Citrus for Babies: When and How to Introduce

image001Citrus fruits are both delicious and good for health because they are packed with vitamins, fiber and minerals. You might want your baby to benefit from all the vitamin C that citrus has to provide, but is it appropriate to give citrus fruits to babies?

A baby’s body is a clean slate and his stomach cannot digest food like an adult stomach can. Any diet that has to be introduced to a baby should be done so slowly and gradually. For this reason, babies should be breastfeed for the first 4 months of life and then slowly started on semi-solid food along with milk and eventually solid food. Citrus for babies can prove to be tougher on a baby’s stomach than you think. Therefore, you must not feed them fruits that their bodies are not ready to digest.

When Can Babies Eat Citrus?

Before a baby is one year old, he/she needs only about 35mg of Vitamin C per day. Some rich sources of vitamin C other than citrus fruits include broccoli, cabbage, spinach, baked potatoes, ripe papaya, cantaloupe etc. All these can be fed to the baby if you worry that your baby might not be getting enough vitamin C. It is better to use these alternative sources of vitamin C than citrus fruits because citrus fruits can sometimes cause allergies or food sensitivity reactions in children.

These allergic reactions are more common in children less than one year of age and manifest usually as diaper rashes, hives or wheezes. To prevent full blown allergic reactions to citrus fruits, you should introduce them gradually in the diet with small amounts given over a period of several days. As you give them, check for any signs of allergy. If your child is allergic, then avoid giving him/her any type of citrus fruit including strawberries and tomatoes and even citrus juice.

Sometimes children cannot eat citrus fruits due to the membranes attached to it. Instead of laboriously peeling away all the membranes on the fruit, you can use canned mandarin oranges which have tender membranes and are easy to chew.

After the age of one year, the likelihood of the baby getting allergic to citrus fruits reduces. You can introduce citrus fruits as a snack then.

How Can You Introduce Citrus To Babies?



Take it slow

Slowly introduce citrus fruits after the baby is one year old. The citrus acid in the fruit can cause adverse reactions if given to a baby younger than one year of age.

Watch out for allergic reaction

After you give citrus fruits to your baby, watch for any signs or indications of allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to citrus fruits can manifest as rashes, swelling inside and around the mouth, wheeze, hives, nausea or vomiting. Food sensitivity reactions to citrus fruits present as diaper rashes and are fairly common in children less than 12 months of age.

Cut citrus into pieces

Cut the fruit into fingertip-sized pieces. These small pieces are easier for the baby to swallow and reduce the hazard of choking.

Mix citrus with another food

Sometimes babies do not like the bitter taste of citrus juice. If that happens, you can try mixing the fruit with another food. Mixing citrus fruit with foods such as yogurt give it a pleasant taste. However, make sure that you mix the citrus juice with a food that the baby is not allergic to and has eaten before. This is to ensure that if there is an allergic reaction, you would know which food caused it.

Wait until your baby is ready

Since citrus fruits contain citric acid, it can sometimes upset the baby’s stomach. This is especially common in children with stomach issues such as acid reflux disease and other sensitivities. For these babies, it is better to wait until the babies are a little older before introducing citrus fruits.

More Tips on Introducing Citrus to Babies

1. Wait for Three Days Before Moving to the Next

When you introduce a new food to a baby, wait for at least three days before introducing another new food. This can allow you to monitor the baby for any adverse reactions caused by the food and you can easily stop feeding him that. Apart from allergies and food sensitivity reactions such as diaper rash, citrus can cause acidity in a baby due to gastro-esophageal reflux disease.

2. Keep a Food Journal

Keeping a food journal can help you keep a track of all that the baby ate and also remember his/her reactions to the new food, what he/she liked or didn’t like and what was safe for him/her. This is a great way to keep a track of your baby’s diet.

3. Talk to the Doctor If You Are Still Concerned

If you are still unsure about introducing citrus for babies, then just ask your pediatrician’s opinion.

Frequently Asked Questions About Citrus for Babies

1. What Should Be Concerned About Citrus?

The only concern parents have about citrus fruits is that they contain citric acid. Although citric acid does not put the child in any real danger, it has been known to cause allergic reactions such as diaper rashes in babies. These reactions can even occur in babies who have never developed any allergic reaction or food sensitivity to another food before. If you decide to give citrus fruits to your baby for the first time, then just be aware of the warning signs and look out for them.

2. What Are the Alternatives to Citrus?

There are so many foods other than citrus fruits that can fulfill the daily requirement of vitamin C in a child. As mentioned before, only 35mg of vitamin C is needed in a baby per day and this requirement can be fulfilled easily by other foods.

Melons such as cantaloupe are a good source of vitamin C that are both sweet and easy to chew for a baby. It also has a low incidence of food allergies and sensitivity reactions.

Ripe papayas, baked potatoes and spinach are some other alternatives to citrus fruits that you can give to a baby. Just remember not to give the food in the form of balls to reduce the hazard of choking.