Guide to drinks for your toddler

Thirsty tot? Here’s the lowdown on the best drinks for your child from 12 months onwards

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By 12 months, most toddlers have drastically cut down on their milk intake. But keeping him well hydrated is just as important, especially as he’s likely to be increasingly active. So what are the best drinks to fuel his thirst for adventure?

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Milk

By the time your baby is a toddler he’s unlikely to still need regular milk feeds during the day, although he may still like milk on waking or with breakfast and at bedtime.

You can now give your baby whole cow’s milk as a drink: before 12 months, it’s not suitable because it contains too much salt and not enough iron. Semi-skimmed milk isn’t suitable as a drink until two years of age, as it’s too low in calories and nutrients, and skimmed milk shouldn’t be given before the age of five.

To meet your child’s calcium requirements, aim to give him 300ml (just over half a pint) of milk a day. If he’s not keen on milk, you can boost his intake by giving him milk on cereal and offering other dairy products like yoghurt and cheese.

If you and your toddler are still happy breastfeeding, there’s no reason to stop. Neither is there any reason to continue to give your child formula, although special follow-on formulas or ‘toddler milks’ are available which are tailored to toddlers’ nutritional needs – reassuring if you have a fussy eater. Whatever milk you give him, make sure you’re giving it from a cup rather than a bottle to protect his teeth.

Water

Alongside milk, water should be your toddler’s main drink. Give him a drink of water with every meal and snack, and offer it at regular intervals throughout the day. Make sure he has his water from a cup rather than a bottle. Bottled water is no better nutritionally than tap water, and may contain high levels of sodium, which is bad for babies, so stick to tap water as much as possible.

Juice

If your baby doesn’t like the taste of water you can keep him hydrated with drinks of fruit juice. It’s rich in vitamins and more exciting for his taste buds than plain water, but also contains high levels of sugar, which can damage his teeth. If you’re giving him juice to drink, dilute it with water (one part juice to 10 parts water) and offer it only with meals: the vitamin C in the juice will also help to boost the iron she absorbs from food.

Full sugar fruit squash is also suitable from 12 months, but again, make sure it’s well diluted. To protect his teeth, don’t offer juice or squash from a bottle, but from a cup or a beaker with a straw.

What not to give

Most of us become more laidback about food and drink once we hit the toddler years, but it’s best to avoid the following drinks:

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  • Sugar-free squash and diet drinks: these contain sweeteners that are not recommended for under-threes.
  • Fizzy drinks: these erode teeth and often contain caffeine which interferes with your child’s iron absorption.
  • Flavoured water and milk: liable to contain high levels of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.
  • Tea and coffee: contain caffeine which affects iron uptake and may disturb sleep patterns.

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