STEP 5: Offer 6-8 drinks a day keeps your toddler hydrated

Offering your toddler around six to eight drinks per day of about 100-120mls will keep your toddler well hydrated.

When toddlers do not drink enough:

  • Dehydration may cause them to become  lethargic  and unresponsive
  • Constipation can be exacerbated

See Constipation in Toddlers Guidance & Tips for Parents.

 Choosing drinks to keep your toddler hydrated

  • Always offer your toddler drinks in beakers or cups, not bottles.
  • Water is the best drink in between meals; like other drinks, water quenches thirst and replenishes body fluid, but water is not damaging to teeth as sweet drinks are. Sucking slowly on sweet drinks in a bottle causes prolonged exposure of the teeth to sugar, making tooth decay more likely. By limiting any sugary drinks to mealtimes only, your toddler’s teeth will be protected.

See Protecting toddlers from tooth decay Guidance & Tips for Parents

Toddler drinking from a bottle can cause tooth decay

Sweet drinks:

Sweet drinks

Advice for your toddler

Flavoured milks and yogurt drinksLess damaging to teeth than other sweet drinks because the calcium in the milk gives teeth some protection against dental decay
Fruit juicesThey can damage teeth and are not a necessary part of your toddler’s diet; vitamin C can be obtained from fruit and/or vegetables. If juices are used they should be diluted one part juice to 6-10 parts water
Fruit smoothiesHigh in sugar and acidic. About 100-120ml could be served as an alternative to a sugar-containing pudding
Squashes and fizzy sweet drinksFlavoured with sugar and/or sweeteners. They contain little or no nutrients and are acidic and can damage teeth
Diet and no added sugar drinksThey are acidic and as potentially damaging to teeth as other sweet drinks
Tea and coffeeContain caffeine and are unsuitable for young children. Tea contains tannins that reduce the absorption of iron from food so should not be given at meal times. Herbal teas are suitable for your toddler, but if they are sweetened they should be limited as other sweet drinks are.

Milk allergyMilk

Whole cows’ milk can be given as drinks from when your child is one year old. However large volumes of milk will reduce their appetite for other foods that are higher in iron. Therefore if your toddler continues with large drinks of milk they are more likely to become iron deficient. About 100-120mls in a beaker or cup, not a bottle, is suitable as a drink.

From the age of two, semi-skimmed milk can be introduced to your toddler as a main milk drink, provided he/she is eating well, but whole milk is better because it contains more vitamin A.

Skimmed milk is not suitable for your toddler under five years of age because of its very low vitamin A content. 

Formula milks are enriched with extra nutrients such as vitamin D and iron and can provide a more nutritious milk drink for your toddler if he/she doesn’t eat well.

See Meals Snacks and Drinks, Combining food for a balanced diet and Healthy Eating for Toddlers Guidance & Tips for Parents.

Infant and Toddler ForumFor further guidance and advice around fluids for your toddler, or to download Ten Steps resources, visit www.infantandtoddlerforum.org.

The Infant & Toddler Forum is supported by an educational grant from Danone Baby Nutrition. The views and outputs of the group, however, remain independent of Danone Baby Nutrition and its commercial interests.

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