When Can Babies Have Juice? And How?

Your baby will likely grab at the juice in your house before they should actually be drinking it. And if there’s an older sibling around, the temptation to share juice with your baby will be hard to avoid.

Be patient and try to follow these guidelines. Help the others in your home to do the same so you can ensure the best health for your growing child.

If you introduce the right kinds of juices to your baby (which will be listed below) you’ll add yummy vitamins and nutrients to their diet, such as: iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 (to name a few).

When & How To Introduce Juice To Babies

Some parents introduce juice to their children before they’re a year old, but it’s strongly discouraged by pediatricians. Before your baby is 12 months of age, juice should remain off-limits.

According to the journal, Pediatrics, babies under a year old should stick with breast milk or formula because, “There is no nutritional indication to give fruit juice to infants and if a baby fills up on juice, it could sideline other important nutrients they need for healthy growth like protein, fat and calcium.”

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Here is a link to the AAP guidelines about this.

Also, here is an AAP link with an age chart that discusses similar information.”

The overall warning of introducing juice too early on in a baby’s life is that it puts your child at risk for stunted growth.

When your child has been given the green light by his or her pediatrician, here are some tips on how to you can introduce juice to them.

Note: these guidelines will remain the same until your child is three years old.

  • Serve your child juice only from a cup. Drinking juice from a bottle can cause tooth decay.
  • Only give your child 4 fl. oz. (1/2 cup) each day. Any other fruit servings should come from food directly.
  • Dilute the juice to be one part juice to 10 parts water. You could even use juice only to flavor the water when first introducing it.
  • Give juice after a solid meal, not before, so your child won’t feel the urge to fill up on empty calories.

What Kind Of Juice Is Best For Babies?

Just because your child has turned one, this doesn’t mean it’s fair game now when it comes to what juices they can have.

Here’s what you should look for while out shopping:

  • Choose 100 percent fresh juice or reconstituted fruit juice.
  • Only give your child juice that has been pasteurized.
  • If your child is on a medication, avoid grapefruit juice as it might interfere with the effectiveness of that medication.
  • Choose juices without any added sugars.
  • Note: if the label reads “-ade,” “drink,” “beverage,” or “cocktail,” it’s not going to be 100% juice and will have added sugars, colors and artificial flavors – so you should avoid giving any of it to your little one.

For more information about this, here’s an article from the AAP that supports what was mentioned above.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Sometimes the guidelines above are overlooked or mistakenly bypassed.

Introducing juice to your one-year-old shouldn’t be problematic, but there are nonetheless some potential hazards of drinking juice:

  • It could leave your child malnourished if he or she isn’t getting enough proteins and complex carbohydrates (so make sure they stay on a balanced diet).
  • The enamel of your child’s teeth could be damaged if you don’t properly brush their teeth after drinking juice.
  • It might cause your child to experience diarrhea.
  • If you exceed the 4 oz. a day rule, your child will be at risk for childhood obesity.
  • If you buy fruit juices with high levels of fructose, your child might experience gas and stomach pains.
  • If you choose juice that’s unpasteurized, you might introduce harmful bacteria to your baby’s system, such as E-coli and Salmonella.

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Here is an excellent and very detailed article from Pediatrics that discusses components of fruit juice that can be beneficial, which components are not, osmotic diarrhea, dangers of unpasteurized juice, etc: potential hazards of drinking juice

3 Reasons Some Parents Choose Not To Introduce Fruit Juice At All

1) It’s Loaded With Sugar

Even if you’re buying 100 percent pure fruit juice labeled “no added sugar,” fruit has tons of sugar in it and the fiber that exists in eating actual fruit is removed when processed to become juice.

High sugar intake causes blood sugar levels to rise and hyperactivity to occur.

High blood sugar levels tell your body that it has to store that energy as fat.

After this happens (and it happens fast) there’s a crash, and the tinier the body, the more dramatic that crash is.

The cycle looks something like this: juice-> blood sugar spike-> hyperactivity-> sugar stored as fat-> blood sugar crash-> tiredness and crankiness.

2) It Can Lead To Diabetes

Stable blood sugar levels is just one thing that regulates hunger.

When those levels are low, ghrelin is produced, aka “the hunger hormone.” Your brain then tells your body it needs more sugary foods to replace the sugar that’s been lost. It becomes with unhealthy cycle of craving, crashing, craving, crashing.

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: ” Here is a link that explains more about how this effects hunger and sugar intake from the Society of Endocrinology.”

Tons of research has been compiled to suggest that a link exists between juice and type 2 diabetes. Just 1 cup of fruit juice a day increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 21%.

This doesn’t mean ward off fruit. Eating whole fruits isn’t bad. The fiber keeps your bloodstream from absorbing all the sugar. Fiber-packed fruits keep you feeling full.

For example: there are 4-6 apples in a cup of apple juice, but a cup of apple juice won’t fill you up.

On the other hand, if you tried eating 4-6 apples in one sitting, it wouldn’t work as well. You’d likely be full after the third one.

Fiber in whole fruit keeps the body from going into the cycles of peaking and crashing that come with drinking juice.

3) Full Of Calories

One of three children in America are overweight. Of course we aren’t going to start counting calories with our little ones, but we do have to make sure we aren’t filling their bodies up with empty calories (such as those in a glass of juice) before or during meals.

Interesting fact: an 8oz cup of 100% orange juice has around 130 calories and 31 grams of sugar.

Consider Making Your Juice At Home

Though most juices advertise of their nutritional value, there is more nutritional value in making your own juice at home.

When juice is exposed to oxygen, the nutrients in it break down. This happens so much faster in juice then when eating whole fruit. Also, children who drink fresh juices are more likely to eat fresh fruits and veggies.

The following is an article that discusses the pros/cons of fresh juice from Harvard Medical School.

In clinical practice, I sometimes recommend cold-pressed juices or smoothies for “picky eater” toddlers and older children who, according to parents, “won’t eat fruits and vegetables.”

As opposed to not consuming these foods at all, I feel this is an easy, good-tasting way to incorporate fruits and veggies into the diet.

For the liquid base, I recommend using coconut water, milk, or unsweetened milk alternatives (in cases of milk protein allergy) rather than bottled fruit juice.

These options provide more flavor than water, but are lower in sugar.”

Wrapping It Up

There you have it! Your guide to what your baby’s relationship to juice should look like from age one to three.

You get to decide whether you buy juice or prepare it yourself at home – but either way, just remember to keep it at 4 oz. a day and 100% real.

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Medically Reviewed By: Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Medically Reviewed By: Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Leah Alexander, M.D. FAAP began practicing pediatrics at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey in 2000. She has been an independently contracted pediatrician with Medical Doctors Associates at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey since 2005. After graduating from Kalamazoo College and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, she completed her pediatric residency at Overlook and Morristown Memorial Hospitals. She is board certified in General Pediatrics.

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