Infants should not be drinking fruit juice in their first year of life, according to a new report from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This is the first time since 2001 that AAP has toughened its stance on fruit juice—until now, the organization only recommended waiting six months to introduce juice into your baby’s diet.
This may come as a surprise to new parents, as fruit juice is often thought of as a tasty, healthy drink for kids. But AAP writes that juice does not offer much nutrition for newborns, and can even prove to dangerous for their long-term health. Fruit juice “offers no nutritional benefits for infants younger than 1 year,” according to the report, which goes on to argue that most fruit juice has less in common with fruit than it does with soda. The report also highlights a handful of studies that suggest links between excessive juice consumption and malnutrition, obesity, and cavities.
One study mentioned in the report suggests that children who consume fruit juice have shorter statures than other children; another suggests that certain compounds in fruit juice can have harmful interactions with pediatric drugs. One of the most salient concerns is that babies who drink fruit juice also tend to consume less breast milk. That’s a problem because breast milk and infant formula contain all of the nutrients that children need for their first year of life. When children skimp on these nutrients, that can stunt their growth and damage their overall health in the long run.
The Juice Products Association voiced its agreement with the AAP’s recommendation of keeping juice out of the diet of a child in their first year. But they also cited the potential benefits of juice for children over the age of one, noting that “national surveys consistently show that Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, yet research indicates that children who drink juice actually eat more whole fruit than children who don’t drink juice.”
But potential for harm aside, perhaps the most compelling reason to hold off on fruit juice is that it simply serves no purpose. AAP puts it ever so bluntly: juice “has no essential role in healthy, balanced diets of children.”