When Can I give Water, Milk and Plant-Based Beverages to my Child?
Breast milk or infant formula provides all the nutrients and fluids your baby needs until she is six months old. If she is thirsty or the weather is hot, breastfeed or bottle feed more often.
When can I give my baby water?
- Once your baby is six months old, you can try giving her water to drink in a regular cup occasionally at meal time. This will help him learn how to drink.
- Give your baby tap water or bottled water. Don’t give him distilled, carbonated or mineral water.
When can my baby drink milk?
- Your baby can have whole cow’s milk or fortified goat’s milk when she is 9 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods.
- The reason you should wait until 9 months old is because whole milk is lower in iron than breast milk and infant formula. If your baby is not getting enough iron from other iron-rich foods he may become iron deficient.
- Babies and children under 2 should be given whole (homogenized) milk. Look for 3.25% M.F.
- Whole milk provides the fat and calories that your baby’s developing brain and body needs for proper growth and development. Avoid giving skim, 1% or 2% milk.
- Always use pasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk can have bacteria which can make your child sick.
- If you give your baby evaporated or powdered milk, make sure you add the right amount of water. Choose full-fat (not low fat or fat-free) evaporated or powdered milk.
- Limit whole milk to 3 cups (720 mL) per day. Too much milk can fill up your baby and he won’t have room for other foods.
- If you baby has a milk allergy or intolerance, is vegan or avoids milk products for cultural or religious reasons, continue to breastfeed. If your baby is on a soy-based formula, continue until he is 2 years old. At 2 years old, he can have fortified soy beverage. If you have any questions, speak to your health care provider.
Hot parent tips:
- Wait until your child is at least 2 years old before giving 2% M.F. cow’s milk.
Can I give my baby plant-based beverages?
- Do not offer your baby soy, rice, almond or other plant-based beverages. These do not have enough protein, calories, minerals or vitamins to help your baby grow.
- Once your child is 2 years old, you can offer him unsweetened, full-fat fortified soy beverage as nutritionally, it is the most similar to cow’s milk.
- Other plant-based beverages such as rice and almond beverages are too low in protein and fat to support healthy growth and development. They can be offered at 2 years old, but don’t consider them as a substitute for milk. Offer other foods that are high in protein to your child.
Should my baby have juice?
- Your baby doesn’t need juice. It is high in sugar and can cause cavities.
- Too much juice can also cause diarrhea and fill him up, leaving little room for him to eat the nutritious foods he needs.
- Your baby gets enough to drink from breastmilk or formula. If he is thirsty, you can give him water.
- If you do choose to give him juice, wait until your baby is eating fruit and other foods. Offer 100% pure fruit juice without added sugar in an open cup. Make sure it is pasteurized.
- Do not give your baby more than ½ cup (125 mL) of fruit juice per day. It is your choice whether or not to add water.
Should I give my baby fruit punch, sport drinks or pop?
- Do not give your baby sweetened beverages such as fruit drinks, fruit punch, sports drinks or soft drinks. Sweetened beverages are high in sugar which can be harmful to your baby’s developing teeth. These beverages are also low in vitamins and minerals and fill him up so he is too full to eat the nutritious foods he needs for healthy growth and development.
- Don’t give your baby herbal teas.
- Don’t give your baby beverages that contain caffeine (e.g. tea, coffee, hot chocolate, some carbonated drinks) or artificial sweeteners.
References and for more information:
- Canadian Pediatric Society: Feeding Your Baby in the First Year
- Transitioning Your Baby to Cow’s Milk
- WRHA Nutrition – Introducing Solids
- Health Canada – Infant Nutrition
- Free Winnipeg Workshops- Starting Your Baby on Solid Foods
If you have a nutrition or food question, call Dial-a-Dietitian Manitoba at 204-788-8248 in Winnipeg or 1-877-830-2892. The Dial-a-Dietitian phone number is currently redirected to Health Links-Info Santé. You can leave a message with a nurse and a dietitian will return your call.