When Can I Give My Baby Chocolate?

How to Introduce It and How to Spot Allergies

Young Girl Eating Brownie Mix In Kitchen
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It's often recommended that you do not give your baby chocolate until after they are a year old and sometimes this comes with a warning about children frequently being allergic to it.

In reality, however, allergies to cacao (the bean that's the main ingredient in chocolate) are possible, but they're incredibly rare — so rare that they don't even show up in recent medical literature. Chocolate itself is not on the big 8 list of food allergies, though ingredients commonly found in chocolate are in this list and make chocolate a food to exercise caution with when it comes to your infant.

This advice is likely a carry-over from years past when allergic reactions were attributed to chocolate but were really a result of allergy to other ingredients (like soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and dairy) that chocolate frequently contains.

Food labeling requirements were not strictly enforced until 2004-2006, so many parents and health care providers assumed chocolate was the culprit. Education about cross-contamination has also exonerated chocolate from its status as a highly allergenic offender.

To be on the safe side, you can wait until your child is a year old (especially if you have a family history of allergies) but if you choose to introduce it earlier, choose types that don't contain other potential allergens. The darker chocolate varieties contain less of these ingredients, especially dairy.

Common Allergens Found in Chocolate

Chocolates often contain foods known for causing allergies or food intolerance, including:

  • milk
  • peanuts and tree nuts
  • wheat and gluten
  • soy
  • corn
  • berries

How to Spot a Food Allergy

Whether or not you have a history of food allergies in your family, the first time you introduce chocolate, be sure to watch for the signs of an allergic reaction, including:  

  • hives
  • wheezing, difficulty breathing, or asthma symptoms
  • runny nose or sneezing
  • red or watery eyes
  • swelling of the mouth or throat
  • vomiting or diarrhea

Less severe reactions can take several days to appear and might include eczema, diarrhea, or constipation.

Going Beyond Chocolate Allergies 

Beyond food allergies, you may want to hold off on giving your little one chocolate due to its caffeine and sugar content. Of course, a bite or two of birthday cake before your child's first birthday won't cause cavities, a sugar rush, or a sudden caffeine buzz. Still, however, it is important to monitor your child's intake of chocolate and not make it a habit. There are so many nutritious foods yet for your little one to try, so why not save the sweet stuff for special occasions. 

Starting Your Little One on Solids 

Recently we've learned quite a bit about the how/when/what of starting solids – and much of the advice debunks popular opinion held years ago. Here are some helpful insights on starting solids:

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