When can my baby drink water, juice, and cow’s milk?

Not all drinks are suitable for babies. Here's what to give to your growing baby and when.

The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are breastfed for up to two years or longer, while infants who are not breastfed need a suitable breast-milk substitute, for example, infant formula. But you may be wondering if it’s safe to also give your baby cow’s milk, water, or juice?

Not all drinks are suitable for babies. Here’s what to give to your infant and when.

The importance of calcium

Your baby’s milk consumption may decrease as her appetite for solid foods grows, but she still requires 600ml of milk each day. Because cow’s milk is too low in iron and vitamin D, breastmilk, formula, or follow-on milk should be used until your infant is one year old.

Top tip: Ensure that your baby consumes milk at least four times a day.

Always offer milk first

When a baby gets hungry, some mothers make the mistake of feeding her solid food when what she truly wants is a milk feed. Unless it is your baby’s scheduled mealtime, always offer your baby milk first, before offering solids.

Top tip: Breastmilk is an important source of energy and nutrients in babies aged six to 23 months. I

How to give your baby milk

It’s best if your infant can drink from a sippy cup or a regular cup as soon as possible. There are many different types of sippy cups to choose from – one with a long, flexible spout is an excellent transition from a bottle. By the age of one year, your baby should be weaned off traditional bottles.

Top tip: Most milk feeds are better given in a sippy cup or regular cup, with one bottle feed saved for before night if it helps your baby settle.

Milk in cooking

When your baby is six months old, you can start using cow’s milk in cooking, such as in her cereal or in other forms like yoghurt or cheese sauce.

Top tip: Choose full-fat milk over low-fat alternatives since babies require calories for optimum growth.

Keep your baby hydrated

Babies lose more water than adults through their skin and kidneys, as well as the occasional spit-up. As a result, it’s critical that they stay hydrated. Make sure your baby drinks lots of fluids; on a hot day, cool, boiling water is the ideal drink to give — it will quench your baby’s thirst more than any sweet drink.

  • Avoid bottled mineral water since it may contain excessive levels of mineral salts that are harmful to newborns.
  • If a very young infant is thirsty, it isn’t necessary to offer her anything to drink other than milk (breastmilk or formula) or simple water.
  • To avoid tooth disease, fruit syrups, squashes, and sweetened herbal drinks should be avoided. If your baby won’t drink water, give her unsweetened baby juice or fresh 100 percent fruit juice instead.
  • Caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee are not suitable for babies.
Mild signs of dehydration include:

• If your baby has only a few wet nappies in six hours or more • Few or no tears when crying • A dry mouth • If your baby is unusually cranky and irritable • Lethargy

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