Which fluids are best for your child? It all depends on their age
0 – 6 months: Your baby will get all the fluid and nourishment they need through breastfeeding. This includes replenishing the fluid or water they need to sustain bodily functions and life.
6 - 12 months: Your baby's main form of fluid should be breast milk or infant formula. After you’ve introduced them to solids, you can also give your little one cooled boiled water from a cup.
12 - 24 months: Give them plain (not flavoured) full cream cow's milk. Milk contains important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B and zinc, all of which are important for your toddler’s growth and development.
Too much cow's milk can, however, suppress a child's appetite, which in turn can lead to nutrient deficiencies. So it’s best to limit your toddler’s milk consumption to 3 cups (600mls) per day.
From 12 months: Try to encourage your child to drink tap water as well as milk. Tap water contains zero kilojoules and is the best fluid for quenching thirst and hydrating the body.
Two years onwards: It's a good idea to encourage your kids to drink tap water as their main source of fluid. They can also have plain (not flavoured) reduced fat milk, rather than full cream milk, but in limited quantities.
Between two years and five years: We recommend that you limit your child’s consumption of reduced fat milk to 3 cups (600mls) per day. Too much milk can supress a child’s appetite, which can then lead to a nutrient deficiency, or even an over-supply of kilojoules.
A note on milk
Reduced fat milk has the same nutrients as full cream milk, but it’s lower in saturated fat. This means that from ages two to five, your child can get all the benefits of milk without consuming excessive fat.
Powdered, evaporated or UHT (long life) milks are all suitable alternatives to fresh cow's milk. Soy milk enriched with calcium is also fine.
Skim, oat, rice and coconut milks won’t provide your little one with the same range of nutrients as whole cow's milk, so avoid them unless you’ve been advised otherwise by a health care practitioner.