Healthy drinks under 6 months
Healthy drinks at 6-12 months
You can give breastfed and formula-fed babies small amounts of cooled boiled tap water from a cup from six months on.
Drinking water from a cup – rather than a bottle – helps your child learn how to handle a cup.
If your baby has drinks other than water, breastmilk or formula in the first 12 months, it can stop your baby from getting enough essential nutrients.
Healthy drinks at 12 months
After 12 months, you can give your baby pasteurised, unflavoured, full-fat cow’s milk to drink if they’re eating a balanced diet.
Reduced-fat milks aren’t recommended for children under two years. This is because babies and toddlers need the nutrients in full-fat milk to meet their energy, growth and development needs.
You can keep breastfeeding after 12 months for as long as it suits you and your child. If your child has been formula fed and they’re eating a balanced diet, your child probably won’t need formula after 12 months.
Your child can also have tap water, but there’s no need to boil it after 12 months.
Healthy drinks for toddlers, preschoolers and older children
For toddlers and older children, tap water and milk are the best drinks.
Your child can stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This is especially important in hot weather or when your child is running around a lot. Drinking plenty of water can also help your child avoid constipation.
Encouraging your child to drink more water
Here are some tips to encourage your child to drink and enjoy water:
- Get everyone in the family drinking water as their main drink. When your children see you doing it, they’re likely to do it too.
- Make water easily available by giving younger children water bottles at home and showing older children how to get their own water from the tap.
- Have water on the table at meals and snack times.
- Keep chilled water in a jug in the fridge. You could try adding ice cubes or pieces of frozen fruit to make it more appealing for your child.
- Take filled water bottles when you go out with your child.
Unhealthy drinks: fruit juice
Fruit juices have high levels of sugar and don’t have much fibre. Children don’t need extra sugar – but they do need fibre. That’s why it’s better for them to eat fruit, rather than drink juice.
If your child drinks juice, try to limit it to ½ a cup per day. You could try giving fruit juice at a particular time or during a daily activity to help you stick to this limit. For example, you could say, ‘We have fruit juice with our breakfast’.
It’s a good idea to mix the fruit juice with some water or ice, and even sneak in a few vegetables. Mixing the fruit in a blender instead of a juicer will keep the fruit fibre in the juice.
It’s best for children to eat whole fruit and drink plain tap water or milk. Water is better than fruit juice, because it satisfies thirst and doesn’t have any extra sugar.
Unhealthy drinks: soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavoured milk
Soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks and energy drinks have a lot of added sugar and virtually no nutrients for your child’s diet.
Some of these drinks also contain caffeine, which could make your child extremely excited, then exhausted. Caffeine can also affect your child’s sleep.
Flavoured milk and breakfast milk drinks are high in added sugar, so it’s better to offer your children plain milk instead.
Flavoured mineral waters can also be high in added sugar.
Unhealthy drinks: tea and coffee
Tea and coffee contain caffeine, which can affect your child’s sleep, behaviour and development.
Some herbal teas might contain compounds that can be harmful for children. Check with your health professional if you have questions about herbal tea for your child.