Figuring out what your baby can and cannot eat can be a daunting jungle to navigate as a first-time mom.
When I became a mom, I used to question everything when it came to my baby’s food. Most mothers usually wait for 3-4 months before introducing solid foods to their babies and even longer to introduce maple syrup or anything sugary. Now, can babies have maple syrup?
The answer to your question is:
Maple syrup is usually safe for consumption but may not be suitable for infants. Maple syrup is completely safe for babies when they reach the age of eating solid foods which is typically after their first birthday.
Can Babies Have Cooked Maple Syrup?
The syrup that we buy in the grocery market is not pure maple syrup.
Syrup is extracted from maple trees, then boiled and processed before it is sold to us. This process kills most bacteria that could cause infant botulism, making maple syrup safe for kids to consume.
However, keep in mind that processed maple syrup falls under the category of complex foods, and a child’s digestive system doesn’t respond very well to that.
If you decide to give maple syrup to your baby, it is recommended that you introduce it pancake syrup or baby maple syrup.
Can Babies Have Cooked Maple Syrup at 6 Months?
While maple syrup is technically safe for babies who are old enough to eat solid foods, it is not recommended due to the risk of infant botulism.
What is Infant Botulism?
Infant botulism is an illness found in infants and newborns which can cause distress if left untreated.
This disease is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which releases toxins. This illness-causing bacteria is often found in soil or dust particles and attaches itself to all sorts of foods, particularly the maple sap or maple tree that produces maple syrup.
The digestive systems of grown-ups can easily deal with bacteria; however, newborns’ or infants’ digestive systems don’t react well to it.
Why Can’t Infants Have Maple Syrup?
Here’s the reason, apart from the risk of infant botulism.
Since the age of 6-12 months is the developmental age for babies, whatever you introduce to them will turn into eating habits that you won’t be able to easily change.
Since we know maple syrup is stacked with sugary content, letting your babies eat maple syrup this early might not be a sane decision. Instead, introduce them to healthy foods and wait to incorporate sugary stuff after they are 12 months old.
As mentioned, babies under 6 months are at a huge risk of catching infant botulism. Babies after 12 months tend to get a more developed digestive system to withstand a greater variety of foods. Hence, the chances of this illness affecting them decreases after age one.
When is it Safe For Them to Have It?
Introducing maple syrup to babies who are old enough to have solid food straight after breast milk can be a task.
It is no secret that the amount of sugar in breastmilk versus maple syrup is not worth comparing, so if you switch between them, the unwanted sugar spike in infants can be a problem.
That being said, if you think your babies are grown up enough to have a variety of food, feel free to give them maple syrup, but don’t forget to consult your pediatrician first.
It is recommended to start solids by giving your baby boiled veggies or mashed potatoes before jumping to maple syrup or honey, and make sure to not drench anything in syrup to prevent spiked blood sugar levels.
To sum it up, the answer is the best age to start maple syrup in your baby’s diet is after their first birthday since the time before is very crucial.
My pediatrician had special instructions for me regarding what I should feed my baby.
Per my baby’s natural eating cycle, when he was old enough to have solid food, the pediatrician still didn’t recommend sweet food, let alone maple syrup.
Furthermore, until they are 12 years old, children may have difficulty processing sweet meals.
When they are over a year old, you may add a little maple syrup to their cereal and applesauce to make it sweeter and more appealing to newborns.
Possible Health Risks of Giving Maple Syrup to Babies/Toddlers
While there are many nutritional benefits of consuming maple syrup, including antioxidants, the potential health risks outweigh the benefits when consumed in excess.
We are aware that maple syrup itself has a high sugar content. But did you know that maple syrup that is purchased for consumption isn’t straight out of a maple tree?
Yes, you read it correctly. It is packed with artificial flavors and added sugar.
Because of the fact that maple syrup is packed with natural sugars as well as artificial sweeteners, letting your babies have maple syrup in excess may result in type-2 diabetes as well as hypertension as they age.
Hence, it is always best to eat maple syrup in moderation to avoid any life-threatening diseases.
Another common infant health risk that could arise from eating maple syrup is early tooth decay due to the consumption of natural sweeteners or high sugar content.
Common Choking Hazard
Let’s rewind the process of how maple syrup is made.
As we discussed, pure maple syrup, or what we call organic maple syrup, is extracted directly from maple tree sap and is then boiled until all the bacteria are dead. As a result, the runny maple syrup is converted into thicker syrup.
This thicker consistency of syrup makes it hard for young babies to chew and they are at risk of choking.
Maple Syrup vs Honey For Babies
You must be wondering:“Okay, so can I use natural honey or high fructose corn syrup as healthy sugar alternatives to maple syrup?”
What’s Healthier, Honey or Maple Syrup
We know how maple syrup is made and processed, which kills most bacteria. Honey, on the other hand, is not refined or processed to this extent.
Honey-producing bees roam around from place to place and have higher chances of catching Clostridium botulinum bacteria because, like any other form of food that is not stored properly, honey can be hazardous, too.
Generally, syrup and honey are nutritionally comparable in terms of nutrients, such as carbs, minerals, vitamins, and calories.
However, the degree and variety of these features vary widely. Overall, maple syrup is a better nutritious choice for children than honey.
Healthy Sugar Alternatives for Young Babies
Here are some of the healthier food options that are sweet and can be easily given to your babies:
- Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, etc. are hands down the safest option for sweet foods.
- Stevia is one of the best alternatives to sugar. It doesn’t contain any sugar or calories and is actually sweeter than sugar itself. It is packed with vitamins.
- Although agave is packed with sugar content, it is extracted from a ground plant. This means that although it is very sweet, it doesn’t present the risk of infant botulism.
- Brown rice syrup is thicker than agave, less sweet than any of the previous options, and breaks down slowly in the body. It allows babies’ bodies to use it properly, rather than experiencing the quick sugar rush that maple syrup and cane sugar provide.
So, Final Thoughts?
Yes, maple syrup is safe for babies under the age of 12 months.
With that stated, there are several factors to consider that you may be concerned about or that your toddler’s digestive system may benefit from.
Concerns about maple syrup and its use in newborns include:
- Needless blood sugar increases in babies and the introduction of an extremely sweet substance that they may not want to consume specific meals without.
- Doctors frequently advise against using maple syrup, owing to the needless blood sugar rise that newborns do not require.
- However, it should not cause any adverse reactions in newborns who are not sensitive to it.