Popsicles for Babies & Toddlers

a variety of colorful popsicles for babies starting solids

Popsicles, ice pops, or freeze pops can be a fun way to help a child cool down after some fun in the sun, but are popsicles safe for infants? Let’s dig in.  

Can babies have popsicles?

While there is no research to say when babies can have popsicles, there are a few things to consider before serving a popsicle to a baby. Traditionally, popsicles, freeze pops, and ice pops are made with frozen fruit juice or fruit puree. The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend babies exclusively eat human milk or formula ideally until 6 months of age; following those guidelines, we’d advise against offering babies fruit popsicles (or any other solid foods) until at least 6 months old. Beyond 6 months old and once baby has started solids, you can likely serve baby a popsicle; however, it might be best to wait until closer to 12 months (see below).

If you have a toddler whose getting tricky at the table? Check out our Toddlers at the Table guides and videos.

Can babies have breast milk popsicles, formula popsicles, or teething pops?

Some lactation consultants and infant specialists recommend offering human milk popsicles or frozen formula ice pops as a way to soothe baby’s sore gums while teething or encourage additional hydration if baby is sick and refusing to nurse or take a bottle. Cold items have long been established as a soothing relief for a teething baby, and a popsicle may provide relief for a baby popping teeth.1

Literature loosely supports this as a strategy, as cold and chewing pressure can cause localized pain relief, and many moms attest to cold teethers as a  relief for teething discomfort.4

As such, it would be wise to use abundant caution when giving popsicles to babies who can’t hold them independently.

Cooper, 13 months, eats a berry popsicle for the first time.

What are the risks of serving popsicles to babies?

First, stating the obvious, popsicles, freeze pops, and ice pops are very cold. While somewhat rare, it’s possible for baby to develop popsicle panniculitis, which can result in facial swelling and redness and bumps in and around the cheeks in some babies 6 to 72 hours after they suck on something cold or frozen.6 7 8 9 While not dangerous, popsicle panniculitis can last for weeks. If your child has had popsicle panniculitis already you may want to limit exposure to very cold or frozen foods until they’re a little older and less at risk of a recurrence of the condition.

From an oral motor and swallowing perspective, once a baby can bring something to their mouth (around 6 months of age), they should be able to manage the oral motor demands of a popsicle. Baby will likely gnaw, bite, and suck on the popsicle, melting it, and, depending on baby’s experience moving liquid around in the mouth, baby may spit or swallow it. If the baby is not used to cold liquids, expect some coughing, but do not be alarmed—this is the body’s natural response to the big sensory input from the cold and also a protective mechanism as baby learns to swallow liquid differently (i.e., not from a breast, bottle, or even cup or straw).

If baby uses their gums or teeth to bite off a piece of popsicle or ice pop, baby might allow the piece to fall out of their mouth. If not, the piece will immediately begin to melt, becoming smaller and smaller as baby uses the gums to mash up the soft ice. Don’t be alarmed if the baby coughs. A popsicle is what feeding therapists call a “mixed consistency” —it may be liquid and semi-solid in the mouth at the same time. Baby has to learn to hold both the liquid and the semi-solid in the mouth. Remember, coughing is a good thing—it’s the body’s way of protecting baby from having something go the wrong way.

Lastly, most store-bought popsicles can have a lot of added sugar or sweeteners, which are not appropriate for babies under 12 months old, so best to skip store-bought popsicles in favor of homemade recipes with 100% fruit or vegetable puree.

Are there benefits of giving popsicles to baby?

Babies learn through experiences, and eating a cold popsicle is a fun new experience that offers a lot of sensory information at once. Popsicles are sometimes used in feeding therapy to help improve swallowing safety and “alert” the mouth in preparation for eating new foods and building chewing skills.