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  • Water and Babies

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    Water and Babies

    If you’re a new parent, you might be wondering when it’s okay to wean baby off bottles of milk or breast milk, and onto other drinks. The NHS recommends you start introducing cups instead of bottles when your little one is around six months old. This should be ideally be a normal cup (without a teat), or a beaker fitted with a special free-flow lid. If you give your child a ‘training’ beaker with a teat, it could encourage ‘comfort sucking’ – when baby sucks the teat of the beaker like they would when feeding naturally. This is the number one cause of tooth decay amongst babies and young children, as they tend to take longer to drink, and hold the fluid in their mouths for longer. However, this doesn’t mean you can switch baby’s milk for just any drink when they reach their half-year anniversary. The NHS has clear guidelines on which drinks are suitable for very young children. The only drinks that are okay for very young babies (under six months) are breast milk, infant formula (based on cows’ milk), or water. If you give water to young babies, though, make sure it’s been boiled and cooled to sterilise it. Bottled water may contain sulphates and salts so is not recommended – but if you have to use it, make sure the sodium level of the water is lower than 200 milligrams for every litre, and the sulphate level is lower than 250 milligrams per litre. Babies who have been drinking formula from a bottle may need a little water on hot days, but babies who have been breastfed should get all the nutrients they need from suckling. After six months, says the NHS, you can start giving baby kitchen tap water that hasn’t been boiled. Other drinks, like cows’ milk, fruit juices, squashes and fizzy drinks shouldn’t be given to young babies. Sugary drinks are not recommended for babies and toddlers at all, whilst natural fruit juices can be given to kids after they’re six months old – just make sure you dilute it (10 parts water to one part fruit juice). There aren’t enough nutrients in cows’ milk to sustain young children, so it shouldn’t be given to young babies. You can start giving kids cows’ milk as a supplementary drink when they’re 12 months old. Even then, though, you should use whole milk rather than skimmed or one per cent milks, as only whole milk has enough vitamins and energy. Only when your child is five years old should you consider switching to skimmed milk, or other lower-fat milks. Soya formula and other non-milk-based formulas shouldn’t be given to baby unless your GP says it’s okay. By the time your little one reaches their first birthday, they should have stopped using bottles with teats altogether, and have moved on completely to cups or beakers. This information is for reference only. For advice specific to your child and your needs, talk to your GP or another registered health advisor.