When I was a young doctor, we thought apple juice was a great first drink for babies, but it turned out to be a bad idea, the early introduction of sugar addiction. (I strongly recommend you watch the documentary ‘Fed Up’ to understand the sneaky way sugar has infiltrated our entire food system!)
It turns out that fruit drinks and fruit juice are the food equivalent of an ‘alternative fact.’ Actually, the ‘fruit’ (the pulp and most nutritious parts of the fruit) is thrown away, leaving ‘juice’ (pretty much just sugar and water).
Fortunately, over the past few years, doctors have wised up. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises no juice for the first year of life, unless your doctor recommends it for managing constipation. (For that, I prefer aloe vera juice.)
Growing concerns for increased obesity and tooth decay prompted the stricter guidelines (previously, the AAP had said juice was okay at 6 months). So, your baby is better than fine without it.
For the first 6 months, babies should only have breastmilk or formula (it’s even better if you can breastfeed for a full year, per the AAP). But after you do wean, cows’ formula and water are the preferred drinks, until your baby’s first birthday. I also recommend offering non-caffeinated mint or chamomile sunshine tea. Just drop the tea bags in a pitcher of room temperature and let it sit in the sun and self-brew for an hour. They are naturally sweet without sugar…and kids love them!
After 1 year of age, pure 100% juice is OK as a special treat. Don’t think of it as a daily beverage for your little one to sip throughout the day. But that said, when you do give juice, AAP recommends you stay under the following daily limits:
- 4 oz. a day for 1 to 3-year-olds
- 4-6 oz. a day for 4 to 6-year-olds
- 8 oz. a day or 7-year-olds & up
Don’t let these juice restrictions confuse you about fruit, though—whole fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. When you introduce solids to your baby, pureed and mashed fruit should be part of the mix.