Bittersweet Breaking News For Babies: No Fruit Juice For You

Blog Juice Craft

Juice junkies become soda junkies as they get older, says Riley pediatrician Dr. Abby Klemsz. She’s thrilled with new guidelines issued this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Uh oh, guys. Baby Lily WON’T LIKE THIS!” a mom posted to Facebook.

“Sorry, the water isn’t satisfying little Benjamin’s sweet tooth,” another posted.

In what very likely could cause a few tears to be shed by the youngest of Americans, new guidelines were issued this week regarding fruit juice.

Don’t give it to babies.

The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics published Monday in the journal “Pediatrics” says children under the age of 1 should not drink fruit juice, due to concerns about childhood obesity and tooth decay.

It’s the first time the AAP has updated its guidelines regarding juice since 2001. Previously, the academy only banned fruit juice for babies six months and younger.

The reason behind the change is simple, says Brooke Fenneman, pediatric clinical dietitian specialist at Riley Hospital for Children. 

“Fruit juice offers little nutritional value and provides no essential role in the diet of infants younger than 1 year of age,” she says. “And it is often in replacement of breast milk or formula, which will dilute more vital nutrition intakes, such as protein, vitamins and minerals.”

Juice intake has also been associated with dental cavities, especially when offered in sippy cups. And excessive intake can lead to diarrhea and abnormal weight gain, Fenneman said.

There is also a less talked about problem for babies sipping on fruit juice all day – being underweight, says Abby Klemsz, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at Riley.

“They will carry a sippy cup all day,” Dr. Klemsz says. “And then they don’t get hungry at all.”

Dr. Klemsz was thrilled to hear about the new guidelines issued Monday by the AAP. She has been advocating less fruit juice for children for years.

Babies should be drinking only breast milk, formula or water, she says. And after that, stick to Monday’s updated guidelines for fruit juice.

Those are: No fruit juice for children younger than 1; 4 ounces daily for children 1 to 3 years; 4 to 6 ounces for children 4 to 6 years; and 8 ounces for children 7 and older.

Parents, however, must be careful not to be fooled by the packaging on bottles that say “fruit juice” or “fruit drink,” says Fenneman. If it’s not 100 percent fruit juice, the drink is simply adding empty calories from sugar.

Once old enough, Fenneman suggests kids get their daily intake of fruit without the juice at all.

“Children should be offered whole fruit to meet the daily recommended fruit intake,” she says. “This will also contribute fiber in the diet, which juices lack.”

Offering whole fruit builds the habit of not only staying away from other snacks, but hopefully halts the habit of sugary drinks as kids get older, Dr. Klemsz says.

“Juice junkies became soda pop junkies, as they get older,” she says. “They have to get their fix.”

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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