The healthy answer is, it’s much better not to give your baby fruit juice. Hold off as long as you can before introducing juice – and then make sure it’s very diluted and do it at mealtimes.
When is the earliest time?
Not before the age of 6 months. Before this, the only drinks that are suitable for your baby are breastmilk, formula milk and cooled boiled water. Even once you start weaning at 6 months, it’s best to avoid giving your baby fruit juice.
Fruit juice tends to be very acidic – especially orange juice – which can be harsh on your baby’s delicate digestive tract and also affect the enamel of his newly formed teeth. Overall, it’s better for your baby to eat the fruit than drink its juice, as when whole fruit is pulped to make juice it realeases more of the fruit sugar.
Juice does, however, provide vitamin C, and giving orange juice alongside a meal can help your baby to absorb the iron from his food. This can be particularly useful if you’re breastfeeding beyond six months, as breastmilk doesn’t contain enough iron to meet your growing baby’s needs.
If you do offer your baby juice, always dilute it one part juice to 10 parts water. Never give juice from a bottle, as this causes it to pool around your baby’s teeth and could cause decay. It’s best to give juice only at mealtimes; this helps protect the teeth and also stops your baby filling up on juice at times when he should be drinking milk.
Fruit squashes are best avoided for babies under 12 months old. It’s better to get your child used to water being his main drink, but if you do give him squash, make sure it’s well diluted, and choose a full-sugar version rather than sugar-free, as these contain sweeteners which have been linked with allergies and behavioural problems in children.
Answered by: Ceri Morgan and Ann Souter, nutritional therapists from recipeforhealth.co.uk