Are you wondering when is an appropriate age to introduce chocolate to your little one? There are specific points to take note of before introducing this sugary treat to your child. Although delicious, paying particular attention to the caffeine and sugar content, and possible allergens contained in chocolate before letting your infant indulge is key. Then you can carefully select the age that you feel comfortable to introduce chocolate in their diet.
We may forget that there is caffeine in chocolate because it may not affect an adult who is used to consuming caffeine on a regular basis. But introducing caffeine from chocolate, even small amounts to a baby can be too much of a stimulant for a little one. The caffeine content can throw off bedtime and nap routines; and boy do we not want to do that!
Caffeine containing foods and drinks can also cause constipation. Remember that a little dose of caffeine for you, is a big dose of caffeine for a baby. If your baby does have constipation following chocolate try giving them some fibrous fruits like kiwi, berries, or prunes!
The sugar content in chocolate is also a stimulant that can throw off both sleep and meal schedules for an infant. Introducing chocolate as a treat may become so appealing to infants, that other foods and snacks can become less interesting to them. So take caution when introducing sweets to a picky eater! When children become accustomed to having sweets on a daily basis it largely contributes to obesity and diabetes in childhood and later years.
Sugar consumption leads to tooth decay and enamel damage. Brushing infants teeth can be a difficult task getting each tooth effectively, so if you give your child sugar make sure to brush their teeth thoroughly! Another tip is to give sweets that aren’t chewy that will stick in their teeth, like toffee.
While cacao is not a common allergen, ingredients contained in chocolate treats are. Many chocolate bars will contain milk, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy. According to Health Canada; milk, tree nuts, peanuts, and soy are among the top 9 food allergens. It is important to read the label before giving your infant a treat. If they are at risk or have a food allergy pay particular attention to the ingredients listed, and choose snacks that are free of these allergens. Patisserie Petit Lapin in Montreal, QC is a great example of a bakery that provides delicious treats that are free of the top food allergens. A child is at risk of having a food allergy if one of their parents or siblings has one.
Not all children have allergies but if they do, these are symptoms to look out for after consuming an at risk food:
• Trouble breathing, panting
• Difficulty swallowing or talking
• Swelling of the throat, lips, tongue, or eyes
• Diarrhea and/or vomiting
• Feeling faint, dizzy, or anxious
• Paleness and sweating
If your infant is experiencing any of these symptoms call 9-1-1 to transport them to the nearest children’s hospital as they are experiencing an allergic reaction and a possible anaphylactic shock – a life threatening reaction to a food product that the body has become hypersensitive to.
The age of the infant is another important factor to consider when introducing chocolate to your little one. There’s no specific answer, but generally most parents wait until their child has their 1st birthday to introduce chocolate. A child should have exclusive breastmilk and/or formula for the first 6 months of life, and then introducing solids gradually into their diet starting at 6 months. So if you are planning on giving your child chocolate before 1 year of age, make sure to introduce the other necessary food groups into their diet successfully beforehand.