How to Keep Your Baby Hydrated in Summer
Weaning specialist Charlotte Stirling-Reed aka ‘SR Nutrition’, expert contributor to Joe Wick’s ‘Wean in 15’ book, writes for us exclusively about the importance of keeping little ones hydrated. In this blog, Charlotte answers common questions related to hydration including how much fluid a baby needs, what cup is best and top tips to encourage those little sips.
As we approach warm weather, there is one thing that parents might want to keep front of mind… HYDRATION.
Keeping ourselves and our little ones hydrated is important all year round and even more so when the weather is warm and our children are a little more active outside.
Hydration is often overlooked, but our bodies are comprised of mainly water and so keeping that fluid level topped up is key. Additionally, unlike adults, babies and young children aren’t very good at recognising when they are thirsty. This means that, as parents, we need to remind and encourage them to drink up.
Firstly, how much milk does my baby need?
Under the age of one, most of your baby’s fluid will come from their current milk intakes. Breast milk also adapts, so even in warmer weather babies who are mainly on breast milk should be getting enough. However, formula fed babies may need a little extra fluid if they are very active or if it’s very hot. This can come from extra milk or water.
You can see from the infographic how much milk is recommended at different ages for babies and young children. This is a rough guide, but it’s good to be aware of these amounts so you can see an outline of how much babies should be drinking when it comes to milk.
Remember that breastfeeding is recommended to be carried out responsively and there is no way of knowing exactly how much a breastfed baby is getting, and that’s OK.
For older babies and children you might to offer milk at mealtimes, for example with breakfast, which is fine too – just make sure babies and young children don’t fill up on milk before they’re eating meals as having a lot of milk may affect their appetite for food. Offering water in the cup is ideal initially, but as your baby develops sipping skills, you can certainly start to offer milk feeds from an open cup too.
How much water does my baby need?
When it comes to water, from 6 months of age it’s fine to offer babies water directly from the tap in the UK. Before then, boiling and cooling the water first is recommended. This is in addition to their milk feeds. Babies under one are recommended to have only “sips of water with meals”. They don’t need much more than this at this age, as most of their fluid will come from their normal milk intakes, combined with fluid from their solid foods, (for example, fruits and veggies contain lots of fluid too), when they start weaning.
This illustration from The Mummy Dentist is a clear way of seeing what your baby should be drinking at what age.
Below is a table offering a rough guide of HOW MUCH water babies and young children are likely to need at different ages.
From the table you can see that before the age of one, offering your baby water is more about them learning the skill of drinking, rather than them needing to drink lots of water during the day. You’re aiming for a few sips from an open cup, like Babycup First Cups, at mealtimes to learn this valuable habit. Getting the balance right is important as too much water might replace foods and nutrient rich milk in their diet and so this isn’t ideal.
However, on a hot day, if your little one is very active, offering water outside of meals is absolutely fine to do too.
What vessel to use for baby’s water?
Advice from the NHS in the UK, as well as the British Society for Paediatric Dentistry and the British Dietetic Association recommends that open cups should be introduced from around 6 months of age when a baby starts weaning.
Why open cups?
During weaning, it’s a good time to start getting baby used to the skill of sipping! Babies suckle from the breast and bottle and at around 6 months of age, weaning offers a good opportunity for baby to develop and practice lots of skills around eating. This includes the skills of sipping and drinking water from a cup.
I normally recommend that parents offer a mini open cup of water to baby at the start of weaning – one that has been designed with babies in mind. This allows plenty of time for baby to practice and hone those drinking skills and also to work out HOW to use an open cup.
Offering open cups can help baby:
- To develop skills around sipping
- To learn how to drink from an open cup like us adults
- To develop skills around self-drinking
- To support hand, eye, mouth coordination
- To protect tiny teeth – sucking can lead to milk and other fluids pooling around the teeth and this pooling could contribute towards decay
- To move on from the bottle more easily after 12 months of age, as recommended
But what about the mess?
Many parents are worried about the “mess” from an open cup, but weaning is a messy time and it’s messy because it’s a time when babies are learning, developing, practicing and honing their own self-feeding and self-drinking skills. These skills don’t develop overnight, but with plenty of practice, your little one will get there and learn how to drink easily from an open cup without spilling it.
When it comes to helping your little one learn to drink, try patience (stay calm and let them explore) consistency (offer the open cup regularly with mealtimes) and role modelling (baby needs to SEE the skill in action in order to learn it). These are all super important.
You can also hold the cup for your little one (see this cute clip of Baby Gabe) initially and guide the water to their lips, giving them a really practical demonstration. Once they’ve got the hang of this, just support the base and encourage them to grasp the sides of the cup and carry the water to their mouth. Practice makes perfect.
I absolutely love the Babycup First Cups as they’re the perfect open cup for the first stages of your baby’s weaning journey. These cups are tiny, to suit tiny hands and they also allow for a small amount of liquid, which is essential so as not to overwhelm baby at the start when they are practising the art of sipping.
Remember that sips of water with meals is all baby needs between 6 and 12 months of age, and Babycup First Cups provides just this – little sips from a little cup. Sip Sip Hooray!
Here are my top tips for helping baby use an open cup:
- Start with a mini cup designed specifically for babies and young children – a cup that your baby will be able to hold easily, that is not too heavy to manoeuvre and allows your baby to coordinate hand and mouth actions at the same time
- Offer just a little water inside the cup – this means they can practise their skills without soaking or throwing lots down their mouth and nose. It also means it’s not too heavy for them to hold, and reduces spills and any mess to deal with at the end of a meal too
- Let them play – don’t worry if it’s tipped into their food the first 20 times…it’s all experimentation for them. Playing with food, cups and water is part of baby’s learning. Stay calm and simply SHOW them what the cup is for
- Role model! This is key! Baby will learn HOW to use cups from watching you. So, give a quick demonstration using your baby’s cup so your baby understands what you expect them to do. Be sure to do plenty of open cup drinking in front of them (you don’t always need to use a Babycup yourself though!!).
- Be consistent with offering it. Try to offer a mini cup of water at every meal so it becomes the norm and so that baby has plenty of opportunity to practice
- Offer praise and lots of encouragement to baby when they’re practising with the cup
For more great tips and advice, explore other expert articles in our blog including ‘3 easy ways to get your child drinking more water’.
Charlotte provides lots of additional great advice and weaning support on her website.
Sip sip hooray! Have fun sipping this Summer and all year round!