No Your Baby Does Not NEED Juice!
Wondering what your infant should drink? The answer is super straightforward: breastmilk and/or infant formula (...and for older babies, maybe a bit of water).
But what about juice? Well...it's time to get judge-y about juice my friends!
As a dietitian and mom to 5 small children, I get this question all of the time - albeit in a variety of forms:
- "If my baby has diarrhea shouldn't I rehydrate with some juice?"
- "Isn't a little juice ok if I water it down?"
- "But what if it's 100% fruit juice?"
Hate to break it to you folks, but babies just don't need juice! I like to say that juice is great for little old ladies who can't keep weight on, or teenage boys who can't keep up with their calorie needs.
Nobody else NEEDS juice.
Ditch That Sippy Cup!
Which is contrary to what many parents think. We have been conditioned to "graduate" our babies from a bottle to a sippy cup...but kids don't actually need a sippy cup (they're just a convenient vessel for parents worried about spills...check out my Sippy Cup Showdown post here).
I always wonder and worry about what's IN those sippy cups that kids are toting around 24-7. If it's straight water for an older baby, that's fine. But too often sippy cups contain large portions of milk (more than a baby would need) or fruit juice, a drink that is not only unnecessary - but is actually inappropriate - for babies under age one.
Jumping on the New Juice Guidelines
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised their stance on fruit juice for small children - the first time they have done so since 2001. You can find the complete guidelines here, but here's a quick rundown of what's up with the new AAP recommendations:
- Avoid the use of juice in infants before 1 year of age (old guidelines didn't say "avoid")
- For toddlers age 1-3, max of 4 ounces of juice per day (but still...no "need" for juice here)
- For kids age 4-6, limit to 4-6 ounces of juice per day
- For kids age 7-18, limit to 8 ounces of juice per day
(To read more about the new AAP juice guidelines, check out this Healthline article that I contributed quotes and comments for.)
Why so Judge-y About Juice?
Juice has had an undeserved health halo for quite some time. So it's nice to see the AAP crack the whip on a concentrated source of sugar (even if it's fruit sugar...) that kids and especially babies just don't need.
Here's a little list of what's wrong with juice for babies:
- Juice doesn't contain fiber whereas whole, intact fruit does
- Juice is a concentrated source of fruit sugar that can cause diarrhea and GI distress
- Juice contributes excess calories that can lead to overweight and obesity
- Juice can increase risk of dental cavities
But What if I Water the Juice Down?
Nope. Still not necessary to give an adequately developing baby juice, even if it's watered down as it still may promote tooth decay and again...isn't necessary.
When it comes to watered down juice, the new AAP guidelines state:
- The dilution of juice with water does not necessarily decrease the dental health risks.
But What if My Baby Doesn't Like Water?
Gotta answer this question with another question, "How do you know your baby doesn't like water?" It's helpful to keep in mind that.you may have to expose a child to a food (or drink) 10-15 times before he or she accepts it.
Persistence pays off when it comes to kids and food acceptance. So keep on offering that water...it's in your baby's best interest to start liking water, but you have to help make that happen!
What About Raw or Unpasteurized Juices?
There's no need for juice in a baby's diet, but there's ABSOLUTELY no reason to introduce potentially dangerous pathogens through raw or unpasteurized juice products.
The process of pasteurization heats juice to kill any potentially harmful pathogens. It does not significantly alter the nutrition status of juice and can be harmful to people of all ages, but particularly infants, small children and pregnant women.
So What's the Word on Fruit for Babies?
If you're looking for a replacement for juice, why not try real, intact fruit? It's got that fiber that our kids need (from food, not supplements!) - plus it's always better to EAT not DRINK your fruit...and same goes for babies and kids.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans don't set recommendations for babies under two - but for kids 2-3, the guidelines say offer 1 cup of fruit per day, and for kids 4-8 try to get 1-1.5 cups of fresh fruit per day.
For your baby, it makes sense to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. If you're looking for a list of fruits your baby can try, click here to download 100 Foods for Your Baby to Try Before Turning One." and toss that juice cup once and for all!