Citrus fruits -- such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines -- are very acidic and can cause stomach upset or diarrhea in babies. That's why doctors recommend that you wait until your child is at least 12 months old to offer any citrus fruits or juices. What's so special about turning 1? That's the age when most babies' digestive system is fairly developed and can handle the acid in these fruits without problems.
As with any juice, dietitians recommend diluting orange juice so it's at least one part water to three parts juice. Diluting the juice makes it easier on your child's stomach and reduces the total amount of juice your child drinks. Because drinking too much juice of any kind has been linked to both obesity and malnourishment in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- No juice at all before 6 months. No citrus juice before 12 months.
- When offering juice to your baby, serve it in a cup, not a bottle, to discourage prolonged sipping.. Juice can easily pool around your child's teeth, and the sugar in juice can lead to tooth decay.
- Children from 1 to 6 years old should drink no more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day.
- When buying juice, make sure it's 100 percent real fruit juice. Many fruit drinks contain only small amounts of real fruit juice.
"Before you offer your child a piece of orange, make sure to pick out any seeds, and peel all the rind and membrane off, as they are difficult to chew and can cause a toddler to gag or choke," says Susan Moores, a registered dietitian in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. And until your baby is at least 2 years old and can chew his food well, always cut citrus fruits into bite-size pieces. Larger pieces may seem soft and easy to chew, but they're slippery and can inadvertently slide down your child's throat and cause choking.
My sister gave her baby grapefruit and orange wedges to chew on. Is this a safe snack for babies?
It is best to hold off on introducing citrus fruits until your baby is at least one year old. Citrus fruits commonly cause allergies or food-sensitivity reactions, such as a diaper rash.
Because of the potential for an allergic reaction, when you do introduce oranges, grapefruits and other citrus foods, do so gradually, beginning with small amounts served over the course of several days. Monitor your child for symptoms such as hives, rashes or wheezing. If you think your child is allergic, avoid all citrus fruits including tomatoes and strawberries. Hold off on citrus juices as well.
Young children also have problems eating citrus fruits due to the membrane. Peeling away the stubborn membrane can be a laborious task. You may find that serving canned mandarin oranges is the best first citrus to introduce because the membranes are tender and more easily chewed.
Once your child is past the critical age for introducing potentially allergenic food, adding citrus as a snack is great idea. Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C. There is no need to worry that your baby can't get enough vitamin C without them. There are plenty of other, baby-friendly foods that provide vitamin C. Some delicious, vitamin C-rich foods that baby can enjoy include baked potatoes, tender cooked broccoli, spinach and cabbage. Many babies enjoy ripe papaya or cantaloupe, both of which are high in vitamin C and A. Under the age of one, a baby needs 35 milligrams of vitamin C each day.