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Start your child on healthy beverages early

February 4, 2013
Paula Strawder , movparent

Health and nutrition experts agree that breast milk is the best choice for infant feeding. For the first six months of life, breast milk or iron fortified formula should provide the sole source of nutrition for your child. However, healthy choices do not end there. Encouraging good nutrition and proper development extends throughout your child's life. Starting your child on healthy beverages early will contribute to a lifetime of good health.

Around 5 months of age (or sooner), a baby's natural curiosity about the world will cause them to want to hold things and put them in their mouth. This is the time to introduce a training cup, even if only as a toy, so your child will learn how to put a cup in their mouth.

By 6 to 7 months, your child may be ready to experiment with drinking from a cup. Try small amounts of expressed breast milk, formula, diluted juice or water and assist your baby in learning to drink from a cup. Encourage them through praise and excitement so they will want to continue.

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At age 6 to 8 months, your child may be ready to drink unsweetened juice from a cup. Choose baby juice, which has a high water content, or dilute adult juice to a half water half juice mixture. This will help meet your child's Vitamin C needs. Don't go overboard-while your child may really enjoy the sweet taste of juice, they only need 1/2 cup each day. Make sure you are serving brands that are 100 percent juice and do not contain added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Apple juice is a safe "first juice" choice, as it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than many other varieties. Cow's milk should be avoided until your child reaches one year of age, due to the potential for an allergic reaction.

As your child continues to grow, develop and experiment with new foods, juice can still be a part of a healthy diet. However, it is best to get nutrients like Vitamin C from foods such as fruits and vegetables whenever possible, as they contain other nutrients not present in juice.


Paula Strawder is the families and health extension agent for the WVU Extension Service.



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