When can babies eat citrus

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Citrus fruits are among the tastiest fruits as they have a sharp tangy flavour and contain a lot of sugar. When trying to wean a baby it can be tempting to give them the tastiest food in the hope they take it but this is often a slippery slope which leads to digestive issues and rotting teeth.

Here we explain the trickiness of citrus fruits for babies

What is a citrus fruit?

Citrus is a term to describe a family of fruit which have segmented flesh wrapped in a thick leather-like skins. They are distinct as they have a strong fragrance, filled with juice and taste tangy with high content of citric and other acids (not baby friendly). Here’s a list of common citrus fruit:

  • Amanatsu
  • Balady
  • Orange
  • Buddha’s Hand
  • Calamondin
  • Cam sanh
  • Chinotto
  • Lime
  • Etrog
  • Grapefruit
  • Jabara
  • Kumquat
  • Lemon
  • Mandarine
  • Papeda
  • Rangpur
  • Satsuma
  • Clementine
  • Tangerine

The most common you’d be likely to want to feed a baby are oranges, satsumas, mandarins and tangerines due to sales and availability in supermarkets. Perhaps some Lemon in the form of juice, too.

Should you feed citrus to a baby?

Most citrus fruits have a large quantity of citric acid, which is quite harsh on young stomachs before 12 months of age. It is a weak acid which in small quantities (a segment of tangerine or half an orange in a blender will be harmless but with overfeeding it can lead to decaying tooth enamel (more so in milk teeth), abdominal pain and sore throat. But, citrus fruits are rich in multiple nutrients so when can babies eat citrus fruits safely is an important question to answer.

One great rule to make sure they enjoy their citrus without damage is to brush their teeth after consuming it to get rid of any leftover acid/sugar on the teeth. Making sure they stay hydrated with water or their usual milk can also reduce the % of acid in their tummies.

What age can babies eat citrus fruits (safely)?

Babies are fine to start having SOME citrus fruits when they start to wean – the odd segment, some juice, pulp or a blended puree that includes some citrus fruit are all fine. The only time where citrus fruits can be problematic for babies is when they have it too much and not as a small part of a healthy diet. A whole orange, for example, is too much for a 6 month old baby but one a half orange in a blended meal is fine.

The same can be said of grapefruit, lemons and so on.

At 12 months of age they can have more and more, even whole oranges without any issue. But, parents should always be wary of the high acid content and sugar and they should be treated the same way as sweets and chocolate – bad for their teeth and brushing after consuming is good practice.