This fake ad suggesting cola is good for babies pops up all over the Internet, often mistaken as a real promotion by the dubious sounding ‘Soda Pop Board of America.’
A search for ‘baby/babies’ and ‘coke/cola’ brings up many sites discussing the merits and pitfalls of giving a baby cola, including lots of satires based on this ad and parenting forums discussing whether it’s ok to feed a baby Coke, and whether you would judge someone else for feeding it to their baby (you’ll also find links to rants about stem cell research drawing the highly questionable conclusion that there are dead babies in Coca Cola!!).
While the ad is a joke, the discussion around it highlights some confusion about sugary drinks for infants. It is not a good idea to feed your baby cola. The sugar, caffeine, chemicals, and carbonation are all best avoided. Even small tastes can be problematic as the more your baby tastes intensely sweet drinks the less satisfied they will be with water, the best drink they can have.
Some forum discussions centred on whether giving Coca Cola to a baby was better than nothing, if the baby was very thirsty. The general consensus amongst those responding seemed to be, yes.
While Coca Cola for infants sparks much debate, it isn’t the only drink to give rise to concerns amongst parents. Many families I’ve known worry greatly about fruit juice as a drink for babies. Knowing juice to be sweet, they fear giving it to their children is setting them up for a lifetime of poor health and bad habits.
Let’s get some perspective people.
Coca Cola is very bad for babies (probably for people, but I happily confess I love it, so let’s not go there).
Water is very good for babies (and people!)
Juice is somewhere in between.
Ideally your baby will drink water from the time they begin eating solids. As milk intake drops it is important to introduce more fluids, especially in hot weather and as your baby becomes more active.
I can’t really think of a situation where your baby would be so dehydrated and thirsty that you would have no option but to give them Cola. And I don’t think giving them juice makes you an irresponsible parent.
Sometimes parents lose track of why they’re following certain rules, and so when the ideal can’t be achieved can end up making secondary choices that don’t align with the ideal at all.
Let’s imagine a parent and child: David and his 7 month old baby Sally.
David’s ideal drink for Sally (in addition to milk feeds) is filtered, boiled, then cooled, water. He is concerned about the effect sweet juices will have on Sally’s teeth and overall health. He is also concerned about contaminants and additives in tap water.
David and Sally are having ‘one of those days’. They are caught away from home without a bottle of the preferred water. Sally is fussy and appears thirsty.
- According to some, if David has a bottle of Coke he should give it to Sally, rather than let her go thirsty.
- According to others, if David has a bottle of juice he should not allow Sally to drink it, even if she seems thirsty.
- Many more will worry that if David gives Sally regular tap water she will be harmed.
- Sally won’t die of thirst. No need to panic and give her coke, it’s not better than nothing. It won’t even hydrate her as it’s a diuretic.
- Sally’s teeth and stomach won’t rot from a small amount of juice. It’s not Coke after all!
- And Sally’s immune system is mature enough to handle tap water.*
David just needs to remember why he likes to give Sally the filtered water in the first place: his goal is to keep Sally healthy.
The healthiest drink options for a baby over 6 months** are:
- Water – in Australia the tap water is not harmful to your baby once she is over 6 months. The added fluoride is very beneficial but some metals, pesticide run off etc can be found in very small amounts in our tap water. Filters will remove both, if you choose. Personally I prefer the benefit of fluoride over the fear of contaminants.
- Juice diluted in water – a very little juice will go a long way to adding a little flavour and softening the water for fussy drinkers. In this instance it is better to have some sweet juice and a lot of water (think 1 part juice to at least 3 parts water) than nothing at all.
- Juice – Juice is very sweet and should not be a large part of your baby’s diet, ideally. It will give her a taste for sweet things, introduce a lot of sugar into her diet, and decrease her appetite for meals. Again, the juice is still better than nothing. If you are stuck without water then the occasional drink of juice isn’t the end of the world. If your baby refuses to drink water, juice will re-hydrate her and you can slowly wean her off by introducing, and then increasing, water to dilute.
Try not to worry so much, David, and everyone. Common sense will prevail, I’m sure. So long as it’s not Cola (or whisky!) in the bottle you’re on the right track! :0)