Healthy drinks are just as important for young babies as healthy food, however it can be confusing knowing when to transition from breast milk or infant formula to other drinks like water and cow’s milk. Here’s a guide to ensuring your baby stays happy, healthy and hydrated.
Birth to around 6 months
- Breast milk is best for your baby, as it contains all the important nutrients your baby needs.
- Babies who are only breastfed do not need any other drinks until they are around 6 months of age.
- Breastfeeding has valuable protective health benefits for new mums.
- If you are not breastfeeding, use an infant formula until your baby is at least 12 months old.
- If your baby uses a bottle, be sure to fill it with only breast milk or infant formula – other liquids can contaminate it and upset little tummies.
6 to 12 months
- Breastmilk should still be your baby’s main drink.
- Cow’s milk should be avoided up until they are 12 months of age, as babies under this age cannot digest it well.
- Small amounts of cooled, boiled water can now be offered, which will increase hydration levels and also teach your child valuable motor skills, like learning to drink from a cup or drink bottle.
- At this age, babies start needing more nutrients and commence the transition to solid foods.
- This is the time when you’ll probably be introducing your baby to infant rice cereal, pureed food and mashed foods, and then later on minced and chopped foods, which will help top up their nutrition levels.
- Breast milk or infant formula is still the most important drink during this time as they will only be digesting small amounts of solid food.
12 months onwards
- Breastfeeding can be continued for as long as you and your baby wish.
- Full-cream cow’s milk is now OK (but aim for no more than 500mL a day).
- Your child can have low-fat or reduced-fat milk from 2 years of age, but not skim or fat-free milk.
- Infant formula is not needed after 12 months.
- Water should be your baby’s main drink other than breast milk or cow’s milk.
- Avoid sweet drinks like juices, flavoured milk, cordials and soft drinks as they are high in sugar.
Water is the best drink for everyone who is thirsty, and a good hydration choice as it has no calories and contains no sugar. In Australia, water is safe to drink straight from the tap, and because it contains fluoride, can help children develop strong teeth. However, if you are giving water to your baby, you will need to boil the water first and then cool it to room temperature. If you are storing the water for later, store it in a sterilized bottle in the fridge.
Did you know?
Breastmilk adapts to your baby’s changing needs as they gets older and even changes during a feed – the first milk is thirst-quenching, and the later milk is rich, creamy and full of good fats.