How much should my toddler be drinking per day?

Will G
April 11, 2024
5 min read

What volume of fluids should toddlers have alongside meals?

Children are less able to recognise the signs of dehydration so may be particularly vulnerable to dehydration - especially younger children who are less able to indicate their thirst.

Not drinking enough can cause or exacerbate constipation and bladder problems (including urinary tract infections), day and night time wetting, as well as being the reason for headaches, feeling tired and struggling to concentrate.

In terms of the amount of fluid a child needs this will vary depending on how active the child is, how warm the weather is and what their weight is. A good indicator of whether your child is drinking enough is urine colour - it should be pale straw colour, and well-hydrated infants and toddlers will have plenty of wet nappies.

As a rough guide:

  • A 1-2 year old will need 880-960mls/day
  • A 2-3 year old 1040mls/day
  • 4-8 year old around 1250mls/day.

These amounts represent about 70-80% of the need from actual drinks - the remainder comes from fluid-rich foods (soups, stews, fruits, vegetables). In clinical dietetic practice, fluid requirements are worked out using a child’s actual weight.  

Top tips to encourage drinking:

Be a good role model! Drink plenty of water yourself throughout the day.

Trying different cups or water bottles. Let your child choose one, or one with a favourite character on! Try filtered or chilled water - these may seem similar but might be different in your baby’s eyes.

The best drinks for toddlers

Milk and water are the best drinks for toddlers. If possible continue to breastfeed (the WHO recommends breastfeeding up until the age of 2 years).  

Up until 12 months of age babies should only be given breastmilk or a suitable formula milk as their main drink. Tap water can be given at mealtimes from 6 months of age.  

Once they are 12 months old, It is recommended to move away from offering milk in baby bottles and instead to using open cups (this helps to protect teeth).

Can I give my baby bottled water?

There can be issues with bottled water in terms of salt and sulphate content. If you have to buy it then look for the baby-friendly labelling or make sure they have less than 200mg/litre of sodium and less than 250mg/litre of sulphate.

Avoid giving fizzy water as it will contain acid (can have adverse effects on dental health) Also, stay away from flavoured waters as these can contain sugar or artificial sweeteners and acid.  

Moving your baby onto cow’s milk

From 12 months formula-fed babies can transition to cow’s milk or unsweetened fortified milk alternatives. Avoid giving skimmed milk to children under the age of 5 years old, but from 12 months children can be given pasteurised semi-skimmed or full-fat (whole) cow’s milk. Your decision which one may depend on what your family already has at home and on how well your little one is growing.

General advice about drinks for little ones

Make sure to avoid fizzy drinks, other sweetened drinks (like milkshakes), fruit juices, squash, energy drinks, and tea and coffee.  

Fizzy drinks can irritate the bladder lining which may make your child need to rush to get to the toilet or they may need to go to the toilet more often than usual.

Tea and coffee (even if decaffeinated) will contain tannic acid (tannins) which can stain the teeth and also inhibit iron absorption.

These drinks are hot and could also potentially scold. Any caffeine-containing drinking can also irritate the bladder and disrupt sleep patterns.  

No added sugar and low sugar versions of fruit squash can still erode tooth enamel leading to tooth decay, and they provide very little in terms of nutrition and children can easily fill up on them (leaving little appetite for meals).  

Whilst milk is one of the best drinks for children it is useful to remember that it is also a ‘food’ and it is important that milk consumption is gradually reduced as food intake at meals and snacks increases.

On average, a 1-2-year-old is likely to need no more than 400ml of milk a day as a drink (about 2/3 pint) and a 3-4-year-old is likely to need no more than 300ml of milk a day as a drink (about 1/2 pint).  

Ensuring your little one’s growth and development are being fuelled properly is a tricky job!

Unless you are a full-time baby chef or a paediatric doctor, it can be hard to know what is best for your baby on a daily basis.

That’s why V&Me was created to empower parents with the optimal nutrition for their little ones.

V&Me’s fresh baby meals are planned by leading experts to ensure that they contain all the goodness your baby needs to support their growth and development during the key, early stages of their life.If you’re a London parent and you want to join the growing number of mums and dads getting fresh baby food deliveries to their doorstep, click the link below and get your first delivery now!We are now delivering to almost all central London postcodes, including popular areas like Nunhead, Peckham, Camberwell, Westminster, Tooting, Oval, Wapping, Greenwich, Nappy Valley, Hammersmith, Fulham, Parsons Green, Kings Road, Paddington and Kings Cross.

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About the author
Will G
April 11, 2024
Will is our very own in-house baby food expert! He is the go-to for anything baby, weaning, or product related. Working directly with experts, professors and paediatric dietitians, our content aims to keep you up to date on the latest tips, advice and opinions, giving you and your little one the best start for developing healthy eating habits.
Phoenix Baker
Product Manager
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