WHAT ARE THE BEST FLUIDS FOR A TODDLER?
A healthy toddler who is eating well should be given beakers of water or milk as their main drinks. Breastfeeding is recommended up to two years of age or beyond. If you are breastfeeding, keep going for as long as you and your toddler enjoy it. If you are not breastfeeding, cow’s milk or growing-up milk can be offered as the main milk drink from one year of age.
WHAT TYPES OF MILK?
- Breastmilk can be offered regardless of the age of the toddler.
- Full-fat cow milk can be offered to toddlers aged 1-2 years.
- Low-fat cow milk can be offered to toddlers aged 2-5 years.
- Growing-up milk can be offered to toddlers aged 1-3 years.
- Skimmed milk should not be given before 5 years of age.
WHAT ABOUT JUICE?
Water and milk are best because juices are acidic and are more likely to damage teeth. If you offer juice occasionally, it is more tooth-friendly if it is:
- Heavily diluted. Fruit juices should be one part juice to ten parts water.
- Given only with a snack or meal. To help reduce the number of acid attacks on teeth, it is best to drink juice when eating.
- In a small amount. Since juices should be taken with a snack or meal, it is important to make sure your toddler’s appetite is not reduced by the amount of juice they drink. Limit beakers of juice to 3oz (100mls) at mealtimes to encourage your toddler to eat nutritious solid food.
DRINKS TO AVOID: HIGH SUGAR
High sugar drinks are best avoided. They contribute to tooth decay, reduce appetite and nutrient intake, and can lead to excess weight gain. These drinks include:
- Carbonated soft drinks.
- Fruit squash.
- Flavoured water.
- Flavoured milk.
DRINKS TO AVOID: CAFFEINE
Caffeinated drinks contain caffeine, which is a stimulant. They can also contain tannin, which interferes with the absorption of iron, a nutrient which is important for your toddler’s growth and brain development. These drinks include:
- Energy drinks.
Read about the importance of getting enough iron in Your Toddler’s Busy Brain.
DRINKS TO AVOID: DIET OR SUGAR-FREE CARBONATED
Though they don’t have sugar, diet or sugar-free carbonated drinks have a high acid content. They are harmful to teeth and can reduce appetite. Avoid giving them to your toddler.
HOW MUCH LIQUID DO TODDLERS NEED?
To help prevent dehydration and constipation, toddlers should drink around 1200-1500mls each day. Divide this between water and milk:
- About six beakers of 5oz (150mls) water.
- About two-three beakers of 5oz (150mls) milk.
WHEN SHOULD THEY DRINK?
Spread your toddler’s drinks evenly throughout the day. The amount of food they eat will be reduced if they drink too much too close to meals. A good tip is to avoid offering drinks for 30 minutes before the next meal or snack. When they are eating, wait until at least half of the meal is eaten before giving them a drink to go with the rest.
With a routine of 3 main meals and 2 or 3 snacks a day, you can spread the drinks to suit!