Ice cream is a real kid-pleaser, but it’s important to hold off until your baby is old enough to enjoy it safely. Most experts agree to wait until baby is 12 months.
Like many moms, I was always tempted to share treats with my children as babies. The face they would make when their tiny taste buds connected with a smidgen of frosting is one for the books. However, these tastings were few and far between.
It’s important to help your baby get off to a healthy start by setting the stage for nutritious eating. While the occasional, age-appropriate treat is okay, too much sugar is not good for baby. Some sweets, such as ice cream, contain milk which is not recommended for children under one year of age.
Infants are born with an established fondness of sweet flavors. This is not unusual as both amniotic fluid and breastmilk are sweet. Eating treats such as chocolate and ice cream too early outside the womb can reinforce their preference for sweets, making it more difficult to introduce bitter foods like vegetables.
What the Experts Say
“Listeria is bacteria that can cause serious illness in some people if they eat food contaminated with listeria bacteria. In the early days of starting new foods, babies are particularly susceptible. Your child has plenty of years ahead in which to eat foods like ice cream, so for now it is wise not to include them in his diet.”
– Baby & Toddler Food, Carol Fallows, Karen Kingham
“From the very first moments of life, babies love sweets; from day one and for the rest of their lives. Babies in utero prefer sweet flavors from around 14 weeks. As they grow older, children increasingly like sweet treats, and prefer more intense sweetness than adults. We are, in short, hardwired for sweets.”
– Sweet Treats Around the World, Timothy G. Roufs, Kathleen Smyth Roufs
“Babies are not supposed to be given cow’s milk until at least the age of one. Cow’s milk is higher in protein than mothers’ milk or formula, and can stress their kidneys and cause internal bleeding. This is because a baby’s digestive system is still immature and has not yet totally developed.”
– Development and Manufacture of Yogurt and Other Functional Dairy Products, Fatih Yildiz
“One can tell if the child’s diet is within reasonable limits or not by their stools. If the stools are healthy and formed and the child is not producing a superabundance of mucus, then their diet is probably not too far out of line.”
– A Handbook of TCM Pediatrics, Bob Flaws
“If your baby is at higher risk of allergy or has had any allergic reactions, you’ll want to continue to be vigilant about not giving your baby any cow’s milk protein until you have your doctor’s okay. On the other hand, if your baby has no risk of allergies and has shown no symptoms of allergy from any of the foods introduced so far, or anything else, it’s okay to give small amounts of dairy in the coming months.”
– Baby Bites, Bridget Swinney, M.S., R.D.
The Problem with Ice Cream
You should hold off on snacks like cookies, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream until your baby is 10 to 12 months old, according to Stanford Children’s Health. As ice cream is a dairy product, the concern for most parents and health providers extend past the high sugar issue. The problem lies with the whole milk and cream contained in most commercial ice creams. Babies can be sensitive to milk proteins until after age one.
Other ingredients found in ice cream can also be problematic for babies under 12 months. Ice cream typically contains preservatives, fat, food coloring, and other artificial ingredients that can be harsh on an underdeveloped digestive system. Whole milk and other ingredients can be hard for babies to digest. Poor digestion can result in gas buildup, abdominal pain, and colic issues.
Alternatives to Ice Cream
If you want to give your baby a sweet treat but avoid the dangers associated with ice cream, consider healthy alternatives. Homemade fruit smoothies, fruit custard, chilled fruit purees, and flavored yogurts are all excellent options. When serving these types of sweets to your child, pay close attention to the ingredients and sugar content.
While many parents want to introduce their babies to new and tasty foods like ice cream, doing so too soon can result in health problems. If your little one is under 12 months, wait on the ice cream and offer healthier alternatives instead.