Pediatricians Group Urges Parents to Stop Giving Juice to Babies

Pediatricians Group Urges Parents to Stop Giving Juice to Babies

New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics warn parents against giving fruit juice to babies younger than 1 and only in limited amounts to older children.
 

To many parents, giving fruit juice to babies seems like a win-win: a liquid our child will slurp down eagerly, offering them needed hydration and all-important healthy fruit. I certainly thought that way when my first child was born. However, as I later learned, fruit juice is not the healthy alternative to milk or water that so many of us think it is. To help guide parents and clear up misconceptions around juice, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation on May 22 that parents refrain from giving fruit juice to children younger than 1; for older kids, juice should be limited, with fresh fruit always much preferable to juice. 

The truth about juice is that it contains high amounts of sugar and doesn't have the high fiber content of fruit that is eaten in its natural state (not juiced). Juice contributes to many of the kids’ health problems facing today’s children, including obesity, according to the AAP’s statement. 

“We know that excessive fruit juice can lead to excessive weight gain and tooth decay,” said Steven A. Abrams, M.D., F.A.A.P., co-author of the AAP’s statement, in a press release. “Pediatricians have a lot of information to share with families on how to provide the proper balance of fresh fruit within their child’s diet.”

Aside from recommending that babies refrain from juice entirely, the AAP goes on to recommend limits on how much juice older kids should be allowed to drink: 

  • No more than 4 ounces per day for children ages 1-3
  • No more than 4-6 ounces per day for children 4-6
  • For kids 7-8, no more than 8 ounces per day, or the equivalent of 1 cup of the 2-2½ cups of fruit recommended daily for older kids.
 

Other recommendations from the AAP include refraining from offering children juice at bedtime (because of the risk of tooth decay from the sugar), and not giving toddlers sippy cups of juice that they can drink throughout the day. The statement also tells parents that fruit juice is not appropriate in the treatment of dehydration or management of diarrhea.

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The new guidelines are a revision to previous recommendations that advised parents to avoid giving babies juice before they were 6 months old. Now that timeframe has been expanded to include a child’s first 12 months.

The full set of recommendations, entitled “Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations” is set to be published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

In response to the AAP's announcement, the Juice Products Association, an industry group, released a statement supporting the new recommendations while focusing on research indicating that "children who drink juice actually eat more whole fruit than children who don’t drink juice."

"The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans classify one serving of 100% fruit juice as equivalent to one serving of whole fruit," the statement concludes. "One-hundred-percent fruit juice is a nutrient dense beverage, and when incorporated as a complement to whole fruit in the diet for children older than one year, helps to improve fruit intake, especially among populations with limited access to fresh fruit."

In our house, we’ve avoided having juice as a regular beverage for years now, since learning of its potential harm and lack of benefits. We don’t insist that our kids refrain from it entirely—they can have it sometimes as a treat, and I am sure they drink it at friends’ houses, school, and elsewhere, and that’s fine with me. But all in all, they don’t miss it as a regular fixture in the fridge, and are perfectly fine sticking with water most of the time. 

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Updated 5/23/17 to add response from the Juice Products Association.