Healthy drinks under six months

Under six months, babies need only breastmilk or infant formula. Breastmilk or formula is food and drink for babies at this age.

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.

Giving your baby drinks other than water, breastmilk or formula in the first 12 months can stop him 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 she’s eating a balanced diet.

Reduced-fat milk isn’t recommended for children under two years. This is because 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, he doesn’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.

When your child drinks plenty of water regularly throughout the day, she stays hydrated. This is especially important in hot weather or when your child is running around a lot. Drinking plenty of water can also help her 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 acid 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, it should be limited to ½ cup per day. 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 always better than fruit juice, because it satisfies thirst but doesn’t contain sugar.

Unhealthy drinks: soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavoured milk

Soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks and energy drinks have lots of sugar and virtually no nutrients.

They’re not good for children, because they take the place of other more nourishing foods and drinks and can cause weight gain or tooth decay. Many soft drinks also contain caffeine, which could make your child extremely excited, then exhausted. Caffeine can also affect your child’s sleep.

Mineral waters can be high in certain minerals that can stress your child’s kidneys. Flavoured varieties can also be high in sugar.

Flavoured milk and breakfast milk drinks are high in added sugar, so it’s better to offer your children plain milk instead.

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.