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When-Can-Babies-Drink-Water-And-Cow's Mi

When should my Baby be offered Water, Cow's Milk and other drinks? 

When-Can-Babies-Drink-Water-And-Cow's Mi


  • Fully breastfed babies don't need any water until they've started eating solid foods. Formula-fed babies may need some extra water in hot weather.

  • For babies under 6 months, you should not use water straight from the mains tap in the kitchen as it is not sterile. You will need to boil the tap water first and then let it cool down. Water for babies over 6 months doesn't need to be boiled.

  • Bottled water isn't recommended for making up infant formula feeds as it may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate.

  • If you do have to use bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure the sodium (also written as Na) level is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre. The sulphate (also written as SO or SO4) content shouldn't be higher than 250mg per litre.

  • Like tap water, bottled water isn't sterile, so it will need to be boiled before you use it to prepare a feed.

  • Always use boiled water at a temperature of at least 70C when you prepare a feed. Remember to let the feed cool before you give it to your baby.

Cow's Milk 

  • Cows' milk can be used in cooking or mixed with food from around 6 months but shouldn't be given as a drink to babies until they are 12 months old. This is because cows' milk does not contain enough iron to meet babies' needs.

  • Whole milk should be given to children until they are 2 years old, as they need the extra energy and vitamins it contains.

  • Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced once your child is 2 years old, as long as they're a good eater and they have a varied diet.

  • Skimmed and 1% milk aren't suitable for children under 5 years old, as they don't contain enough calories.

  • Lower-fat milks can be used in cooking from 1 year old.


Unpasteurised milk

  • Young children shouldn't be given unpasteurised milk because of the higher risk of food poisoning.


Goats' and sheep's milk

  • These aren't suitable as drinks for babies under 1 year old as, like cows' milk, they don't contain enough iron and other nutrients babies this age need. As long as they're pasteurised, they can be used once your baby is 1 year old.


Soya drinks and other milk alternatives

  • You can give your child unsweetened calcium-fortified milk alternatives, such as soya, oat or almond drinks, from the age of 1 as part of a healthy balanced diet.

  • Babies and young children under 5 years old shouldn't be given rice drinks, because of the levels of arsenic in these products.

  • If your child has an allergy or intolerance to milk, talk to your health visitor or GP. They can advise you on suitable milk alternatives.


Rice drinks

  • Children under 5 years old shouldn't have rice drinks as a substitute for breast milk, infant formula or cows' milk as they may contain too much arsenic.

  • Arsenic is found naturally in the environment and can find its way into our food and water.

  • Rice tends to take up more arsenic than other grains, but this does not mean that your baby cannot eat rice.

  • In the EU, there are maximum levels of inorganic arsenic allowed in rice and rice products, and even stricter levels are set for foods intended for young children.

  • Don't worry if your child has already had rice drinks. There's no immediate risk to them, but it's best to switch to a different kind of milk.

  • See arsenic in rice for more information


Fruit juice and smoothies

  • Fruit juices, such as orange juice, are a good source of vitamin C. However, they also contain natural sugars and acids, which can cause tooth decay.

  • Babies under 12 months don't need fruit juice or smoothies. If you choose to give these to your baby, dilute the juices and smoothies (one part juice to 10 parts water) and limit them to mealtimes.

  • Giving fruit juice and smoothies at mealtimes (rather than between) helps reduce the risk of tooth decay.

  • From 5 years old, you can give your child undiluted fruit juice or smoothies. Stick to no more than 1 glass (about 150 ml) a day, served with meals.


Squashes, flavoured milk, 'fruit' or 'juice' drinks and fizzy drinks

  • These are not suitable for young babies. These drinks contain sugar and can cause tooth decay, even when diluted. 

  • For older babies and young children, these drinks can fill your child up so they're not hungry for healthier food. Instead, offer sips of water from a cup with meals.

  • Watch out for drinks that say "fruit" or "juice" drink on the pack. These probably won't count towards your child's 5 A DAY and can be high in sugar.

  • Fizzy drinks are acidic and can damage tooth enamel so they shouldn't be given to babies and young children.

  • Diet or reduced-sugar drinks aren't recommended for babies and young children. Even low-calorie drinks and no-added-sugar drinks can encourage children to develop a sweet tooth.

'Baby' and herbal drinks

  • These usually contain sugars and are not recommended.

Hot drinks

  • Tea and coffee aren't suitable for babies or young children. If sugar is added, this can lead to tooth decay.

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