

A parent feeding their infant baby food while the baby sits in a highchair.

When can babies eat spinach?

Luckily, babies are born with enzymes in their bloodstream to help flip methemoglobin back to hemoglobin without any lasting damage. However, the number of enzymes needed to combat a nitrate overload is not found in infants younger than 3-6 months old. Because of the risks involved with using possibly contaminated veggies –either grown at home or bought at the store – it is not recommended for children younger than 8 months old to be served spinach in any form.

Nitrates aren’t only found in spinach, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics explains to parents, it’s important to keep in mind:

“Nitrates aren’t the only cause of methemoglobinemia. Certain antibiotics and the numbing agent found in teething gels can also convert hemoglobin to methemoglobin. And baby food isn’t the only dietary source of nitrates. Drinking water (especially well water) can contain high levels of nitrates from fertilizer run-off. In fact, the most common cause of methemoglobinemia in babies (including those older than 6 months of age) is the ingestion of infant formula made with nitrate-containing well water!”

A baby drinking a green drink.

How to safely feed your baby spinach

The main thing to keep in mind is, all homemade baby foods that are prepared with ground-growing veggies have the possibility to be contaminated with nitrate-rich fertilizers. This happens from contaminated veggies themselves, the soil, or the groundwater. Keeping your baby on a steady diet free from these types of freshly-prepared veggies from home until after the age of 6 months – or 8 months in the case of spinach – is the main thing to focus on.

Vegetables that have been found to hold higher levels of nitrates are:

  • Spinach and other greens
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Squash
  • Beans

Keep in mind that baby food companies run testing for nitrate levels prior to bottling to prevent negative side effects in infants. It’s important for parents to understand avoiding spinach only applies to parents who prepare their own baby foods at home. Due to the lack of sufficient home testing, pediatricians recommend parents wait at least 8 months to prep and feed freshly made spinach purees to their infants.

We understand the importance of infants getting the best quality ingredients in their diet. We don’t want to discourage you from wanting to make your own meals at home for your growing baby. We only want you to do so in a safe and healthy manner. If you prepare your infant’s meals at home, we encourage you to sit down with your child’s doctor or nutritionist to plan and prepare foods that will not only give them a healthy and balanced diet but will also hit all those important health marks such as organic and sustainably grown.

Editors' Recommendations