As therapists we often visit families homes where babies are sucking juice out of bottles at 6 months old (or sooner!) and toddlers are carrying around juice filled sippy cups all day long.
Juice is good for them right? Well, not really. Actually, young children do not really need juice to be healthy. Real fruit is a much healthier choice. Juices all vary, but many are packed with sugar. Yes, juice contains vitamin C, but drinking excessive amounts of juice can cause obesity and also tooth decay. Juice can also cause diarrhea. Babies who are breast fed and given juice may even nurse less, when the nutrients in the breast milk is what they really need, not the juice.
If you feel that you have to give juice to your baby be sure they are at least 6 months old which is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your baby or toddler is currently drinking juice here are some general guidelines:
- Infants younger than 6 months absolutely do not need juice.
- Read labels and look for juices that are 100% juice-products labeled cocktails, beverages or drinks are usually not 100% juice.
- Never give juice in a bottle and do not let toddlers with sippy cups drink juice from them all day (this causes tooth decay) or go to nap or bed time with their juice cups.
- Dilute juice with half juice and half water.
- Limit juice intake to a 4-6 ounces per day and be aware that sippy cups may hold twice that much, so measure!
- Do not give juice at bedtime.
- Offer actual fruit in place of juice which is much better for them & contains fiber
- If you start with offering water from a cup instead of juice a child will not refuse water or begin to prefer juice over it.
- Do not offer juice before a meal or your child will eat less or not be hungry at all.
- Excessive juice drinking has been known to lead to malnutrition due to the decreased intake of essential nutrients and can also interfere with carbohydrate absorption in children.