Can Babies Have Maple Syrup? What Age Is Safe?

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Starting solids is an exciting time for many families and wanting to share delicious foods with your little one is part of the excitement! There are not many food items that are off the table (literally and figuratively) for babies, but maple syrup’s similarity to honey- one of the foods to avoid- gives many parents pause. 

Unlike its sister sweetener honey, there are no dangers to offering maple syrup and it is safe to do so once your baby is able to safely start solids. There are, however, a few reasons to hold out on maple syrup until your baby is a bit older. 

Just because maple syrup is safe doesn’t mean that there aren’t other reasons to choose an alternative while your baby is still young. Keep reading to find out when it’s recommended to first offer maple syrup as well as your other options. 

Is Maple Syrup Safe for Babies? Any Botulism Risk?

Most new parents are familiar with the recommendation to avoid giving honey to young babies, but the guidance on other natural sweeteners is less clear.

The reasoning behind the “no honey before age 1” rule is that honey can easily carry Clostridium botulinum spores. The immune system of babies isn’t yet strong enough to fight this particular bacteria and it can cause serious illness (source: CDC). 

Maple syrup is often listed as a recipe “swap” for honey, but its similarity as a natural, liquid sweetener is enough to wonder whether it’s really safer. 

Currently, maple syrup is considered a low-risk food, not known to cause botulism in infants (source: Journal of Food Protection).

maple syrup on waffle

To make real maple syrup, maple tree sap is boiled down, concentrating the sugar enough that the high sugar content actually prevents bacterial growth. Maple syrup is so concentrated that it takes up to 43 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup (source: WI Extension)! 

Maple syrup comes in many forms. From pancake syrup to 100% pure maple syrup, there’s no difference in safety- though northern Midwest and Canadian readers will likely all agree that pure maple syrup is the winner when it comes to taste.  

The less concentrated maple sap, on the other hand, can still become contaminated with Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Whether fresh from the tree or canned (either at home or purchased from a farmers’ market), it’s not safe to give maple sap to babies under 12 months. 

Does Maple Syrup Need to be Cooked for Babies?

Maple syrup is a popular sweetener choice in baked goods, especially in recipes that avoid table sugar. While it is not any “healthier” than table sugar and should be treated just like any other added artificial sweetener, it doesn’t need to be baked into foods in order to be safe for little ones. 

By the nature of making maple syrup, it is technically cooked during the boiling process as it’s transformed from sap to syrup. The concentration of sugar that happens when the maple sap is boiled is enough to prevent bacteria from growing, making the finished product of maple syrup safe for babies. 

What Age is Maple Syrup Safe for Babies? 

While maple syrup is safe for little ones, it is still considered to be an added sugar or sweetener. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended avoiding added sugars as much as possible until 2 years of age (source: AAP).

6-9 months9-12 months12-18 months18-24 months24+ months
SafetyMaple syrup is safe for babies who are ready to start solids but isn’t recommended. 

Babies and toddlers under 24 months are still developing their taste preferences, so avoiding added sweeteners as much as possible can help them grow into adventurous eaters. 
Maple syrup is safe for babies who are ready to start solids but isn’t recommended. 

Babies and toddlers under 24 months are still developing their taste preferences, so avoiding added sweeteners as much as possible can help them grow into adventurous eaters. 
Maple syrup is safe for babies who are ready to start solids but isn’t recommended. 

Babies and toddlers under 24 months are still developing their taste preferences, so avoiding added sweeteners as much as possible can help them grow into adventurous eaters. 
Maple syrup is safe for babies who are ready to start solids but isn’t recommended. 

Babies and toddlers under 24 months are still developing their taste preferences, so avoiding added sweeteners as much as possible can help them grow into adventurous eaters. 

-Lightly drizzle on pancake or waffle strips

-Stir a small amount into oatmeal or yogurt

-Use to sweeten muffins/baked goods

Safe Maple Syrup Substitutes for Babies

Many new parents look forward to their child’s first birthday and their first birthday cake. If added sweeteners aren’t recommended until your little one is 2 years old, what’s a parent to do on special occasions?

There are a number of other ways to lightly sweeten foods. Bananas, berries, figs, dates, and even apple sauce are all lightly sweet from naturally occurring fruit sugar and can be used to sweeten baked goods. Of course, offering a few tastes of maple syrup-sweetened foods every now and then or on a special occasion is perfectly safe. 

Pouring maple syrup on stack of pancakes

Some parents wonder whether they can put maple syrup in baby formula, as it’s common in some cultures to sweeten bottles. While you as an adult might not like the taste of baby formula, your baby is used to the flavor and doesn’t mind.

Adding maple syrup is not only unnecessary but can lead your baby to prefer (and expect) very sweet flavors even as they grow up. It is not recommended to add anything other than formula to your baby’s bottles unless your pediatrician has given you specific instructions otherwise. 

If your baby is suddenly refusing to take their bottle, we recommend calling your pediatrician to get to the root cause of why your baby isn’t feeding. 

Does Maple Syrup Help with Constipation in Babies?

Corn syrup is an old-style home remedy for constipation. This is thought to work because the high sugar content pulls water into the intestines, making it easier to go.

While there have not been any studies to show if maple syrup is useful in relieving constipation, the sugar in it is slightly less concentrated than that in corn syrup, which means it could be slightly less effective.

The advice to give corn (or maple) syrup to babies with constipation has fallen to the wayside as there are more age-appropriate and effective ways to get your baby to poop.

Giving a couple of ounces of prune or pear juice, a tummy massage, or trying bicycle legs are a few alternatives. If your baby is consistently dealing with constipation, it’s time to chat with your pediatrician. 

Maple syrup is a safe alternative to honey, though recommendations are still to limit it for children under 24 months because of maple syrup’s ultra-sweet flavor. To learn more about another popular sweetener, check out our article on agave.