Can babies have sugar?

It’s generally recommended that babies under a year old not be given any added sugar, and it’s fairly common for a little one’s first exposure to sweets to be their first birthday cake. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that a little treat now and then can be a part of a healthy diet, though. Whether it’s a holiday or any other kind of special occasion, celebrations pretty commonly take the form of sweet treats, and it can feel wrong to exclude Baby when the rest of the family is celebrating.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to let your little one sample the sweet stuff on special occasions:

  • Bet Baby can’t eat just one: Before your little one’s first taste of sugar, they don't know what they're missing. If the sweetest thing they have ever tasted is fresh fruit, there’s a good chance that tasting something so much sweeter is going to wake their sweet tooth. Once they know what’s out there in terms of sweets, who knows where they'll want to stop?
  • The beginning of moderation: Baby’s first taste of added sugar may be the beginning of their desire for more added sugar, but it’s also your first opportunity to teach them moderation when it comes to eating sugary treats. If you teach them that sweets are goodies that we have a little bit of now and then, that’s what they are going to learn, and it’s a good idea for them to learn that from you early on, instead of learning something else from their friends when they start going to school later.
  • Enjoy responsibly: If Baby is going to get a head-start on trying out sweet treats, it’s important to make sure they are also on-track with their dental hygiene schedule. At this age, they should be brushing their teeth two times a day, for two minutes each time.

Once a child is around the 12-month mark, occasional treats aren’t generally a problem, but when sugar starts to become a part of the family’s routine, it can start to be a issue. The World Health Organization recommends that adults and children make sure that their sugar intake is only 10% or less of their daily energy intake, so it’s important to start setting up good habits around sweets now.

  • “AAP Recommends Whole Diet Approach to Children’s Nutrition.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, February 23 2015. Web.
  • “Fat, Salt, and Sugar: Not All Bad.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “Feeding Guide for the First Year.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Web.
  • “Have You Been Naughty or Nice to Your Teeth?” Mouth Healthy. American Dental Association, 2017. Web.
  • “WHO calls on countries to reduce sugar intake among adults and children.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, March 4 2015. Web.
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