Citrus Fruits For Babies

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Citrus fruits for babies are a healthy and nutritious addition to every day meals. The recommends different age groups from various citrus fruits to help with the constipation, dehydration, and diarrhea problems that can plague all newborns. Did you know that citrus fruits are completely safe to give to babies? Whether your child is anaemic or just loves sweet delicious fruit, citrus fruits are a blast to eat. Here’s a list of the best citrus fruits for babies.

Can Babies Eat Oranges: What Parents Need to Know

At first glance, this might seem like an odd question. Why are we talking about oranges in particular? What makes them different from any other fruit you might feed your baby?

Well, when you think about it, they’re different in quite a lot of ways. Oranges, unlike bananas, pears, or melons, are a pulpy, stringy, citrus fruit. Those factors make a difference in when and how you should feed it your baby for the first time.

The most common age recommended for the introduction of citrus fruits is around 12 months. You want to be sure that your baby is older and successfully chewing foods before introducing oranges. Though pediatricians no longer recommend delaying a child’s exposure to foods to prevent allergies — in fact, it seems that eating some foods earlier may help prevent some reactions — the issue with oranges and other citrus fruit is not just possible allergies, but also the reaction that babies can have to the acidity and the risk of choking.

Here are some points to keep in mind.

Acidity

Citrus fruits are acidic, which means when the fruit is metabolized it produces acid. Though adults’ stomachs can handle the acidity of an orange, babies’ stomach are much more sensitive and may not react well to the level of acidity.

If babies are given oranges too early, the acidity may, in some cases, cause diaper rash and redness around the mouth. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has an allergy to the fruit. It’s simply a skin reaction to the acidity.

The acidity may also cause an upset stomach or increase acid reflux symptoms if your child has problems with acid reflux.

As with most parenting decisions, it’s best to use your common sense here. Do you or other members of your immediate family have food allergies? Has your child routinely suffered from acid reflux? Are you considering giving a large scoop of pulpy orange to a 2-month-old? In those cases, it would be wise to wait a little longer to give your child acidic fruits.

If, on the other hand, your child is around 12 months old and you have no reason to suspect they have allergies, then go ahead and dish it up.

The Membrane

One of the tricky parts of feeding babies oranges is the clear membrane that holds the sections together. Those can be hard for even adults to gnaw through.

You can try either cutting up each section into small pieces or peeling off the membrane yourself. For those of you who aren’t interested in an afternoon of membrane peeling, canned mandarin oranges are both small and have thin membranes.

Other Sources of Vitamin C

You don’t have to worry that your baby isn’t going to get enough vitamin C just because they aren’t eating oranges. Babies only need around 35 mg of vitamin C per day. You can get that from a bunch of other baby-friendly fruits and vegetables, including:

How to Introduce Oranges to Your Baby

Introduce oranges slowly and in small amounts. A few small spoonfuls a day might be a good place to start.

Watch for any reaction during the next two to three days. Look for reddening skin around the mouth and keep track of whether or not they develop a diaper rash. Diaper rashes may, of course, be unrelated to citrus fruits, but it’s important to pay attention just in case the two are related. If your child has hives, swelling, vomiting, wheezing, or trouble breathing, seek medical attention right away.

Make sure the pieces of orange are cut into very small pieces (e.g., smaller than the size of a dime.) And, always stay with your baby when they are eating.

When Can a Baby Have Orange?

Introducing new foods to your baby is an exciting and fun time. You can watch them explore new tastes and textures as they learn about eating. 

Oranges may seem like a healthy choice since they are full of vitamin C, but the acidity of the fruit might not be good for your baby’s digestion and might cause an allergic reaction. To avoid a bad reaction, you should wait until after one year of age to allow your baby’s digestive system to mature.  

Introducing Your Baby to Oranges

By the time your baby is one year old, they might seem like an old pro at trying new foods. Or maybe they’ve learned to be cautious of new foods that taste different than what they’re used to. Either way, have fun introducing a new category of foods to your baby’s diet — citrus! 

Oranges have to be peeled before eating, and the membrane left around individual slices may still be tough after the skin has been removed. You can start out by offering canned mandarin oranges first since the outer membrane is softer and more palatable. Just make sure the canned fruit doesn’t have added sugar. 

