When Can a Baby Have Ice Cream?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 14, 2023
4 min read

When you begin to offer your baby solid food around six months, you introduce them to a variety of tastes, flavors, and textures. Before you begin, it’s important to know how to safely introduce allergen foods. 

Ice cream may seem like a fun food choice, but added sugar makes it unhealthy for your growing tot. While it is safe for your baby to consume ice cream after six months of age, the CDC recommends waiting until 24 months to include added sugars in your baby’s diet. 

You should only introduce one new food at a time to your baby. By doing this, you can pinpoint an allergic reaction if they have one. Since dairy allergies are common, this is especially important when offering ice cream to your baby.

If you decide to offer ice cream to your child, be sure to read labels and make sure you avoid two specific ingredients:

  • Honey. This is not safe before 12 months old because your baby may contract a type of food poisoning called botulism.
  • Added sugar. Many yogurts have sweeteners added, so avoid artificial sweeteners.

You can also watch for these signs of an allergic reaction:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling around the lips or eyes

While the CDC recommends against added sugars, you can find healthy alternatives to more popular ice cream choices. Try to pick an ice cream for your baby that is low in added sugar and doesn’t have ingredients like nuts that may pose a choking hazard. 

Ice cream is often classified as a dairy product since it is high in calcium, which is good for building strong bones. However, ice cream is more of a dessert since it usually has a lot of added sugar.

One serving of your average vanilla ice cream contains 21 grams of added sugar, which equates to about 1.5 tablespoons of sugar. While this may not seem like a lot to you, it is a lot for your baby’s smaller stomach and young digestive system.

If you still want to offer your baby a cold, sweet treat, consider frozen yogurt instead. Of course, you’ll still need to read the ingredient labels, but you may be able to find a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream. 

If you find an ice cream that is safe to offer your baby, consider adding fresh fruit for added taste and sweetness. Chop or mash fruits to make sure the pieces are small enough so there is low risk of choking. 

Great fruits to add to yogurt include:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peaches
  • Banana

You may also stir in a spoonful of nut butter like peanut, almond, or cashew butter. If you choose to do this, ensure that your baby hasn’t previously had an allergic reaction to the nut butter. You can spoon-feed your baby or let them hold the spoon and try to feed themselves. 

Before offering solid food, ask these questions:

  • Can my baby hold their head up independently? This is an important developmental milestone for eating solid food.
  • Are they interested in eating? Your baby may watch you eat with interest, and they may even try to grab your food and taste it. When you offer them a spoon, they should open their mouth to eat.
  • Can they move food to their throat? If you offer a spoon with food, your baby may push it out with their tongue first. This is called the tongue-thrust reflex. With time, your baby will learn to use their tongue to push the food to the back of their mouth and swallow.
  • Are they big enough? Your baby should be double their birth weight and at least 13 pounds before beginning solid foods.

Offer a variety. As your baby starts to eat solid foods, they need variety in their diet. This helps ensure they are receiving all of the nutrients they need, and it also helps expand their palate for new tastes. 

Once you introduce a new food to your baby, try to offer it to them again at least twice a week. Your baby watches you as they are learning to eat, so make sure you offer the same foods the rest of the family is eating for encouragement.

Consider allergens. By the time your baby is twelve months old, they should be introduced to each of the common allergy foods:

  • Cooked egg
  • Creamy peanut butter
  • Cow’s milk (dairy)
  • Tree nuts (such as cashew or almond paste)
  • Soy
  • Sesame
  • Wheat
  • Fish and other seafood

By introducing these foods early in life, you can reduce your baby’s chance of developing food allergies. Only introduce one new food at a time so you can monitor your baby’s response to the food in case of an allergic reaction. 

If you suspect an allergic reaction, make notes about what happened and talk to your child’s pediatrician.