There’s a great deal of confusion about what to give your baby or toddler to drink. There’s even more confusion about when to give it to them. Healthy Eating Research (HER) is here to help. The program has just released new guidelines detailing what beverages are best for babies and toddlers.
HER is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to its website, “The program supports research on policy, systems, and environmental strategies that have strong potential to promote healthy eating among children, especially among lower-income and racial and ethnic minority population groups that are at highest risk for poor health and well-being and nutrition-related health disparities.”
To compile these healthy guidelines, HER created a panel of four national health and nutrition organizations; the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association. The goal was to give pediatricians, and ultimately parents, specific guidelines to improve the beverage intake of young children and hopefully their long-term health. Here’s how it breaks down.
The recommendations are only breast milk or formula for the first six months of your baby’s life. After six months you can offer water, four to eight ounces a day, as a supplemental beverage at meals once solid foods have been introduced. Juices, plain pasteurized milk and sugar-sweetened drinks are not recommended for children under the age of one.
For toddlers, you can offer more water, anywhere from eight to 32 ounces a day.
You can also introduce cow’s milk, anywhere from 16 to 24 ounces of whole milk per day. If you don’t want to give your child cow’s milk, soy is the recommended alternative, but you should always check with your pediatrician.
While you can allow for 100% juice, only four ounces or half of a cup is suggested and eating whole fruit is the preferred alternative to drinking juice.
You can still offer up to 32 ounces of water to your child every day, however, the guidelines on milk consumption change slightly.
Sixteen ounces a day of 1% or skim milk are recommended, presumably because your child is eating more solid foods and is getting the majority of their calories from them.
Whole fruits are still the recommendation, but if you would like to give 100% juice, four ounces per day is what HER recommends.
As your child gets bigger, more water is recommended, 12-40 ounces per day.
Bigger kids can have more milk as well, up to 20 ounces per day of 1% or skim milk. HER recommends checking with your pediatrician about which milk is best for your child based on their health and your family history.
Juice comprised 100% from fruit is allowed, but only six ounces a day at maximum and whole fruit remains the suggested alternative.
Studies have shown what you give your child in their formative years can greatly impact their long-term dietary habits and health. These new guidelines from HER take away some of the guesswork and ensure parents ensure what they’re giving their toddlers to drink is setting them up for optimal health.