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When can I give my baby fruit juice?

Q: Many grandparents remember giving babies rosehip syrup, blackcurrant syrup or orange juice for vitamin C. I am looking after my 5 month-old baby grand daughter. When can I give her fruit juice?

A: Some years ago extra vitamin C was recommended for bottle-fed babies. But today modern formulas have vitamin C added. Breast milk too provides vitamin C.

Infants, especially under six months, do not need fruit juices for nutrition.

Most fruit juice is too concentrated. It is high in sugars, either as the natural fruit sugar (fructose), or from added sucrose. Excessive sugar from fruit juice can lead to diarrhoea. And giving sweet drinks from an early age may encourage a preference for sweet drinks and foods.

There are times when babies (especially if bottle fed), require extra fluids. Offer cooled, boiled water -it is a better thirst quencher than juice.

Once a baby begins solids she will get vitamin C from fruits and vegetables.

When baby is over six months, if you do give juice, dilute it well, using only 5 ml (1 teaspoon) fruit juice to 50ml water. Freshly squeezed orange juice, diluted with cooled boiled water is fine. Or use blackcurrant syrup diluted 1 part to 10 of water.

Offer diluted juice from a cup. Don't let a baby or older child suck on a bottle of sweet fruit juice over prolonged periods of time as this can be damaging to teeth. Restrict juices to meal or snack times.

Rather than giving juice to drink, why not boost vitamin C by mixing a little orange juice with baby's mashed banana or avocado?

Around 8 months, for extra vitamin C, offer segments of mandarin, tangelo or orange (peel away the tough membrane), and follow with a drink of milk or water. Other fresh fruits high in vitamin C are kiwifruit, strawberries, honeydew and rock melon, feijoa, pawpaw, mango and blackberries.

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