I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Except babies – they don’t know what they’re missing yet. With all that added sugar, this isn’t such a bad thing. Although ice cream may seem like a fun treat for your baby, it should be a very occasional dessert at best. So when can babies have ice cream for the first time? Although in some cases 6 months is safe, waiting until 12 months is ideal, says Lauren Crosby, MD, a pediatrician at La Peer Pediatrics in Beverly Hills, California.
“Though it may not be dangerous for your baby to have a little taste of ice cream once she is 6 months old and above, there are some potential problems,” Crosby says. “Ice cream could contain ingredients that are dangerous for infants like honey or some potential allergens, for example.”
Babies aren’t supposed to have honey before the one-year mark because of the risk of botulism, a type of poisoning. According to the Centers for Control Disease and Prevention, honey can contain the bacteria that causes botulism, so adults should never feed it to babies younger than 12 months old. If you do feed your baby even a bite of ice cream before 12 months, read the ingredients to ensure it doesn’t include honey.
Ice cream can contain other common allergens such as nuts, peanut butter, and dairy. If your baby has a reaction to their first scoop, it can be difficult to know which allergen caused it. For this reason, when you do introduce ice cream, you may want to try ice creams that are free of potential allergens beyond dairy.
You’ll also need to watch out for any potential choking hazards, Crosby says. “Though the food pieces that are potentially in ice cream might be something your baby has eaten before, when frozen they’re hard, so they become a choking hazard,” she says.
No matter the type of ice cream, moderation is key. Ice cream should never be a regular part of your baby’s diet because it contains too much added sugar. Children under 24 months should avoid foods with added sugar whenever possible because eating it before this age has been linked to obesity and cavities, and it’s a risk factor for heart disease later in life. Not to mention that once your baby gets used to added sugars, it’s hard to go back. “Babies may develop a preference for sweets over other foods, especially if they’re offered frequently,” Crosby says.
So even if your baby does scream for ice cream, they should only enjoy a scoop on the rare special occasion.