When can babies have chocolate?

As a new parent, it’s natural to want to introduce your little one to all kinds of new food, flavours and textures, including the sweet and creamy taste of chocolate. One of the most common questions I get asked as a dietitian is, ‘When can babies have chocolate?’. This is especially common around Easter or Christmas time when parents are looking for dairy-free Easter eggs or Christmas Treats

As your baby has a milk allergy you may also wonder if there is an alternative chocolate out there as you don’t want them to feel they are missing out but chocolate contains milk. Also, the thought of where chocolate is on the milk ladder may also cross your mind. Don’t worry, I’ve got all the answers to these questions 

When can babies have chocolate

When can babies have chocolate? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not giving chocolate to children under the age of 2 years. The reason for this is due to its caffeine, theobromine and sugar content.

Too much sugar in your baby’s diet may have negative effects on their health

Caffeine in chocolate 

Overall the average content of caffeine in chocolate is;

  • White chocolate – small amount of caffeine: minimal
  • Standard milk chocolate bar – 10mg of caffeine
  • Dark chocolate – 25mg mg of caffeine. 

Caffeine which comes from the cocoa contained in dairy-free chocolate, can raise your babies heart rate, blood pressure, affect their sleep and make them irritable. It can also have a negative impact on their nervous system if eaten in large amounts. 

What is chocolate made from? 

Chocolate is typically made from cocoa beans, which are harvested from the cacao tree. The beans are roasted and ground into a paste, which is then used to make chocolate products. 

The cocoa or cacao in chocolate, whether it has milk contained or not is native to Central and South America. 

Cacao vs cocoa

The difference between the two;

  • Cacao is the raw cacao beans that haven’t been roasted
  • Cocoa is the name given to the beans when they have been roasted and is generally seen in processed foods 

In addition to cocoa, chocolate contains sugar, milk, and other flavourings. In the form of milk-free chocolate of course milk isn’t added and alternatives such as soya, oat or coconut are used in place of milk. 

How to introduce chocolate to children?

I would suggest only giving a small piece of chocolate and ensuring that you are always with your little one when giving this. Chocolate will generally melt quite easily in the mouth but if the portion is too large then your baby may struggle to eat this and it may be a choking hazard.

You may want to try to give your little one hot chocolate or chocolate milk in place of chocolate bars. There is still some caffeine in hot chocolate, plus sugar and fat but the caffeine contained is lower than that in hard chocolate. Also, there are many milk-free hot chocolate options out there such as Cadburys hot chocolate and Nequick. *Remember to always read your labels to ensure that the product is milk free as sometimes the manufacturer can change the ingredients list* 

Overall if trying to give hot chocolate to your little one before their second birthday just make sure that this isn’t offered regularly due to its typical high sugar content. Try adding it to your usual fortified plant based milk.

When can babies have chocolate

This is a picture of my daughter Niamh enjoying her hot chocolate! 

Is Chocolate Healthy?

This is a bit of a mixed answer. White & Milk chocolate are both high in fat, which can have an impact on your babies digestive system and could give them an upset tummy and high in sugar. There is evidence to suggest that introducing sweet foods too early on to an infant may make them have a lifelong preference for sugary foods and drinks. This may contribute to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay in later life.

But there has been lots of coverage on with Dark Chocolate linked to providing many health benefits, including; having antioxidant properties to support the immune system, reducing cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. However this information does not give us enough evidence to suggest giving chocolate to children, plus dark chocolate is the highest in caffeine.

Is white chocolate healthier?

White chocolate has the highest sugar content out of dark, milk and white but it does contain the lowest amount of caffeine. Generally it is a good idea to still monitor the amount of chocolate you give. 

When can babies have chocolate

Is dark chocolate dairy free? 

Yes typically dark chocolate is dairy free. This is because it is made from fat (generally cocoa butter), sugar and cocoa solids.  Some dark dairy free chocolate can have a very high cocoa content (over 80%) and can be very bitter to the taste and as mentioned can be higher in caffeine. 

Where is chocolate on the milk ladder?

I advise that chocolate comes between cheese and yogurt on the milk ladder, so step 4 and 5. Chocolate isn’t on the 6 step milk ladder but it is on the older 12 step milk ladder, however yogurt is before cheese on the 12 step ladder…confusing I know. 

I would advise that you made sure that your little one was tolerating cooked cheese and also fresh cheese without any allergic reactions before you give chocolate. Remember that chocolate isn’t advised for babies before 24 months of age. 

Dairy Free Chocolate

If your baby has a milk allergy then it’s important to opt for those chocolates that are labelled as ‘dairy-free’ or ‘milk free’ or you can also opt for vegan chocolate as this will have no animal derivatives contained. 

You will be able to see if milk is included in the product by looking at the label. If a product is labelled ‘free from’ be careful not to assume that it is free from milk protein and double check. 

There are many options on the market now and they are generally made from soya, rice or oat based in place of milk protein.

11 Dairy Free Chocolate Options

1. Moo Free

2. Nomo

3. Cocoa LIbra

4. Playin Choc

5. Doisy & Dam

6. Milky way Dairy Free

7. Terry’s Chocolate Orange Plant Based Bar

8. Freee

9. M&S made without Dairy Giant Chocolate Buttons

10. Tesco Free From Chocolate Buttons

11. Asda Free From Chocolate Buttons.

Summary: when can babies have chocolate

​Advice for when to offer chocolate to babies:

1. Wait until your baby is over the age of 2 years.

2. Keep the portion to a small piece

3. Know that chocolate contains caffeine with dark chocolate having the highest levels.

4. Be aware of the sugar content of chocolate

5. Read your labels to make sure the product is definitely milk free

Overall, it is advised to avoid introducing chocolate to babies at a young age due to the caffeine and sugar contained. Remember that chocolate can be included as part of a balanced diet when your little one is a bit older.

If you need any help with CMPA don’t forget I’m here to support and you can contact me below

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at | info@bump2babynutrition.com | Website | + posts

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.


  • Registered Dietitian
  • First Class Degree in Nutrition


  • Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
  • Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
  • Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition



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