The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age. Babies who are not breastfeeding should receive only formula milk for this period. After 6 months solids can be gradually introduced, and your baby can start drinking sips of water. Most websites writing about Rooibos will recommend starting to give your baby Rooibos tea now. Although small amounts will not cause harm, there is no nutritional reason to do so, and many moms choose to start closer to one year.
Rooibos tea contains no caffeine, no tannins and no calories. It also has a naturally sweet taste, making it a popular drink for babies. The truth is though that it also contains no nutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fats. Although it makes a nice add-on drink for babies it should not in any way be used to replace breast milk or formula in a baby’s diet.
Although some websites proclaim Rooibos is safe to give from birth, no guidelines anywhere support giving babies any other fluids besides milk in the first 4 months of life.
Even older babies should preferably not have more than a cup of Rooibos tea a day, and it should be given in addition to their milk, not as a replacement.
Can I use any Rooibos tea or does it have to be the one for babies?
Although there are many different products, many of them claiming to be for babies, all Rooibos teas come from the same plant. It is always good to use organic products, as these should be free from pesticides and insecticides.
Many of the baby Rooibos teas are flavoured, and from a health viewpoint this is actually not ideal. By offering children flavoured food and drinks we end up teaching them to prefer sweetened and flavoured things later in life as well. Rooibos has a pretty sweet taste on its own. Babies won’t miss any flavours if they don’t know that it is there.
Should I sweeten my baby’s tea?
No. If a little one starts drinking Rooibos tea unsweetened he will not miss any sweeteners. Adding honey or juice significantly increases the calorie content of the tea, and makes it harmful for their teeth as well.
Rooibos in your first-aid kit
You can give a cup of Rooibos tea to anyone in the family who are experiencing digestive discomfort. Some sources recommend small amounts of Rooibos tea for babies with colic as well. However, there is no evidence supporting this and you should rather speak to your clinic sister or doctor to help you find solutions for colic and cramps.
One area where Rooibos is used with quite a lot of success is to treat skin rashes and irritations. Try these tips:
- Add a strong cup of Rooibos tea to baby’s bath water.
- Dab Rooibos tea directly onto an affected area.
- If your baby struggles with dry and irritable skin you should be using an emollient lotion. Take a Rooibos teabag, wet it with hot water and leave it in the pot of lotion to infuse overnight. Remove the teabag and use the lotion as always.
- You can also dunk a teabag in boiling water, leave it to cool and apply it directly to a severely affected area on baby’s skin.
Christine Klynhans is a nursing sister and South African Certified Lactation Consultant (SACLC). She currently works at Parentwood Baby and Family Wellness Centre in Pretoria as a well-baby clinic sister and antenatal teacher. She also has a breastfeeding practice and a Breast Pump Demo Centre. She is passionate about supporting parents on the journey of pregnancy, breastfeeding and the early childhood years. Learn more about Christine Klynhans.