By Dr. Julia Richerson

As a pediatrician, we have the honor of working with families and children as they grow and develop as both children and parents. We develop very strong relationships with the families we work with and try as hard as we can to be a valuable resource to them. We do all of this in brief 10-15 minute visits every few months for the first few years of the child’s life. To know exactly what questions to ask and what advice to give in the limited time is a huge challenge. Plus, new guidelines come out frequently detailing hours of advice we are supposed to “tailor” to fit the needs of each family. It is hard to prioritize how to spend those precious minutes.

I remember one parent of a 15-month-old child who mentioned to me how much her child loved juice and she was so proud that her daughter drank 3 bottles a day with 8 ounces in each bottle. She told me this with great pride and confidence, because she thought she was doing the absolute best thing for her baby. I wasn’t even planning to counsel about juice that visit as we had spent our time talking about other topics important to her.

The new American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement “Fruit Juice in Infants, Children and Adolescents: Current Recommendations” emphasizes that the “juice conversation” is an important one. This statement updates juice intake recommendations and emphasizes the role of fruit juice in the development of cavities. The role of juice in obesity development, although intuitive, is not strongly supported in current research.

The recommendations are easy to remember:

  • No juice under 1 year
  • A maximum of 4 ounces of juice per day up to age 4
  • Six ounces per day up to age 6 and 8 ounces per day for age 7 and older
  • Never put juice in a bottle or sippy cup – only open cups – to decrease the habit of sipping on it throughout the day or using it to pacify a grumpy child

Discouraging the use of juice, or any drink except water, throughout the day is vital in preventing early cavities. All of us who spend time with children – the medical community, childcare, schools, churches, friends, and families – need to be having the “juice conversation”.  It’s a priority.

Julia Richerson, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician and is active across Kentucky in advocacy for policies and programs that strengthen families.