If your baby doesn’t like oranges at first, continue offering them on a regular basis. You might have to offer a new food a few times before your baby begins liking it. Citrus fruits have a distinct flavor that may take time to get used to.

Nutritional Benefits of Oranges for Your Baby

Oranges are well known for having a high dose of vitamin C, which helps your immune system stay strong. But oranges also have other nutrients like potassium, folate, and thiamin. Additionally, oranges have high water content, so they help your baby stay hydrated. 

How to Prepare Oranges for Your Baby

The first time your baby eats orange, cut the pieces up to be about the size of your baby’s fingertip to prevent choking. Gradually cut the pieces bigger as your baby grows. If the orange is too acidic at first, try mixing it with other foods like yogurt. This helps cut the acidity as your baby adjusts to a very new taste. 

You may be tempted to offer your baby orange juice, but be sure to check nutrition labels for added sugar. You shouldn’t give juice to babies under one year old, and even if your baby is old enough, make sure to only give them 100% fruit juice.


Tips for Introducing New Foods to Your Baby

Before offering solid food for the first time, ask these questions:

  • Can my baby hold their head up independently? This is an important developmental milestone for eating solid food.
  • Is my baby interested in eating? Your baby may watch you eat with interest, or even try to grab your food and taste it. When you offer your baby a spoon, they should open their mouth to eat.
  • Can my baby move food to their throat? If you offer food with a spoon, your baby may push it out with their tongue first. This is called the tongue-thrust reflex. With time they will learn to use their tongue to push the food to the back of their mouth and swallow.

Offer a variety. As your baby starts to eat solid foods, they need variety in their diet. This helps ensure your baby is receiving all of the nutrients they need and also helps expand their palate for new tastes. 

Normalize new foods. Once you introduce a new food to your baby and you’ve confirmed they aren’t allergic to it, try to offer it to them again at least twice a week. Not only does this familiarize your baby with new foods, but it can also prevent food allergies from developing. Additionally, when your baby is learning to eat, they watch you. Make sure you offer them the same foods the rest of the family is eating for encouragement.

Consider Allergens. By the time your baby is 12 months old, they should be introduced to each of the common allergenic foods:

  • Cooked egg
  • Creamy peanut butter
  • Cow’s milk (dairy)
  • Tree nuts (such as cashew or almond paste)
  • Soy
  • Sesame
  • Wheat
  • Fish and other seafood

‌By introducing these foods early in life, you can reduce your baby’s chance of developing food allergies. Only introduce one new food at a time, and wait at least three days before introducing another so you can monitor your baby’s response to the food in case of an allergic reaction. 

If you notice your baby having an allergic reaction, stop feeding them that food immediately. If the reaction is characterized by swollen lips, eyes, or face; hives; or vomiting, call their pediatrician. If you suspect anaphylaxis, characterized by swelling of the tongue or difficulty breathing, call an ambulance immediately. 

When can babies eat oranges?

Oranges may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

Background and origins of oranges

Oranges range in flavor from bitter to sweet. The sweet ones are descendants of the mandarin and the pomelo—a happy pairing thousands of years ago in Southeast Asia that spawned hundreds of varieties that now grow in warm, humid climates around the world. Some oranges have seeds, others do not, and the flesh reflects shades of the sun, from the coral pink Cara Cara, to the ruby red Tarocco, to the bright golden Satsuma, to the fiery saffron Valencia. Orange season varies depending on where you live but considering that the citrus is the world’s most cultivated fruit tree, you will likely find one variety or another in your local market all year long.

Oranges are often eaten fresh or squeezed for their sweet juice, but the citrus is also used to make essence, oil, peel, and more. For our purposes, the information here is about the fruit itself. Check out how to introduce oranges safely to babies.

Are oranges healthy for babies?

Yes. Oranges contain tons of vitamin C, which powers baby’s immune system and aids the absorption of iron from plant foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Oranges also contain some B-vitamins (including folate), as well as beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A), and many other beneficial plant nutrients such as carotenoids and phenols.1 The pulp also contains fiber to promote gut health, antioxidants, and other plant chemicals like beta cryptoxanthin, which offers anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory benefits, and more.

