Everyone knows that water is essential for life. But after spending your child’s first year with strategies on how much breast milk or formula to give them, it can feel a little discordant to change your thoughts to plain old water.
Now that bottles are a thing of the past and sippy cups are your new jam, you may be wondering how much H20 your toddler needs.
Should they be taking all day or just here and there? And how can a proper balance between water and milk be achieved for hydration and nutrients?
We aim to get the right amount of water to the occupied bodies of 1, 2 and 3 year olds.
“Water should be the main source of hydration for children older than 1 year,” says pediatric dietitian Grace Shea, MS, RDN, CSP, LDN, and there are several reasons why.
On the one hand, getting plenty of water helps children’s digestion, helping to avoid these nasty constipation problems that no one likes to treat. And while your little one runs, fights and rolls, he needs water to replenish fluid tanks after the activity (especially if you play outdoors or in the warmer months).
In addition, drinking water helps people of any age maintain a constant body temperature, lubricates joints, and protects tissues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And since it’s a calorie-free, sugar-free drink that won’t derail your child’s taste preferences, it’s almost a total victory.
Okay, so H20 is important, I get it. But how much does your little one need? Some experts recommend 1 cup a day per year of age (such as 1 cup a day at 1 year, 2 cups at 2 years, etc.), but there is no exact perfect amount.
“The amount of water a child needs depends on age, gender, and activity level,” Shea notes.
On average, it is best to fight for 2 to 4 cups (16 to 32 ounces) of water a day for children between 1 and 3 years old. Along with the intake of milk and food liquids, this will provide enough liquid to meet your needs. needs.
Your pediatrician has probably given you the importance of including whole milk in your child’s daily diet. This high-fat, high-protein drink provides top-notch nutrition for growing young children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 2 to 3 cups of whole milk a day for children ages 1 to 2 years and 2 to 2 1/2 cups for children ages 2 to 5 years.
While milk has many benefits, more is not necessarily better.
“Excess milk can cause babies to fill up and displace other nutrients and foods, in addition to causing iron deficiency,” Shea says. “Ideally, water should be the main source of fluid in a young child’s diet. I recommend giving milk with meals and not in between so they don’t fill up too much for the next meal. Then provide unlimited water throughout the day. “
For a problem with such a simple solution, dehydration can wreak a lot of havoc. Whether your baby does not have access to fluids or gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as diarrhea and vomiting, it is not as difficult as you think to become dehydrated.
Because their bodies are more compact (with smaller water reserves), young children are at a higher risk of dehydration than older children and adults.
Warning signs of your 1- to 3-year-old’s dehydration include:
- little energy
- little or no urine or very dark colored urine
- dry lips or skin
- extreme agitation or discomfort
- cold skin
- no tears produced while crying
- increased heart rate
If dehydration lasts too long, it can lead to health complications or even death, so offer fluids often when your child is active and feel free to call or visit a healthcare professional if you notice these symptoms.
Fortunately, actual overhydration (which causes health problems) is uncommon.
However, it is possible (though uncommon) for your child to get to the point where he or she experiences so-called water poisoning.
This can cause hyponatremia, a serious sodium imbalance in your young child’s system. Hyponatremia may initially appear to be fatigue and nausea and evolve into symptoms such as vomiting, brain swelling, seizures, coma, or death.
If you suspect that your child has become dehydrated to hyponatremia, seek medical attention immediately.
The most likely problem you will encounter if your baby drinks from a cup (or, worse, from a bottle) non-stop has to do with hunger. A stomach full of fluids is not what will host dinner.
Do you have a small child who never wants to eat at meal time, but who uses a sippy cup as a safety blanket? Consider offering different drinks from the water more sporadically, such as only when serving food. It can improve your appetite.
As soon as your child learns to speak, don’t be surprised if they call for other delicious drinks to complete the milk and water menu.
Humans are connected to craving sweetness, and once kids try the sweet flavors of the juice or even the soda, they probably won’t forget the taste of these other drinks.
But experts do not advise giving up applications to fill the cup with OJ, at least rarely.
“Drinks like juice or soda provide little nutritional value and contain a lot of added sugars that are not necessary for the little ones,” says Shea.
In fact, the AAP recommends limiting fruit juice to just 4 ounces a day in young children ages 1 to 3 years. For children who are underweight or overweight, the AAP recommends eliminating fruit juice altogether and focusing on adding more whole fruits to your diet.
What about other sweet drinks like soft drinks and sports drinks? Skip them. Their high sugar content and low nutritional value make it not worth including them in your toddler’s diet.
Young children should have two main drinks on tap: water and milk. Among this duo of healthy drinks, they can get all the hydration they need.
Try to achieve a goal of 2 to 4 cups of water per day from 1 to 3 years.