CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For years, parents have been advised to avoid giving their babies anything to drink other than breast milk or formula while under the age of six months.
Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has expanded that recommendation to include all children under the age of one year.
According to Richard So, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, the concern is that fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit and could potentially replace things that a growing baby really needs.
“Breast milk or formula has the carbohydrates, the proteins, and the fats necessary for optimal growth,” said Dr. So. “Now, if you replace those nutrients – carbohydrates, fats, proteins – with just sugar and water, which is what’s in most fruit juices – your child’s not going to grow.”
Dr. So said another problem is that fruit juice is also typically high in sugar, which, if consumed too often, can predispose a child to become overweight.
He said it’s important to ask, ‘why are we giving a child sugar?’ Sometimes the problem is the association – that sugar is special – and something that a child receives as a reward.
Dr. So believes that using juice or any sweets as a reward is a bad idea- as this can lead the child to a pattern of ‘emotional’ eating down the road.
He said it can get tricky for parents, as many times juices are marketed as ‘healthy’ or full of vitamins, but he warns them not to be fooled.
Even after a child turns one, Dr. So said it shouldn’t mean that parents just let their kids drink as much juice as they wish.
He said it’s best to continue to give kids milk or water as their everyday drinks.
“At the meals, it should be milk or water,” said Dr. So. “Juice should be treated as a special occasion. I don’t think it should be treated as a special treat that you should get daily or that you should be rewarded with juice.”
Dr. So said that parents who want to let an older child have some juice should remember that not all juices are created equally. He said it’s best to stick to juices that are 100 percent juice and not ‘juice boxes’ which are mostly water and sugar.