Are canned oranges okay? Yes, but try to choose fresh fruit when possible. Canned fruit is often soaked in a lye solution to remove the fruit skins and usually contains added sugar which often shows up as “100% fruit juice” for preservation.Food preferences start early, and kids who are regularly offered canned fruit (which is softer and sweeter) naturally learn to love it. Of course, fruit is better than no fruit. Do what you can with the budget and resources available to you.

★Tip: Some oranges, like grapefruit, may interact with medications. If your child is taking medications of any kind, talk with your health care professional to learn more.

Can babies drink orange juice?

No. Juice of any kind should not be given to babies unless directed to do so by a health provider. After the first birthday, small amounts of juice (less than 4 ounces a day, ideally diluted with water to reduce sweetness) may be safely offered. That said, we believe that it is best to wait to serve juice until age two and even then, to limit the amount offered to minimize sugar (including natural sugar) in your child’s diet. Regular and especially excessive consumption of sweet beverages (even naturally sweet drinks like orange juice) may reduce the diversity of foods and nutrients consumed and increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and dental caries. Plus, whole oranges are more nutritious than juice.

Are oranges a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Citrus segments (if left in the surrounding membrane) and seeds are choking hazards for babies and children. To minimize the risk, serve the orange on the rind for baby to gnaw and suck on and/or supreme the fruit to cut the orange segments away from the membrane. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are oranges a common allergen?

It’s complicated. Orange is not classified as a common food allergen in the United States. However, self-reported sensitivity to citrus is described frequently in medical literature around the world. Also, individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to citrus fruits such as oranges. In particular, individuals who are allergic to grass and certain tree pollens may also be more sensitive to citrus fruits.Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.

In some cases, allergy to proteins in orange can result in serious reactions. There is evidence to suggest that the major allergens causing serious allergic reactions to orange are concentrated within the seed of the fruit—and while uncommon, chewing the seeds may be responsible for allergic reactions.

There are also reports of orange ingestion contributing to eczema. In addition to being sweet, many oranges are also acidic, and the acid in citrus fruit can cause a harmless rash on the skin, typically around the mouth. It usually dissipates shortly after it shows up.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you prepare oranges for babies with baby-led weaning?

Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.

an infographic with the header "how to cut oranges for babies": washed wedges with the peel on and seeds and membrane removed for 6 months+, bite-sized pieces with membrane removed for 9 months+, slices with peel on or with membrane intact for 18 months+

6 to 8 months: Wash the orange (the skin often contains pesticide residue) then cut into large wedges (with the peel on but seeds removed) and hand them to baby, who will suck and munch on the flesh. The rind helps baby hold the orange and allows them to independently bring it to their mouth. If baby bites through the rind, take a deep breath, and trust baby to either chew on it or spit it out. It can help to dramatically stick out your tongue to help baby move the rind forward to spit it out. Remember the airway is the size of a drinking straw, so a large piece of rind, even if unchewed, is unlikely to get lodged in this small tube. Alternatively, you can supreme an orange by cutting each segment out of the membranes and offering whole segments that way (see video below). Avoid offering whole segments of clementines, mandarins, or other small oranges in their membranes as they can be choking hazards.

9 to 18 months old: As baby’s pincer grasp develops (where the pointer finger and thumb meet), move down in size to bite-size piece of oranges that have had the membrane and seeds removed. If you feel comfortable with it, you may continue to offer large segments of oranges with the membrane and seeds removed for biting and tearing practice. Remember that clementines, mandarins, and other small citrus fruit segments left in their membrane can be a choking hazard, so when in doubt, supreme the fruit, which will be easier to do with a large orange.

18 to 24 months old: Graduation time! At this age, if you feel comfortable with your toddler’s chewing and swallowing skills, try offering large orange segments with the membrane left intact. Bigger pieces to bite and scrape will be less of a choking risk than say, a small segment of mandarin orange in the membrane (which a toddler may attempt to swallow whole.) Of course, you can also continue to supreme the fruit and offer bite-sized pieces or large wedges of orange on the peel for biting and tearing practice.

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