Ever since I wrote the post about why salt and sugar isn’t recommended for babies under one, many readers have asked me whether they can give their babies jaggery instead. It took around 3 months of research and discussions with several paediatricians and nutritionists to arrive at a conclusion.
The final outcome was that well, nobody knows for sure!! No one had a specific reason as to how jaggery was good or bad for babies. From these mixed opinions, I realized that the decision to feed babies jaggery had to be taken based on individual lifestyle and feeding practices.
Can I give my Baby Jaggery?
During our medical internship , we are taught to advice mothers to add jaggery to baby’s food. This instruction was according to the recommendation of the Food and Nutrition Board of India and from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, based on the assumption that jaggery is energy dense and hence nutritious for the baby. Then and now, this recommendation holds good for rural babies as the weaning process in rural areas usually occurs late and is lacking in nutrient content. In such a scenario, jaggery for babies in rural areas can help to meet their iron needs and prevent iron deficiency anemia.
However, the situation in an urban Indian household is entirely different, where a fussy baby results in her Mom going overboard and overdosing the baby on jaggery!! When jaggery is consumed beyond the recommended level, it can prove harmful to the baby, thereby creating the exact opposite effect of what the Mom wanted in the first place!
Here is a more detailed look at jaggery, and it’s benefits as well as risks.
Benefits of Jaggery
Jaggery, also know as Gur in India, is obtained from many sources including palmyra, date palm, and coconut. Jaggery has more nutrients than sugar especially calcium, phosphorous, iron and other minerals. The calorific value of jaggery from cane sugar is 383 kcal and from sesame seeds is 563 kcal for 100 gm. This is why jaggery is recommended over sugar from some sweetness!
Risks of Jaggery
1. As with sugar, a daily diet of jaggery for babies can get them used to too much sugar. Research has shown that consumption of sugar-sweetened food during infancy doubles the odds of consuming them more at age 6.
2. Jaggery is very high in calories and while it has some health benefits, a baby’s immature digestive system is not prepared to absorb all the nutrients in jaggery.
3. Some babies are seen to have issues like worms, stomach problems and mild rashes due to overheating, like prickly heat and heat bumps
4. Good quality jaggery is hard to find, and most of the commonly available varieties contain more than 90% of sugarcane. We recommend buying 100% organic jaggery, that is specially suited for babies and young children.
Healthy Ways to Sweeten Baby’s Food
If you’re wondering how to sweeten your baby’s food without sugar or jaggery, there are several other healthier, and yummier options! You can try each one, a little at a time, to see which one baby prefers the most.
1. Apple sauce – This is the most popular choice among Moms to sweeten foods like pancakes and baked goods
2. Fruit Puree – Nearly any fruit can be pureed and added to soft foods like porridge
3. Mashed Banana – Mashed banana goes surprisingly well with all kinds of foods
4. Dry Fruit Powder – For a baby over 8 months,dry fruits powder or dry fruit that has been soaked and pureed can be added in small quantities.
5. Breast milk – Breast milk is naturally sweet and your baby’s already used to its taste
Note: Please avoid honey for babies under one year, as it can lead to botulism poisoning.
As you can see, the risks associated with feeding jaggery to babies under one far outweigh the benefits. As I mentioned at the start, the decision to give a baby jaggery depends upon her circumstances and general diet. In case of doubt, it’s best to consult your pediatrician who will be able to advice you based on your baby’s current health status.