When can babies eat ice cream?

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Video Can babies eat ice cream

Find out when it’s safe to give your baby ice cream. Plus, get tips on how to prepare ice cream for your baby and info on allergies.

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The official advice on when babies can eat ice cream

It’s safe to give your baby ice cream from about six months, however the NHS advises against giving ice cream to babies and young children.

This is because ice cream is packed with sugar. Giving babies sweet things to eat from a young age means they’re more likely to develop a sweet tooth, which can lead to fussy eating later on.

Adding sugar to your baby’s diet can also damage their emerging teeth, and make them put on too much weight without getting enough nutrients.

That’s why experts agree that it’s best not to give your baby ice cream at all. The occasional small spoonful won’t do them any harm from about six months, but don’t make it a regular part of your baby’s diet. Or check out our healthier alternatives below.

You might prefer to avoid giving your baby even a little taste of ice cream and other sweet foods. That way, they won’t know what they’re missing, and it will probably be easier to help them develop a taste for healthier foods like fruit and veg.

It’s safest to wait until your baby is around six months old before offering them anything other than formula, breastmilk or water, as younger babies may not be able to sit up and swallow well. If you’re considering starting weaning before six months, always talk to your health visitor first.

Choosing the right ice cream

If you still want to offer ice cream to your baby, try to find one that’s low in sugar, so that it’s as healthy as possible.

Any ice cream with big chunks of nuts or other kinds of sprinkles in could pose a choking hazard, so go for a plain ice cream instead.

Take care with homemade and deli ice cream. If you’re eating ice cream made with raw eggs, make sure the eggs have a British Lion stamp. If not, the ice cream could give your baby salmonella food poisoning, so it’s best avoided.

You may also want to avoid ice creams that contain common allergens, like nuts, if you haven’t introduced these allergens to your baby separately yet.

Healthier ice cream alternatives for babies

The NHS recommends swapping ice cream for a healthier snack for babies.

Yoghurt is a good dairy alternative. Babies can have pasteurised dairy foods like full-fat yoghurt from around six months old, and an unsweetened, plain yoghurt is best as it doesn’t contain any added sugars.

You can easily turn yoghurt into an ice-cream-like dessert for your baby by simply popping the pot in the freezer for a while. Greek yoghurt makes particularly tasty frozen yoghurt.

Similarly, porridge and rice pudding are good snack or dessert alternatives.

And you can never go wrong with a piece of fresh fruit. If you want to give your baby a cool treat on a hot day, you can always freeze some fruit and whizz it in the blender or let your baby gum it.

You might also want to offer your baby sorbet as an alternative to ice cream, but these can contain even more sugar than ice cream, so be sure to look for low-sugar versions.

Could my baby have an ice cream allergy?

The main allergen to be aware of in ice cream is cow’s milk.

An allergy to cow’s milk, also known as cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), is one of the most common childhood food allergies. It affects around 7% of babies under the age of one, although most children grow out of it by the time they’re five.

If allergies, asthma or eczema run in your family, your child may be more likely to develop an allergy, too. You might want to talk to your GP or health visitor for advice before weaning your baby.

When you first start introducing new food and drink to your child it’s a good idea to give them any that can cause an allergy in small amounts and one at a time, with several days between them. That way, if your baby does have a reaction, you’ll know what caused it.

When it comes to ice cream, you might prefer to offer your baby cow’s milk on it’s own first, before introducing them to ice cream.

Nuts are another allergen that may also be found in some ice creams. You should introduce nuts to your baby separately (you can do so from six months, as long as they’re crushed, ground or in a smooth nut butter). However, it’s best to offer your baby a plain ice cream, and this will also prevent the risk of choking.

According to the NHS, the main foods and drinks that can cause an allergy are:

  • cow’s milk
  • eggs
  • foods that contain gluten, including wheat, barley and rye
  • nuts and peanuts (serve them crushed or ground)
  • seeds (serve them crushed or ground)
  • soya
  • shellfish (don’t serve raw or lightly cooked)
  • fish

So, try to avoid giving any of these other foods at the same time as you give your baby ice cream for the first time.

Signs of allergies in babies

If your baby does have an allergy, you’ll probably notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • eczema that doesn’t improve with treatment
  • stomach ache, diarrhoea, vomiting, colic or constipation
  • a cough
  • wheezing and shortness of breath
  • itchy throat and tongue
  • itchy skin or rash
  • swollen lips and throat
  • runny or blocked nose
  • sore, red and itchy eyes

Lactose intolerance

While lactose intolerance isn’t an allergy, it can also cause your baby or child discomfort. Lactose intolerance happens when the body can’t digest lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. The NHS says this can be temporary and may come on for a few days or weeks after a stomach bug.

Symptoms can include wind, stomach pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.

What should I do if I think my baby has an allergy?

If you think your baby may have an allergy, speak to your health visitor or GP. If the reaction is mild, don’t cut important foods out of your baby’s diet until you’ve received medical advice, as your baby could miss out on important nutrients.

Less commonly, cow’s milk can cause a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. If your baby has trouble breathing, or loses consciousness, call 999 for an ambulance straight away and tell them that you think it could be anaphylaxis.

Ice cream recipes for babies

These ice cream and ice cream alternative recipes are suitable for babies to eat or share:

  • Fruity ice cream for kids
  • Dairy-free banana ice cream
  • Three-ingredient instant ice cream
  • Gooseberry sorbet
  • Baby porridge

Weaning by baby feeding guru Annabel Karmel is a must for every parent’s bookshelf and has all the information you need about your baby’s first foods. See more details here at Amazon.

The Baby-led Weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapley has over 130 recipes that the whole family can enjoy. See more details here at Amazon.

Looking for more tips on feeding your baby? Check out our articles below, or swap tips and meal ideas with other parents in our forum.

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