As your little one grows, they encounter many new and exciting changes—some of which involve food. And while you may be tempted to introduce juice to your baby's diet, it isn't recommend. "While juice is something many children enjoy, pediatricians are often not enthusiastic about juice consumption," says Ashanti Woods, a pediatrician at Mercy Family Care Physicians in Baltimore, Maryland. "Too much juice, too often, can lead to an array of health issues, including dental problems, obesity, and overall poor nutrition." These problems can make it more likely to develop chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, later on. In short, babies should not drink juice.
But when is juice appropriate? And, more important, how much juice should your child be consuming? Today, we're covering all your juice-related questions, from what age babies can start drinking juice, how to introduce juice, and everything in between. Parents spoke with Dr. Woods as well as Ayla Roberts, MSN, RN, a former pediatric registered nurse with over eight years of experience, and Emily Wisniewski, another pediatrician at Mercy Family Care Physicians, to answer all your questions about your little one and juice.
The short answer is no; it is not recommended for babies under 12 months old to have juice. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies should drink breastmilk or formula until they turn one. Dr. Wisniewski reaffirms this, "I tell families that nothing other than breastmilk or formula should be given (drink-wise) to babies under six months. After six months, you can start to introduce other liquids, but breastmilk or formula should still be the primary liquid they consume. The reason behind this is that milk (or formula) contains fat, protein, vitamins, and nutrients that help your baby grow and develop. Juice does not really offer really any of those things..
Dr. Woods reinforces the recommendations made by the AAP. "Typically, the serving size varies by age. For example, four ounces of juice per day (not per cup) would be appropriate for a toddler aged 12 months up to 3 years old," he says. However, in his experience, some families say they do not introduce juice until a child is older.
As your child ages, the amount of juice that is appropriate for them will increase. "The amount of juice could increase to four to six ounces for children 4 to 6 years of age, and finally, at age 7 (and older), we recommend up to eight ounces a day," he says.
Even though you want to introduce new flavors to your baby, juice isn't the best way to go about it. Like sodas, sports drinks, and other artificially flavored beverages, juice tends to be tasty, but otherwise isn't beneficial.
While it might seem like there's no harm in giving your baby 100% fruit juice, it's essential to know that all most of the good stuff (like fiber and beneficial nutrients) isn't making it in there. "Fruit juice is high in calories and sugar, which can lead to obesity, and isn't very nutritious," says Roberts.
While juice alone won't directly dictate your baby's future health, it can impact what they crave later on. Introducing sugar-loaded drinks early on can set them up to develop a preference for ever more sugary foods and drinks in the future. It can also detract from the naturally sweet flavor of whole, natural fruits.