Hi! I’m Sophie, a New Yorker in London, mother of 2 and founder of Mamamade – we’re a direct-to-consumer brand specialising in infant and toddler nutrition, with a focus on supporting parents. What started from my home kitchen in 2019 is now a community of 40,000 – all of us sharing the highs and lows and offering a listening ear for everything life throws at us. I’m so excited to be contributing to the Cove blog - I absolutely love the brand and everything it stands for.
TALK TO ME ABOUT CHOCOLATE AND BABIES...
I often joke I wish I could be the parent I was before I had kids. You know, the type of parent who never allows screens or processed food? We all know the reality is a bit different - and now, especially after two years of a pandemic, I’m firmly in the ‘whatever keeps them quiet and happy!’ camp. My 4-year-old is an actual chocoholic. But she also takes pride in the fact that her 1-year-old brother, Arthur, can’t have any. “Arthur can’t have chocolate because he’s a baby!” She usually shouts as she dips into more Nutella. But then I’m left wondering - really? who said?
IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?
First of all, a quick reminder from me that foods hold no moral value - there are no good foods or bad foods. You’re not a good or a bad parent for offering (or not offering) your baby chocolate. It’s just one food among many, many foods out there.
Now that that’s settled, here’s the crux of the issue: most chocolates out there have sugar, and added sugar is what we try to avoid offering babies - because sugar doesn’t offer much in terms of nutrition. As a baby’s intake of solids is so tiny during weaning, it makes sense to make sure they're getting the most nutrient-dense food at this stage, such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains. Sugar simply displaces these!
In excess, sugar and sweeteners can also reduce the diversity of foods a child is interested in eating, and in large quantities, it can have some health implications down the line (dental caries, obesity, etc. no, thank you!). But again, that’s in excess.
SO, CAN I GIVE CHOCOLATE TO MY BABY?
I’m not going to say don’t do it. But if you are going to do it, I suggest serving a small amount of chocolate after or alongside a meal. This is because when we eat, the amount of saliva in our mouths increases and helps to neutralise the impact of sugar on baby tooth enamel.
As a general rule, I’d probably avoid chocolate for babies under 12 months, and limiting intake for babies and toddlers aged 12 months and over. Again, this is because of how small their tummies are - and we wouldn’t want to displace any other nutritious foods.
WHAT ABOUT CACAO?
Cacao refers to cocoa (base of chocolate) in its raw, less-processed form. It basically offers the taste and nutritional benefits of chocolate without all the added sugar and fat - sounds pretty ideal if you ask me. That said, it does contain a small amount of caffeine, which is why its use should probably be limited (unless you’re looking to keep a child awake!).
We have Cacao brownies that are approved for toddlers because they have a very tiny amount of cacao! The rest is bananas, chia seeds and dates. Yum.
SO WHAT CAN I GIVE INSTEAD?
Sweet foods are fun. And it’s fun to have fun. And it’s fun to share fun moments with our kids. So it’s totally natural to wonder how best to incorporate sweet foods for babies and toddlers.
When offering foods like chocolate for young children, offer in moderation as part of a varied diet.
These are my go-to’s for my family, including baby Arthur - who’s still not allowed the good stuff!:
Unsweetened yogurt with added fruit
Yogurt-based ice lollies
Lower-sugar homemade cakes and biscuits
Hopefully, this blog has answered any questions about offering chocolate to your little one. Come join me on Instagram, where we give more tips about child nutrition and weaning.