First birthdays are a huge milestone, not only for your little one but also for the whole family! Whether you go all-out a throw a themed first birthday party or opt for a small family get-together, there is no doubt that birthdays are synonymous with cake.
While traditional cakes are free from choking hazards, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend serving foods sweetened with sugar (or sugar substitutes, for that matter) to kids under 2 years old.
As a parent, it’s your decision what to feed your family and an age-appropriate portion of birthday cake on their special day is likely harmless.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the current recommendations so your baby can have their first birthday cake and eat it too!
Can Babies Eat Cake on Their First Birthday?
Serving babies their own birthday cake is hugely common yet nonetheless controversial. Whether it be cupcakes or the newly popular “cake smashes,” if you’ve ever watched a baby take their first bit of cake the awe in their eyes is something special.
But many parents want to balance this fun and sticking to nutrition recommendations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding added sugars until children are at least 2 years old and this does include occasions like birthdays (source: AAP). The reasoning behind this recommendation is two-fold.
Firstly, foods with added sugars typically are not the highest in other nutrients, and by eating sugary foods on a regular basis babies might miss out on important nutrition.
The second reason is that babies and young children are still developing their taste preferences and eating sweet foods can lead little ones to prefer sweet flavors throughout their lives.
But even if you choose to avoid all added sugars until 2 years, that does not mean a first birthday cake is off of the table. Some families opt to use naturally-sweetened recipes. A few popular baby-friendly sweet options include
- Mashed bananas
- or other fruit purees (strawberry, peach, etc.)
The brand “Smashcake” even makes no sugar, no salt-added boxed cake mixes. Forgoing cake and opting for no-sugar added banana bread or fruit topped with unsweetened whipped cream is another option.
If you’re not a baker yourself, some local bakeries offer no-sugar options meant just for babies. A few of my colleagues have gone this route to celebrate their own littles and loved the final result.
Keep in mind that “natural” sweeteners like maple syrup and honey are still considered to be added sugars. Honey should also be avoided for all babies under 1 year old because of the risk for botulinum toxin (source: CDC).
Other families opt to serve just a small portion of regular birthday cake and icing. Babies are usually more interested in playing with the cake and icing and eat very little of the sweet cake. The whole purpose of the smash cake is to get messy and have fun!
Despite the sugar content, there is nothing harmful about offering your baby a taste of traditional birthday cake on their first birthday.
In many areas, there are professional photographers who will set up a “smash cake” station for your baby and take pictures while they play with (and maybe take a few bites of) their cake! Depending on your photographer, they may provide the cake- meaning you’ll have less flexibility over ingredients should you choose to swap out sugar.
Whether you choose to naturally sweeten your little one’s birthday cake or let them have a few tastes of the real deal, do keep in mind choking hazards when decorating. Avoid
- Gummy candies and hard candies
- Other small and round-shaped chocolates- think Whoppers or Milk Duds.
Remove non-edible cake toppers before serving, especially if they are small in size (source: CDC). Mix-ins like food coloring, chocolate, or age-appropriate-sized pieces of fruit are all safe.
While frosting itself isn’t a choking hazard, sticky and pasty foods can be tough for little ones to swallow. Piles of cream frosting are okay for adult portions, but spreading a thinner layer on baby’s slice not only saves on sugar but can be easier for your little one to swallow safely.
Another low/no-sugar option that’s easy for learning eaters is using whipped cream to frost the cake.
Can Babies Eat Cake at 6 Months?
The recommendations for added sugar consumption are the same for all kids under 2 years old, whether that be 6 months of age or 1 year old.
When it comes to the texture, once your baby is ready to start solids they will likely be able to handle the texture of a cake. Of course, in keeping with the American Academy of Pediatrics guidance, it’s recommended to serve cakes that are naturally sweetened.
Though it’s recommended to avoid added sugar for babies and young children, you don’t have to forego letting your little one in on enjoying cake their 1st birthday cake if you choose to stick to this guidance. There’s no shortage of naturally sweetened recipes yummy enough for the whole family.