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.
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.
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.
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:
- sweet potatoes
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.
Watch out for and remove the membrane and any seeds that might be difficult for your child to get down.
When you’re ready to move beyond slices, here are a few other ways to incorporate oranges into your baby’s meals:
- orange ice pops (this can be frozen orange juice or a mixture of pureed oranges and yogurt)
- orange juice and carrots (it sounds gross, but for some reason oranges bring out a special something in carrots)
- orange smoothies
- orange chicken
Introducing new foods to your child is one of the pleasures of that first year of parenting. Sometimes a few extra precautions are needed to make sure that your little one can enjoy them safely.