Drinks for babies

Babies generally don’t need any other drinks other than breast or formula milk before they have started on solid foods. The information below gives advice on what drinks are suitable for your babies after they have started to eat solid food.

Cows' milk

You should be careful about the cows' milk that you give you your baby. As a guide:

  • whole milk isn’t suitable as a feed or drink until your baby is a year old, but you can use whole milk in cooking for your baby from six months
  • semi-skimmed milk isn’t suitable as a drink until a child is two years old
  • skimmed milk or one per cent fat milk isn’t suitable until a child is five years old

Goats' and sheep’s milk

Goats’ and sheep’s milk aren’t suitable as drinks for babies under a year old because they don’t contain the right balance of nutrients to meet your baby’s needs. As long as it is pasteurised, you can give goats’ and sheep’s milk as a drink once a baby is a year old.

From six months, you can use a little pasteurised whole milk (from cows, goats or sheep) in cooking.

Water and other drinks

Once your baby is eating solids three times a day, they may need other drinks as well as breast milk or infant formula, particularly if the weather is hot. The best choice is always water.

Water

Offer small sips of water in a cup or trainer cup with meals. It’s a good idea to get your child into the habit of expecting water as a drink, rather than sweet drinks.

For babies under six months, use tap water from the kitchen tap and boil it (water from a bathroom tap may have been sitting in a storage tank and isn’t good for drinking). Remember to allow the water to cool before giving it to your baby.

For babies over six months, you don’t need to boil water (unless you’re using it to make up formula).

Bottled water

Bottled water isn’t a healthier choice than tap water and usually isn’t sterile. In fact, some natural mineral waters aren’t suitable for babies because of the amount of minerals they contain.

If you need to use bottled water, remember that any bottled water that is labelled ‘natural mineral water’ might contain too much sodium or sulphate for babies. Check the label to make sure the figure for sodium (sometimes labelled as Na) isn’t higher than 200 milligrams (mg) a litre. Sulphate shouldn’t be higher than 250mg/l, you might need to look for ‘SO’ or ‘SO4’ on the label as these also mean sulphate.

Boil bottled water like tap water for babies under six months. If you need to use bottled water to make up formula, you should still boil it, whatever your baby’s age.

Fruit juice

Orange juice, and other fruit juice is a good source of vitamin C. But fruit juice also contains natural sugars and is acidic, which means it can cause tooth decay.

There is no need to give your baby fruit juice but, if you do offer it, always dilute it one part juice to 10 parts of water and offer in a feeding cup at mealtimes only.

Other drinks

The following drinks aren't suitable for babies:

  • juice drinks, fizzy drinks, sugary drinks and squashes
  • diet drinks, 'low-calorie' and 'no added sugar' drinks
  • flavoured milks and flavoured waters
  • baby drinks and herbal drinks
  • tea and coffee

Which cup you should use

You might need to try a few types before you find a cup that suits you and your baby. A plastic cup without a lid is best – although it can be messy. Or you could choose a cup with a lid and spout that the baby needs to suck on (sometimes called a sippy cup.)

Whichever one you choose, try to make sure it’s a ‘free flow’ cup, which means some drink will come out if you turn it upside down. This means the cup won’t have a special non-spill valve (or sometimes the valve will be removable).

Cups without lids or ‘free flow’ cups are best because they help your baby learn to sip and are better for the teeth because the drink is in contact with them for a shorter time.

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