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When Can a Baby Have Lemon?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 11, 2021

Lemons are well known for getting surprising and funny reactions from babies the first time they taste one. But are lemons nutritional for a baby?

While lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, the acidity of the citrus might be hard on your baby's stomach. You should wait to introduce lemons until after your baby turns one year old so their digestive system is more mature. This will also reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction.  

Introducing Your Baby to Lemon

By the time your baby turns one year old, they will have tried a ton of new foods. But that 12-month mark is a game changer for introducing new foods — like citrus — that were once no-nos. 

If your baby doesn’t like lemons at first, that’s normal. It can take a few attempts of offering a new food before your baby begins liking it. Plus, citrus fruits have a distinct bitter and sour flavor that may take time to get used to, so continue offering lemons on a regular basis.

Nutritional Benefits of Lemon for Your Baby

Citrus fruit is well known for having a high dose of vitamin C, and lemon is no exception to this rule. Vitamin C helps your baby’s immune system fight off illnesses. Lemons are also a good source of fiber and even contain potassium, calcium, and protein. 

How to Prepare Lemons for Baby

It’s important to peel lemons before offering them to your baby, as lemon skins can contain harmful pesticides. Once you peel the lemon, you can offer your baby pieces of the lemon flesh the size of your fingertip or mashed up to eat with a spoon.

Since the taste of lemon by itself may be unappealing to your little one, try squeezing the juice onto various foods to enhance their flavor. Using lemon as a seasoning for other foods is a wonderful way to introduce a new depth of flavor to a food they already love. Just make sure your baby has tried each individual food before to make sure they aren't allergic.

When your baby is sick, add a bit of lemon and honey to their water for a boost to their immune system. Plus, they get the treat of a sweet drink that’s similar to juice. Just make sure you don’t offer honey until after 12 months of age since it may cause a type of food poisoning called botulism.

Tips for Introducing New Foods to Your Baby

Before offering solid food for the first time, ask these questions:

  • Can my baby hold their head up independently? This is an important developmental milestone for eating solid food.
  • Is my baby interested in eating? Your baby may watch you eat with interest, or even try to grab your food and taste it. When you offer them a spoon, they should open their mouth to eat.
  • Can my baby move food to their throat? If you offer food with a spoon, your baby may push it out with their tongue first. This is called the tongue-thrust reflex. With time they will learn to use their tongue to push the food to the back of their mouth and swallow.
  • Is my baby 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 that they're receiving all of the nutrients they need and also helps expand their palate for new tastes. 

Normalize new foods. Once you introduce a new food to your baby and you've confirmed that they aren't allergic to it, try to offer it to them again at least twice a week. Not only does this familiarize your baby with the new food, but it can also help prevent food allergies. Additionally, when your baby is learning to eat, they watch you. Make sure you offer them the same foods the rest of the family is eating for encouragement.

Consider Allergens. By the time your baby is 12 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, and wait at least three days before introducing another so you can monitor your baby’s response to the food in case of an allergic reaction. 

If you notice your baby having an allergic reaction, stop feeding them that food immediately. If the reaction is characterized by swollen lips, eyes, or face; hives; or vomiting, call their pediatrician. If you suspect anaphylaxis, characterized by swelling of the tongue or difficulty breathing, call an ambulance immediately. 

Show Sources

Sources

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Feeding Children When They Are Sick.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Starting Solid Foods.”

Australasian Society for Immunolofy and Allergy: “ASCIA Information on how to introduce solid foods to babies for allergy prevention.”

New Kids-Center: “Citrus for Babies: When and How to Introduce.”

NutritionValue.org: “Lemon, raw.”

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