When Can You Give Your Baby Chocolate?

When It's Safe and How to Do It

Young Girl Eating Brownie Mix In Kitchen

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You may have heard conflicting advice about when to give your baby chocolate for the first time. You also may wonder if eating chocolate can cause an allergic reaction, and if so, what that reaction looks like.

The truth is that while an allergy to cacao (the bean that's the main ingredient in chocolate) is possible, it's extremely rare. In addition, in recent years the thinking about the timing of offering potentially allergenic foods has changed. While it used to be recommended that parents delay giving these foods to their children, research now suggests that introducing them between four and six months may actually benefit an infant at high risk for developing an allergic disease.

Baby, Meet Chocolate

There are no specific guidelines about when or how to give chocolate to a child for the first time. It's not really chocolate that is the concern, but the other ingredients contained in a chocolate product, whether that means potential allergens, added sugars, or caffeine.

Reading labels and having a plan with your child's pediatrician about when and how to introduce certain foods is key, especially if your child is at an increased risk of developing an allergic condition.

Be wary of choking hazards of chocolate. While a piece of chocolate birthday cake is likely soft, chocolate bars or baked goods that contain nuts or are hard can be dangerous for a very young child.

Chocolate and Sugar

Many foods that contain chocolate are higher in sugar and lower in fiber, which makes them less ideal first foods for baby. Although milk is a healthy choice for babies over one year old, chocolate milk often has added sugar. Eating and drinking too much added sugar puts children at risk for health problems like obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

Chocolate and Caffeine

While chocolate does not have as much caffeine as coffee, both milk and dark chocolate does contain some caffeine (white chocolate does not). Kids should consume caffeine very sparingly.

Encouraging Healthful Eating Habits

Offering your children plenty of nutritious foods can help them develop the healthy eating habits that lead to a well-balanced diet. If your older toddler is able to request chocolate and foods, consider serving dessert with (some) meals to encourage balance. This stops dessert from being something kids expect after dinner every day, and changes it from a "reward" food or a bribe to just another option among many. It also helps kids learn to make good choices and eat in moderation.

Of course, a bite or two of birthday cake on or before your child's first birthday won't cause cavities, a sugar rush, or a sudden caffeine buzz—it's about moderation, being realistic, and indulging in life's pleasures once in a while.

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Article Sources

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  2. Duckett SA. Choking. StatPearls [Internet]. Published April 9, 2019.

  3. Birch L, Savage JS, Ventura A. Influences on the Development of Children's Eating Behaviours: From Infancy to AdolescenceCan J Diet Pract Res. 2007;68(1):s1–s56. PMID: 19430591

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