Can Babies Eat Chocolate?
Yummy! For many of us, chocolate is a weakness. Once kids try it, they can hardly resist. But can babies eat chocolate? We’ll find out in this article.
It happens to all of us: you’re munching on a delicious chocolate bar when, in between bites, you look at your baby. There is a look of curiosity on their face. Surely a little taste wouldn’t hurt, you think.
You may feel the temptation to give your child chocolate during their first few months of life, but it’s best to avoid it. Experts recommend waiting until your child is between 12 and 14 months of age before letting them try this new food.
The most important thing you can do is consult your pediatrician about what your baby can and cannot eat. This is particularly important when it comes to sweets.
Chocolate can do your baby harm for reasons other than their young age: allergies and intolerances are fairly common.
Can babies eat chocolate?
Even though all you want is to give your baby the chance to try something new and tasty, eating chocolate at an early age can lead to allergies or other health complications. Chocolate can be hard to resist, but in this case, it’s important to put health first.
Many adults ignore expert advice and give babies chocolate. If there are no immediate side effects (other than perhaps an upset tummy), grown-ups let their guard down. They don’t think they’re doing any harm.
But be very careful: exposing your baby to sweet foods at such an early age can increase the risk of diabetes in the long term.
During the first few months of life, of course, the best recommendation for babies is a diet made up exclusively of breast milk or formula.
As your child grows, your pediatrician will let you know what other food you can incorporate into their diet.
Medical publications warn against letting babies eat chocolate up to 18 months of age. From this time on and up to five years of age, it’s best not to give a child more than 50 grams of chocolate per day.
What is wrong with letting babies eat chocolate?
One reason to avoid giving chocolate to small children is its high caffeine content. The Spanish Pediatrics Association’s Breastfeeding Committee goes so far as to advise breastfeeding mothers against consuming large amounts of chocolate, along with coffee, tea and soda.
These substances can reach the baby through your breast milk, and can lead to irritability or restlessness. If you feel the need for a chocolate bar or a caffeinated drink, make sure to time it immediately after breastfeeding.
What’s more, babies are sensitive to developing allergies, since their immune defences are still immature. At this stage, the ingredients in chocolate may be too much for your child’s immune system to handle, and may set off an allergic reaction.
If you have a family history of food allergies or digestive complications, it’s best to be on the safe side and wait until your child is 18 months old or until your specialist gives you the all clear. As well as chocolate bars and candies, avoid chocolate-flavored foods.
Minor allergic reactions may take several days to appear and can include diarrhea or constipation. In young children, they may occur after consuming difficult-to-digest foods such as milk, peanuts, wheat, gluten, soy, corn or berries.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Skin rashes
- Difficulty breathing
- Asthma-type symptoms
You may also notice:
- Nasal mucus
- Red or watery eyes
- Swelling of the mouth and throat
In general, dark chocolate with a lower dairy content is healthier and safer for young children to eat. The maximum amount of chocolate that children between 2 and 5 years of age should eat is 50 grams a day at most.
The fist time your child eats chocolate, it’s very important to be on the alert for possible symptoms that may be signs of an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients.
If children do eat chocolate, the best time is in the mid-morning or afternoon. This is a high-calorie food which is best eaten as a snack, not as part of a main meal.
Many candy bars contain far more sugar and caffeine than cocoa. Too much chocolate can interrupt or alter your child’s sleep pattern.
And of course, children with diabetes will need to be very careful about their chocolate consumption.