With the summer in the full swing, those of us in warmer climates become concerned about how much exactly our children should be drinking.
This post is about water and how to help your child stay hydrated. Make sure to download the chart on how much water kids need, at the bottom of this post.
Kids need more water than adults
Did you know? Kids have a higher water requirement per kg of body weight because their bodies have larger total water content.
Newborn babies are 75% water! Adults – only about 50-60%. Kids also have a higher metabolic rate and lose more water through their skin than adults.
Babies: 150ml per kg
Toddler – 100ml per kg
Adult: 50ml per kg
Too much or too little water can be a problem
Signs of dehydration can be difficult to pick up, especially in smaller children. Here are a few of them:
- rapid heartbeat
- dry mouth
- cold hands and feet
- a smaller amount and darker color or urine.
Even mild dehydration may significantly affect cognitive function in children so it is important to ensure that older kids get enough water at school.
Getting enough hydration but not too much can be a fine balance for small children and babies. We do not want them to drink too much water that may fill up the little tummies and replace the important nutrition and calories they need to get from solids. That’s why no additional water is usually recommended for babies under 6 months and only small amounts with meals after that.
Most kids are intuitive drinkers, but…
The good news is, just like eating, drinking is intuitive for most kids and they will get enough hydration if we offer them drinks regularly. For most kids, there is no need to count every cup of water they drink.
That said, it is worth paying a little extra attention to fluids if your little one does not seem to be thirsty after exercise or when out in hot weather.
Kids have lower thirst sensitivity than adults. Being sensitive to thirst is a learned behavior and some kids need reminders to drink when they are dehydrated so they can learn to associate the feeling of dehydration with the need to drink.
If water drinking is a concern, it is easy for parents to become worried. And this worry may result in a lot of reminding, pressuring and following your toddler with a sippy cup everywhere. But just like with food, kids may start resisting water if they feel too much pressure. So the best way to help your child get enough water is to provide regular opportunities to rehydrate, without creating an issue out of their drinking.
How much water do babies and kids need?
Most official guidelines on water intake for children, including those I included below, are based on how much they get from drinks, including breastmilk and formula, as well as food. It’s very confusing, isn’t it? Here is the daily amount of all water the Institute of Medicine recommends for different ages:
0-6 months – 700ml a day
7-12 months- 800 ml a day
1-3 years – 1.3 l
4-8 years – 1.7 l
9-13 years (boys) – 2.4 l
9-13 (girls) – 2.1 l
Practical steps to help your baby or child get enough water but not too much
There is no need to count every drop your child drinks but instead, let’s think about how to provide regular opportunities to drink some water throughout the day and make drinking more fun if needed.
As a rule of thumb, water should be available for drinking at each meal and snack and at all times in between. Did you notice how in nurseries teachers leave out a pitcher with water and empty cups next to it somewhere the children can easily access it to serve themselves? Create a small water station like this at home and make sure to bring water with you at all times when you are out and about.
Babies, on the other hand, usually do not need any extra water before they start solids and not a lot before 12 months because they need all the calories and nutrition they can get from breastmilk and formula.
Babies 0-6 months
- If breastfeeding, offer breastmilk on-demand or, if formula feeding, follow your pediatrician’s recommendations on how much formula your baby needs daily.
- You do not need to offer water unless you live in a very hot climate. Your doctor will be able to advise you whether you need to offer water to your baby.
Babies 6-12 months
- Keep breastfeeding or offering formula.
- Start serving about 50ml of water with solid meals. It does not have to be boiled. The best way to serve it – in a small open cup so that your baby can keep developing his drinking skills.
- No juice is required or recommended for babies under 1.
- Offer 6-8 drinks a day
- 1-3 years old – 100-120 ml each
- older kids – 150-200 ml each
- limit milk to 2-3 cups a day
- offer fruit and veggies at each meal and snack. Watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, melon, broccoli, oranges, apples, blueberries, and strawberries are all high in water.
- offer smoothies, popsicles, soups and stews regularly
- limit juice to 4 oz (120ml or half a cup) a day for toddlers and to 8 oz (240 ml) for older children.
- minimize soda or other sweetened drinks
- avoid sports drinks unless they exercise vigorously for a few hours every day
What to do if your child refuses to drink?
If the weather is heating up and your little one runs away each time you offer he takes of a sip of water, try some of these strategies to help him stay hydrated:
- For kids over 1, use their juice allowance to flavor the water
- Make ice cubes out of juice and add them to glasses with water
- Add frozen berries to water to make drinking it more fun
- Ask your child to help you experiment with smoothies
- Go shopping for a very special sippy cup or a straw
- Above all, keep offering water 6-8 times a day, but do not pressure your child to drink
Tell me, what is your favorite way to help your child get enough water?