There’s a lot of information out there on what to give your babies and toddler to drink and some of it is not very good. (Please don’t ever replace formula with bone broth or buy breast milk online when you can’t be certain of the health of the donor or the conditions in which it was collected and shipped.)
You’re better off sticking with the recommendations of the Australian Government’s Department of Health, whose guidelines form the basis of this article. As with any situation to do with your child’s health and nutrition, please talk to you doctor or local Early Childhood Centre nurse if you have any specific concerns.
What Should I Give My Young Baby?
If your baby is breastfed, that’s all you need to give them for the first six months of their life. If you use formula, you can give them boiled, cooled water as well,
What About After Six Months?
Once you start introducing foods, which is generally around six months of age, you can start giving your baby water in a cup or bottle. Again, make sure the water is boiled and cooled.
How Much Water Should My Child Drink?
It’s really important that children get enough water. It helps them digest their food, absorb nutrients and ahem, get rid of waste. In addition, children tend to dehydrate quickly and that can make them very sick. That said, there’s no need to obsess about water. You may have heard the old wives’ tale about drinking 8 glasses of water a day, but that’s a figure someone basically plucked out of the air. You and your child tend to get a lot of your water from your food anyway, so just use your common sense. Have plenty on hand, such as taking a water bottle with you when you go out, and offer your child regular sips. If they are being really active or it’s a hot day, offer it more frequently and perhaps chill the water as well. You should also give your child water with meals and snacks.
What About Cows’ Milk?
It’s fine to use a small amount of cows’ milk in food preparation for a child between six and 12 months, but they shouldn’t drink it at this age. They are unable to process the protein and salt in the milk properly and it can cause low iron levels in the blood. After 12 months, cows’ milk is fine, but limit it to two cups a day. When you’re trying _ with varying degrees of success, probably _ to encourage your child to eat a variety of new foods, you don’t want them to fill up on milk. Milk for children under two should be full fat, and the current recommendation is to switch mainly to reduced fat milk after that age. Remember that reduced fat is different to low-fat or skim milk, however. The vitamin K gets removed during the skimming and your body absorbs other nutrients through the fat in milk, so it’s not as beneficial. There’s also an argument that because it makes you feel less full, drinking skim milk may cause you to eat more than you would if you were drinking regular milk. Don’t give them flavoured milk either, it’s unnecessary and often full of sugar.
What About Other Drinks?
Soft drinks, flavoured water or milk, cordial, tea, sports or energy drinks, and fruit juice or drinks fill your kids up so they are less likely to eat healthy meals and there’s no real reason to give it to them, at least not regularly. On top of that, it can cause problems, such as tooth decay and weight gain. In the case of babies, tea is really not good for them and the health department says it can weaken their blood. If you want to give your toddler fruit juice if should be diluted with water, but the reality is, it’s just not necessary. While juice has an aura of healthiness, juicing removes the fibre and concentrates the sugar of multiple servings of fruit into a drink that is nowhere near as filling as the fruit would be. In fact, fruit juice often contains similar amounts of sugar as soft drinks.
What About When my Child is Sick?
There’s nothing more distressing than having a sick child who refuses to drink. While you may have been told to drink flat soft drink when you were a child, it’s no longer recommended and may increase the risk of dehydration. Try offering frequent sips of water or ice chips (and make sure you supervise young children with the latter). Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or call the HealthDirect hotline on 1800 022 222 to discuss whether your child needs electrolyte replacement drink or ice blocks.
Keeping your child hydrated is important, but so is ensuring that you are giving them the right drinks to keep them active and healthy.