When Can Babies Have Citrus?

What You Need to Know About the Timing of Citrus Fruits for Babies

Once your little one starts eating solid foods, it's tough to stop her. Babies often reach for anything in your hand, on your plate or within reach at all. But what can she safely eat, and what's best left for later? Experts now say it's fine to introduce solids in any order, even if those foods may potentially cause allergies. Citrus is one food that you may want to wait on, though.

When Can Babies Have Citrus?

Kid eating orange

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Technically, your baby can have citrus starting around 6 months, although many parents hold off until about 12 months. If you're feeding him chunks of oranges, wait until he's old enough to gum foods thoroughly. Keep in mind that oranges are pulpy and sometimes stringy, so they can be more difficult to eat than a banana or other soft fruit. You'll also need to remove the membrane surrounding the fleshy orange fruit, so he doesn't choke.

Some people wait a little longer because of the acidity of citrus fruit, which can cause irritation that may result in a rash. Your baby may have a little rash around his mouth if the fruit touches his skin. Some babies also get diaper rashes after eating citrus fruit. The rash doesn't mean your baby is allergic to the citrus fruit: It's probably just irritation coming from the acid.

Other babies develop stomach issues from the acid in citrus fruit. If your baby has reflux, the acidity can make the symptoms worse, so you may want to hold off on serving citrus if your baby already has tummy troubles.

How to Introduce Citrus to Babies

When you try citrus, offer only a small amount the first few times. Don't offer any other new foods during this period. If your baby has an allergic reaction, you won't know which food causes it unless you offer one food at a time. Watch for rash or irritation around your baby's mouth and in the diaper area. You also should watch for signs of an allergic reaction, including wheezing, hives, vomiting, swelling and breathing difficulty.

Cut the citrus fruit into tiny pieces. Make the pieces small since they can be stringy and tough to chew. Remove the tough membrane around the softer part of the fruit. Look carefully for seeds in the citrus to prevent choking.

If you don't like the idea of feeding your baby chunks of fresh oranges, try softer mandarin oranges. You can also puree the orange chunks with plain or vanilla yogurt for a soft treat.

Food Safety and Considerations

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Food recommendations for babies have loosened significantly. Instead of starting with just a little rice cereal, you can start with almost any food, as long as it's completely pureed. You don't have to avoid foods known to cause allergies. Babies can eat many whole foods when prepared properly. But keep a few things in mind for safe mealtimes:

  • Serve food in a way that's easy for baby to eat. When she first starts solids, that means pureed foods are best. As she gets older, you can serve small pieces of soft foods. Always cut the food into tiny pieces to avoid choking.
  • Never feed honey to a baby under 1. Honey can contain botulism spores, resulting in severe illness in babies.
  • Talk to your child's doctor if you're concerned about food allergies. Healthy babies can have foods known to cause allergies when they start solids, but if your little one has a higher risk of food allergies, your doctor may recommend waiting.
  • Introduce single foods until you know your baby isn't allergic. Wait a few days before trying something new.
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