With warmer weather on the horizon (hooray!) and as we prepare for sunnier days, it's crucial to keep one very important thing in mind - staying hydrated. Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable to dehydration as they can't store as much fluid as adults, and they can become dehydrated very quickly. Here are some guidelines for water intake based on your child's developmental stage.
For Babies Under 6 Months:
For healthy babies under 6 months old, the primary source of hydration and nutrients should come from breastmilk and/or formula. These magical liquids provide everything your baby needs to thrive, so there's no need for additional supplemental liquids like water, juice, or non-dairy milk.
If your little one isn't eating solids yet, consider offering breastmilk or formula more frequently during hot days to ensure they're getting the fluids they need. It's important to note that giving extra water or other fluids to a baby under 6 months old should only be done if specifically recommended by a doctor.
For Babies Between 6 and 12 Months:
Once your baby reaches the 6-month mark and starts exploring solid foods, you can gradually introduce water. You can offer it in a sippy cup, straw cup, or open cup between food feedings. At this stage, your baby needs about 4 ounces of water per day as they learn to appreciate this new drink. As they approach their first birthday, you can gradually increase their water intake to around 8 ounces per day.
For Babies Beyond 12 Months:
Once your little one reaches the 12-month milestone and you begin transitioning them from breastmilk and/or formula to cow's milk, you can also allow them to drink larger quantities of water. Somewhere between 1 and 4 cups of water is generally sufficient for their needs. However, remember that this is just a guideline, and individual needs may vary.
Recognising the Signs of Dehydration
Staying attuned to your child's needs is crucial, especially on hot days or when you're in a warm environment. Children lose fluids through sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea and it's important to watch out for signs of dehydration:
- A dry or sticky mouth
- Few or no tears when crying
- Sunken-looking eyes
- Reduced urination or fewer wet diapers than usual
- Unusual crankiness, listlessness, or decreased energy
Here's a simple test you can perform to assess your child's hydration level: Press on one of their fingernails until it turns white. If it takes more than two seconds for the nail to return to its normal pink color, your child may be becoming dehydrated.
Additionally, keep an eye out for decreased skin turgor. When you pinch the skin on your baby's thigh, it should return to its flat state immediately. If the skin flattens more slowly after release, it could be a sign of dehydration.
Our little ones rely on us to keep them safe and healthy, especially in the heat. By monitoring their fluid intake and staying vigilant for signs of dehydration, you can ensure your baby stays happy, hydrated, and ready to enjoy the sunshine. Please note this is intended as a guide only, and if you have serious concerns it is important to seek medical advice.