For young children and babies drinking enough fluid is essential to health and well-being. A high proportion of their body weight is water – so it’s vital to keep them properly hydrated.
Remember that breast-feeding is best for babies but for infants who are not being breast-fed, water plays an important role in the diet. Suitable bottled water (we’ll explain more about that later) may be used to make up formula feeds and later on as a drink in its own right or for the dilution of fruit juices.
Always seek advice from your doctor or health professional if in doubt.
- A new-born baby is 75% water.
- The water in a baby’s body drop to about 65% of body weight by the first birthday.
- Water is good for growing teeth. Milk and water are the best drinks for children.
Travelling With Babies
When travelling, for a child who is bottle-fed, bottled water can be a convenient and safe way of making up babies’ feeds.
- Ensure the tamper-proof seal is intact.
- For babies under 6 months being served formula feed, boil the water, then cool it slightly to around 70 degrees C. The water must remain hot enough to destroy any bacteria in the formula powder as once the box of formula has been opened it is no longer sterile. See http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/making-up-infant-formula.aspx#close for further information.
- In very hot climates your baby may need extra fluid which can be provided by boiled, cooled bottled water but take advice from your health professional before you travel.
- Remember to check the mineral analysis on the bottled water to ensure it is suitable.
Q. How much fluid should my child drink?
A. How much your child needs depends on their age and weight. Fluid needs are greatest during the first months. It is crucial to avoid fluid losses especially when your baby is very young. A rough guide to average fluid requirements is given here (remember that for very young babies, milk should provide the bulk of their fluid intake).
Average Weight (Kg)
Fluid Requirement *
3.5 – 7
“Community Child Health and Paediatricians”
Edited by Harvey, Miles, Smyth Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospitals, London
*Up to a year, the amount of fluid recommended is given in millilitres per kg of weight. For quick reference, after this age, the total daily fluid required is given based on average weights. Remember – babies aged 0-3 months should have formula feed only – not plain water or other liquids.
“Children have a larger ‘turnover’ of body water… and their thirst sensitivity is learnt behaviour,” according to Vanessa Shaw MBE, Head of Dietetics at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Speaking at the British Nutrition Foundation’s Hydration Conference in November 2010, she said that, due to a range of reasons including their higher total body water content and a higher respiratory and metabolic rate, children are likely to be at greater risk of dehydration, compared with adults.
Q. What kind of water should young children drink - or should they only drink milk or fruit juice?
A. Milk and water undoubtedly the best drinks for most children. For infants breast milk is the best fluid of all.
Fruit juice can be served in moderation as part of a balanced diet but remember that juice is high in sugars and therefore is not ideal for sipping over prolonged periods as this can have a negative effect on growing teeth. Water is kind to teeth because it is sugar free, so cultivate the habit early and give them a good start in life.
Infants aged six months or under should be given still (not sparkling) water that has been boiled and cooled immediately prior to use. Over the age of six months, healthy babies and toddlers can drink any suitable, newly-opened bottled waters. Those waters deemed suitable for babies are those with a relatively low mineral content as defined by the forthcoming UK legislation on this matter. See Brand details in The Best of British.
Q. Which waters are suitable for babies and young children?
A. Babies and young children can be given either tap water or bottled waters that are low in minerals, especially those that are relatively low in sodium.
There are many British bottled waters that are suitable for young children. Just look for waters with a low sodium content on the bottle label.
Q. Some people say that you shouldn’t give bottled water to babies. Is this true?
A. No – suitable bottled waters are great for children especially for those parents who want to avoid some of the chemicals that may have to be added to tap water. The UK Government has just caught up with the rest of Europe in recommending bottled water as well as tap water for the make-up of infant feeds where parents need or choose not to breast-feed (although where possible breast feeding should continue for at least four months and ideally throughout the first year). In much of Continental Europe bottled water has been recommended by several national governments for the preparation of infant feed for over 20 years.
Q. Is water okay to use straight from the bottle?
A. In the UK, the advice is that all water (whether tap or bottled) should first be boiled and immediately cooled before being given to infants aged 6 months and under. Never let anyone drink direct from the bottle if the water is also going to be used for a baby. For infants, always pour the water into a suitable baby’s feeding bottle. For older children, decant the water into a trainer cup as appropriate (for children aged seven months and older, the water does not have to be boiled as long as it has been correctly stored.
Q. Fruit juice contains vitamins. Isn’t this better for children than water?
A. Fruit juice has a valuable role to play in the diet but should be served sparingly. The Department of Health advises, if fruit juices are to be given, they should be kept to mealtimes only, be dispensed from a cup, be well-diluted and only served after the age of six months. Never let a child suck on or sip fruit juices for prolonged periods as this can affect the development of healthy teeth.
Q. I’m not confident that my child will like the bland taste of water. How can I deal with this?
A. Bottled water is free from any unpleasant tasting cleansing agents, such as chlorine, and you will find that most children enjoy great tasting water. The absence of chemicals and sweeteners is a clear plus and, due to its pleasant taste, British bottled waters are the ideal way to encourage children to drink this healthiest of drinks. This will also establish good habits for later on in life. Most children love good tasting water and health conscious parents welcome water as it doesn’t contribute to childhood obesity as it is calorie-free as well as being kind to teeth. Remember, young children need milk as well as water.