While it is considered safe to introduce maple syrup after baby’s first birthday, it can be beneficial to wait until closer to the 2nd birthday to introduce sugar and other sweeteners. Infants have an innate preference for sweetness, so it’s important to give babies and toddlers ample time to develop a taste for unsweetened foods.
Sinzibuckwud, the Algonquin word for maple syrup, means “drawn from wood,” and suggests the origins of this ingredient, as well as how it is made. For a brief period in the spring, sap is collected from a living tree—four species of maple are best for this, as they produce the sweetest sap—and then boiled down until it is reduced to a sweet, thick syrup. In Indigenous communities throughout what is now the United States and Canada, maple syrup is a traditional food, and the collecting and boiling of the sap is a celebrated ritual of spring. It takes about 40 parts of sap to make 1 part syrup, but once the syrup is made, it can also be transformed into maple butter (a spreadable solid), granulated maple sugar, or a malleable taffy.
Once you are ready to introduce maple syrup, there are hundreds of options to try, each with a different flavor. Different geographical locations and varieties of maple trees, as well as the season and even time of day when the sap is harvested, all produce slightly different flavored syrup.
★Tip: Grade A maple syrup is available in four varieties: golden, amber, dark, and very dark. Try lighter syrups for a more delicate flavor and darker syrups as a more robust option.
Zuri, 14 months, tastes maple syrup.
Cooper, 25 months, dips his pancake in maple syrup.
Sebastián, 25 months, tries maple syrup on his pancakes.
Unfortunately no. Maple syrup is primarily sugar, which when offered to babies and children, can reduce the diversity of foods the child is interested in eating and in excess may increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and negatively impact cardiovascular health.
While maple syrup does contain more nutrients than refined sugar (offering some vitamin B2 and calcium), sugar is sugar. If you want to sweeten baby’s food, it is better to use fresh fruit that offers some fiber as well, such as banana, fig, and strawberry.
★Tip: When shopping for maple syrup, look for pure maple syrup with no added ingredients. Many mass market syrups contain other sugars—including high-fructose corn syrup—to stretch the maple syrup and increase profit, so try to avoid items called “maple-flavored syrup,” “pancake syrup,” “table syrup,” etc. Excessive amounts of high-fructose corn syrup (and other added sugar) have been linked to an increase in obesity, diabetes, as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in children. High-fructose corn syrup has also been found to contain mercury, a heavy metal to which babies are very susceptible. Read labels carefully.
Infant botulism, a neurological condition caused by toxins made by Clostridia botulinum spores and often associated with honey, is not a known common risk in maple syrup. Infant botulism, caused when infants swallow spores before their gut microbiome is developed enough to protect them from infection, differs from foodborne botulism (when foods are contaminated with the botulism toxin from improperly home-canned foods). Foodborne botulism is a risk for everyone. Because maple syrup is highly concentrated (with little water content) and very high in sugar, the syrup offers an unfavorable environment for the growth of C. botulinum spores. Raw maple sap, on the other hand, does present a botulism risk because it is low in sugar, is less concentrated, and not very acidic – conditions that favor the development of these toxins. Never offer raw maple sap to a baby.
No, though sticky foods like maple syrup can make other foods more of a risk. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and follow age-appropriate serving suggestions.
No, maple syrup is not a common allergen, though some individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) have had reactions to raw, unprocessed maple sap, but not to the cooked final maple syrup. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity of maple syrup for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals, keeping tabs on overall sugar consumption.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Avoid. Infants have an innate preference for sweetness, so it’s important to give babies and toddlers ample time to develop a taste for unsweetened foods.
While it is safe to introduce maple syrup after baby’s first birthday, syrup is packed with sugar, which is best to avoid at this age when taste preferences are setting in.
Go time! Drizzle a small amount of maple syrup on top of pancakes with nut butter, oatmeal, or yogurt, or mix into foods like sauces or smoothies. Maple syrup is also a tasty sweetener for homemade granola.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
7 cups (1.23 kilograms)
This recipe contains tree nuts. Only serve after coconut, pecan and walnut have been safely introduced. (Pumpkin seed and sunflower seeds are not common allergens.)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C.)
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
Spread the granola mixture on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 45 minutes until the granola is toasted, stirring halfway through.
Once cool, transfer the granola in batches to a food processor. Pulse until all nut pieces are completely pulverized and it resembles a fine texture with no nut pieces remaining. You can also grind the granola with a mortar and pestle just before serving, taking care that no nut pieces remain.
Serve: Serve a hearty scoop of granola on top of or mixed into plain yogurt. Let the child self-feed with a spoon or their hands. Toddlers may enjoy a small bowl of granola and a small pitcher of cream or milk to add to the granola themselves.
To Store: Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to one month or in the freezer for up to one year.
Maple syrup varies in flavor depending on its grade, tree of origin, and the conditions of the sap run, but generally, it has a rich sweetness with notes of vanilla and caramel. Because it has a naturally stronger flavor than cane sugar and some other sweeteners, maple syrup can be added to mild-tasting foods like pancakes, cornbread, banana, sweet potato, and yogurt for some added complexity. The richness of maple also makes it a great complement to savory ingredients like soy sauce, pork, ribs, salmon, and mustard.
E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN
A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
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