Newly revised guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) advise parents they should not introduce juice into the diet of infants before 12 months of age. This is a tougher recommendation than the previous recommendations from the academy in 2001 of juice not being introduced before 6 months of age.
The APP guidelines state that ‘fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit for infants younger than 1 year’ and that ‘fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit and has no essential role in the healthy balanced diets of children’.
This recommendation is nothing new. In Australia our Infant Feeding Guidelines put released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2012 clearly state that ‘fruit juice and fruit drinks are not necessary or recommended for infants under 12 months’.
An Australian study from 2005 found that 23% of infants consumed juice by 6 months and 67% by 12 months, so the release of updated American guidelines serves a good reminder that juices are not necessary and can do harm in a young child’s diet.
Babies should be exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age, needing no other food or fluids. If an infant is not breastfed then a suitable infant formula should be used.
From 6 months of age family foods can be introduced to babies – however this does not need to include fruit juice. Under 1 year an infant’s diet is based on breastmilk or infant formula with increasing participation in family meals up until the age of one. From 6 months small amounts of cool boiled water can be offered with solids to practise use of a cup, however no other fluids should be offered.
Excessive juice consumption in infants and young children can lead to malnutrition, diarrhoea, tummy pains and tooth decay. If a baby is drinking juice it fills up their tummy and leave less room for breastmilk or formula (which contains all the nutrition they need until 6 months and then still the focus of their nutrition until 12 months) and can contribute to poor growth and nutritional deficiencies.
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All children should be encouraged to eat whole fruit rather than juice. The Australian Dietary guidelines recommends toddlers aged 1-2 years consume approximately ½ a serve of fruit each day (that’s about ½ an apple, a couple of strawberries or ½ a cup of diced fruit).
You can see from this that there is just no need or room for fruit juice in a toddler’s diet. If they are consuming fruit juice it can fill up their tummy leaving little room for the other important food groups.
Feeding young children can be confusing – if you are unsure what or when to feed your baby speak with your early childhood nurse. If you need further support seek assistance from a dietitian experienced working with families.