Now that your child is eating solid foods, they need to drink liquids to balance out their diet. Of course, milk is likely still a huge part of your child’s diet, with them probably drinking it more than water. However, although milk is important for toddlers to drink to help with the development of their bones and teeth, it’s still important they drink water, too. If you’re wondering how much water your toddler should be drinking, here’s what you need to know.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 1-year-olds should drink 1-4 cups (8-32 ounces) of water per day and 2-3 cups (16-24 ounces) per day of whole milk.
Before the age of one, babies don’t need to drink much water. When solid food is introduced around 6 months of age, they can drink between half a cup to a cup of water per day. Once they turn 2, the daily water recommendation increases to 1-5 cups (8-40 ounces) per day.
Some medical professionals recommend 1 cup of water per year of age, so 2 cups a day for a 2-year-old, 3 cups for a 3-year-old, and so on.
Overhydration is rare but possible. Dehydration is a much more likely concern to be the case with toddlers.
If your child isn’t getting enough water, you might see:
- Low energy
- Not much (or no) pee
- Very dark-colored pee
- Dry lips
- Cold skin
- Sticky mouth
- Sunken eyes
If your child is having too much water, you might see:
- Low appetite
If you notice your child isn’t eating because their stomach is so full of liquids, simply offer fewer liquids for a while. Constantly sipping on the sippy cup all day may hurt their appetite for important meals. In general, there is no limit to the amount of water you can offer after a child’s first birthday unless this becomes an issue.
Water is the gold standard in hydration for kids. Sugary fruit juices, toddler milk from formula companies, and milk with added sugars like chocolate milk can do more harm than good. Because these have added sugars and sweeteners, they can get your child used to such levels of sweetness. While milk is also important for nutrition for 1-year-olds, they also need to drink plain old water without any sweeteners daily. It doesn’t harm their teeth and sets them up with a good palette that isn’t always craving sweetness.
While water and whole milk are the only drinks young toddlers should really have, how do you know which to offer? Too much milk can have consequences like iron deficiency, constipation, and filling them up so that they don’t want foods with important nutrients. Water is perfect for in-between meals to avoid too much milk. Stick to the recommended 2-3 cups of milk per day for 12-24 months to provide the appropriate amount of healthy fats, calcium, protein, and vitamins. After the age of 2, kids can switch from whole milk to skim milk.
The AAP recommends no more than a half-cup a day of fruit juice. Eating whole fruit is much healthier than drinking fruit juice.
Lead by example by sipping on your own water throughout the day. Toddlers are so suggestible and want to steal what’s on your plate, so this tactic can be pretty effective.
Get your child involved by letting them pick out their own sippy cup and helping them fill it up themselves. Get a cup with their favorite color or character on it and let them take it with them to play in other rooms around the house. You can leave a sippy cup of water in their crib or bed with them overnight as well, since it won’t rot their teeth and they’re still in diapers.
Drinking water isn’t the only way to get your child hydrated. Fruits like watermelon are dripping with fluids that count toward hydration. Actually, around 20% of your child’s fluid intake per day comes from food.
Remember to increase the amount of water they drink the more they sweat from hot weather or exercise.
Water is just one part of a balanced diet and you should work to balance it with foods and drinks while watching your child’s own cues. Forcing too much can backfire, so rest assured that one cup a day is enough and it doesn’t have to be all at once, so a few sips here and there will add up.
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