Guidelines for Giving a Toddler Juice

Danish girl, 1 years old, drinking orange juice
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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), fruit juice has no nutritional value to children age 1 and younger – and it should not be included in their diet. The recommendation for infants (up to 12 months old) is that they drink breast milk or formula only.

This, outlined in the organization's 2017 recommendations, is a change from earlier guidelines that juice was not suggested for children younger than 6 months. The AAP notes that the expansion of the recommendation to include a baby's entire first year comes because of rates of childhood obesity and dental issues.

Juice can have a place in your child's diet, should you choose, but think before you pour.

When to Start Giving a Baby Juice

It's important to remember that the AAP stating that toddlers can have juice doesn't mean they encourage it. Milk and water are preferred as beverages after one year of age.

If you do opt to give your older child juice, here is what the AAP recommends:

  • Ages 1 to 3: 4 ounces or less daily
  • Ages 4 to 6: 4 to 6 ounces or less daily
  • Ages 7 to 18: 8 ounces or less daily, or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit servings per day

Keep in mind that this is really a daily limit rather than a recommendation to drink juice daily.

Some say constipation in infants under six months can be improved by some specific fruit juices; always check with your pediatrician before trying this.

Reasons to Consider Offering Water More Often Than Juice

There are several reasons to consider limiting juice consumption in children older than one (it should be avoided entirely for babies younger than one year old).

Whole fruit provides nutrients and fiber that growing children need, and introduces kids to a variety of textures. All of these things are important for health and development. While juice offers nutrients, it does not offer fiber or textural variety. Excessive fruit juice consumption delivers the nutrients in the juice but takes the place of a wider variety of foods. That means children are missing out on the nutrient variety of those foods.

The AAP notes that “excessive juice consumption may be associated with malnutrition (overnutrition and undernutrition).” It recommends not serving juice in sippy cups or bottles, but instead, if you are offering juice, to serve it in a cup, with a meal. This is to limit mindless juice intake, or using juice to hydrate instead of water, and can help prevent excessive consumption. 

Another important reason to encourage mindful consumption of juice from a cup and with a meal, when it is offered, is tooth decay. This is particularly a concern in kids who consume more juice than the AAP recommendations and/or sip throughout the day. A constant washing of juice over teeth exposes them to carbohydrates, which can cause tooth decay.

Drinking fruit juice can also contribute to toddler's diarrhea, as well as painful bloating and excessive flatulence. If you think fruit juice causes your child to have any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss with your pediatrician or a registered dietitian who can help evaluate if juice consumption is correlated with symptoms and how to adjust to reduce the symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Like anything with parenting, this, too, comes down to making choices that work for your family and discussing those choices with your pediatrician. Do children need juice in order to be healthy? No. Can juice be a part of a healthy diet? Yes. It’s important not to vilify juice when talking to kids and teens about it but to instead set a limit you and your pediatrician feel comfortable with and then offer other beverages (water or milk).

Some additional reminders from the AAP can help you as you go:

  • Choose 100 percent fresh or reconstituted fruit juice.
  • Ensure that your child's diet is otherwise healthy and balanced.
  • Only give kids juice that has been pasteurized.
  • Provide juice in a cup, never a sippy cup or bottle.
  • Do not give juice to kids at bedtime or during the night.
  • If your child takes medication, check to be sure that grapefruit juice will not interfere with its effectiveness or cause side effects before serving it.
  • Avoid reaching for fruit juice as a treatment for dehydration or diarrhea.

If your child drinks juice and is falling off, or exceeding, their growth curve, discuss with your pediatrician if juice may be playing a role in growth disruption.

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