Breast milk and formula contain all the nourishment your baby needs to grow and develop in the first six months. Even after your child moves on to other foods and drinks, breast milk will still play a large role in his diet - but you can start giving him water, too.
Giving your child water is better than many other options, as sweetened drinks can lead to dental problems, and the fluoride in tap water can help strengthen teeth and bones. It’s especially important that children drink enough water in warmer months, as they can become dehydrated quickly.
Here are 10 tips to try to encourage your young child to drink water.
- Put the water in a cup rather than a bottle. If your baby is used to having warm milk in a bottle, it might be an unpleasant surprise to be given a bottle and find cold water instead.
- Try different types of baby cups. It can be hard to get water out of cups with a no-spill spout, so a free-flow one may work better. Also, some cups give water a slightly plastic taste; it’s a good idea to give them a go yourself.
- Give water on a spoon or from an open cup to get your baby used to the flavour (or lack of it!).
- Let your baby have plenty of opportunities to play with a cup of water so she has the chance to get used to it and see how it works.
- Give fluids in food by making foods as runny as possible - for example, by adding water when you make purées.
- Give foods that naturally contain a high proportion of water. Fruits and vegetables all contain water, but some – such as pears, melon, cucumber and tomatoes – contain more than others.
- Offer your baby water between meals when she’s not hungry and keen for food.
- Offer water with every meal and snack, whether or not your baby drinks it. Put the cup to her mouth but also leave it on the table or highchair tray so she can have a go on her own.
- If your toddler likes milk and is getting all the milk she needs, try adding a bit of extra water to her bottle.
- Keep trying. Babies rarely drink much to begin with and that’s fine; they’ll gradually drink more. Don’t be tempted to give up and offer fruit juice instead, or it will be very hard to switch to plain water later.
Published with permission from Weaning Made Easy: All you need to know about spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning, by Dr Rana Conway (Finch Publishing, $26.99).