With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s understandable you’d want your newest family member to enjoy the festivities. But babies eating turkey can be a scary thought. (I mean, it's no longer a bowl of mush, you know?) Last year, I was so excited to share the holiday with my son and have him be part of the family gathering, but I was also curious about when it was actually OK for him to indulge in a Thanksgiving turkey.
Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper in an email interview, “This question depends on if your child can eat solids pretty well. For example, if they are good eaters of other solid foods, then they can start eating turkey usually between the ages of 7 to 9 months, but even then, the turkey has to be given in small strands and small pieces so that a child can put it in their mouth and eat it easily.”
As far as other Thanksgiving favorites like stuffing, green bean casserole, and other traditional side dishes, Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper, “I would wait until 9 months to start introducing those things. Even then, I would give a minimal amount since they are usually filled with a lot of salts, sugars, and other non-nutrient rich foods/spices.” I suppose that includes pie, too, but moderation is key. Ganjian adds that whatever food you give to your baby, it should be small and soft — steamed, for example.
And the age requirement for when they can eat turkey is similar for babies who are doing baby-led weaning (BLW) — give or take a month. Posner says, “Most people start [BLW] around 6 months and give little pieces of fruits and cooked vegetables. They typically skip the purees and the cereals.” But it's not something you want to just jump into, and you probably don't want to start BLW at the Thanksgiving table.
“Of course, before beginning baby-led weaning, please make sure you read up on it to know what foods to offer and how to avoid feeding your baby choking foods," Ganjian says. "For example, food should only be a certain shape, texture, etc.” And turkey should definitely be included in your research. Just make sure your baby's already a pretty good eater before giving them the good stuff on Thanksgiving.
A Healthline article reported that in order to minimize the risk of choking during BLW, you should make sure your baby is sitting up at a 90-degree angle facing you and never leave your baby alone while eating. You should also allow your baby to control the amount of food that goes into their mouth by letting them feed themselves and control their eating pace, make sure the foods you serve can be smashed between your fingers, avoid foods that break up into pieces or crumbs, and make sure the food is easy for them to pick up. These are great tips to remember when Grandma gets a little grabby and forceful with the food on Thanksgiving.
Your baby can definitely partake in the turkey part of the Thanksgiving festivities if they're at the appropriate age. Just be mindful of the pieces you give them and how they eat it. (Again, don't let Aunt Betty force your child to eat a drumstick.) There's no shame in serving pureed food at the table either. Do what feels right for you and your family, and remember that mashed potatoes are always a win.
Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California
Dr. Gina Posner, a board certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California