Yes, you read the title right. It says - Chocolates and Babies. I know you are murmuring under your breath – Is it ok? Should I give it to the baby? What are the doctors saying? How, when or what should be the amount is going to be the best fit for the baby? Is he/she going to be another lunatic for chocolates like me? Well, to be honest, I can’t say anything about your last dread but for the other questions and for some more, please carry on reading.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves a bit about chocolates. At its core, chocolates are fermented seeds of the cacao tree – with the combination of cocoa butter, lecithin, milk, added flavors and sugar – as and when needed. Chocolates are available in almost every shape we can imagine and the types and tastes are also varied vastly. Not only do we have the options to choose from generic supermarket chocolate bars or handmade premium quality chocolates, but we can have it as chocolate cakes, hot cocoa drink or even Halloween candies. And of course, chocolates can and are used as ingredients to make dishes like sweet confectioneries, ice creams, brownies, milkshakes, fudge, pudding, etc.
When The Babies Can Have Chocolates?
To be honest, you are not going to get a straightforward answer to that question. But let’s work it out for ourselves. As per the Department of Health, breastfeeding (and/or an age-appropriate infant formula where breast milk is not available) should be the main meal until the first six months. In fact, they also recommend taking breastfeeding as the main meal until the baby gets to the year mark. But after six months, finely mashed or pureed items like pumpkin, potato, zucchini or smooth apple or pear can gradually be added in small quantities after breastfeeding. From the months of 8 or 9 foods like -
- well-cooked and mashed or minced fish, lever or finely shredded meat, chicken and egg,
- mashed or soft-cooked vegetables, chipped and soft raw fruits like banana or melon
- cheese, custard and yogurt -
should be integrated with breastmilk. Chocolates are termed as ‘sometimes foods’ by the government and prescribed for eating in moderation. So, it seems, there are no chocolates for babies before their first birthdays in Australia. From the other side of the globe, it appears that the famed pediatrics from the AAP, want us to wait at least one more year and babies should not be given chocolates until they are 24 months old.
For me, the ‘take home point’ from the above is that, the specialists just confirm to us what we knew all along – there will be no chocolates for babies when they are solely dependent on breastmilk and in small quantities after they have their second birthday bash.
The renowned British journalist and baby nutritionist Lowri Turner says,
“In general, babies younger than 18 months should avoid chocolate, particularly milk chocolate, but as long as your little one is active, a little bit of sugar is probably not going to do any real harm, especially if you’re providing a varied diet. But do make sure you brush his teeth well after.”
So, it is safe to assume that milk chocolates should be the safest version rather than the dark chocolates through which babies would get their orientation to the delicious world of chocolates. But why should you be avoiding dark chocolates initially? An important aspect of the milk chocolates is that an average 225gm of milk chocolate has about 48mg of caffeine whereas about 160gm of caffeine would be found in the same amount of dark chocolates. You see, caffeine is not only a stimulant but also a diuretic which means it is going to make the babies urinate more. That’s why dark chocolates aren’t such a good idea for babies, at least when they are very young and full of uncontrollable energy with few options to spend it.
The important bit you should keep in mind that chocolates should only be a delight rather than a part of the daily diet. Little chocolate buttons mixed with dried apricots should be how your little one starts tasting chocolates. The dried apricots will provide a boatload of nutrients while chocolate will be doing what it does best – make your baby happy.
The ‘So-Called’ Allergies:
There isn’t any conclusive verdict rather a few circumstantial evidence against chocolates being the culprit instigating allergies in babies. Let’s have a look at the most common allergens which every now and then find their ways to be in a bar of chocolate:
- Peanuts and other nuts
- Gluten and wheat
When your baby reaches the age where he or she can devour some chocolates, it's highly likely that you have already found out which of the above or if all of them cause allergies to your baby. Now you just have to look at the label to know what goes in there other than cocoa and sugar and avoid the ones which have possible allergens.
But in the unfortunate event when you don’t know to what the baby is allergic, look for the below symptoms and be aware next time:
- Asthmatic symptoms or difficulty breathing
- Constant sneezing
- Redness in the eyes or watery eyes
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Diarrhea or vomiting
If your baby shows any one of them, go visit the baby's doctor straight off or reach out to an allergy specialist to get immediate treatment.
A Few Benefits:
Can chocolates actually do anything that may benefit your baby? Let’s see:
- Flavonoids which are plentiful in cocoa give a boost to memory function and enhance cognitive capabilities for the babies.
- Flavonoids are also very effective to improve concentration among babies.
- Iron, copper, magnesium, manganese etc are plentiful in chocolates and they are very helpful for keeping the fast-growing skins of the babies.
- Chocolates are full of antioxidants which conserve free radicals within the child’s immune system and thus prevent it from damaging the body internally.
- Chocolates are well known for their ability to brighten up the little ones.
If Consumed Too Much:
Since too much of a good thing is not always ‘good’ at all, if you let the babies consume too much chocolate since they can’t seem to ‘live’ without it, the following baddies may get to harm your child:
- Peeing A Lot
- Avoiding fruits,vegetables and in general, healthy foods
- Propensity for addiction
- Increased risk for allergies
- Risk of obesity
It doesn’t need much to fall in love with chocolates but the same also goes true for addiction. That’s where your love and compassion for your baby becomes handy. Find the perfect symmetry where you can get the best out of the chocolates, at the same time keep all the harms a million miles away.
Your children will forever be grateful.