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Drinks for babies and toddlers

This fact sheet is to help parents and carers choose the best drinks for a child's teeth and health. It is part of a set of fact sheets for the Happy Teeth Program.

Drinks for babies (birth to 12 months)

  • Breastmilk is all the food and drink babies need for around the first 6 months. Babies who are given only breastmilk do not need any extra drinks.
  • Offer formula-fed babies cooled boiled tap water if extra fluid is needed.
  • Breastmilk or infant formula is the baby’s main drink until they are 12 months of age.
  • Babies younger than 12 months are not able to drink cow’s milk.
  • From 6 months, small amounts of cooled boiled water can be given to babies as well as breastmilk or formula.
  • Fruit juices, herbal teas, soft drinks and other drinks are not needed for babies younger than 12 months of age. These drinks increase the risk of tooth decay. They can also fill your baby up and stop them from drinking breastmilk or formula.

Drinks for toddlers (from 12 months)

  • Plain cool water is the best drink for toddlers. If your toddler does not like drinking water, try adding shaped ice cubes, or fruit slices for flavour, or serve it cold from the fridge in a special novelty water bottle. Role-modelling is the best way to encourage toddlers to drink water.
  • Milk has protein, calcium and other nutrients for growing toddlers. Full-cream milk is an important part of your toddler’s diet.
  • Fruit juices, herbal teas, soft drinks and other drinks are not needed for toddlers. They increase the risk of tooth decay and of your child becoming overweight. If your child drinks them too much, they may not be hungry to eat other healthy foods.

Milks

  • Regular full-cream cow’s milk is a healthy drink for toddlers over 12 months of age up to the age of 2 years. Skimmed or reduced-fat milks are not suitable for toddles below 2 years of age.
  • Goat’s milk is also not suitable for babies younger than 12 months of age.
  • Soy, rice and oat drinks lack important nutrients for growth. They are not suitable for babies and young children.
  • Follow-on and toddler formulas are not needed for toddlers from 12 months of age. Your young child will get all the nutrition they need from eating a variety of food.
  • Aim for your toddler to drink no more than 500mL of milk each day. Your child will be less likely to eat food if they are full of milk.

Fruit drinks

  • Fruit juices can be high in vitamin C, but lack an important nutrient called fibre that is found in whole fruit.
  • Fruit juices (even 100% juice) also have a lot of sugar in them. Too much can increase the risk of tooth decay or your child gaining extra weight.
  • Whole fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamin C, with much less sugar and much more fibre than juices.
  • Children over 12 months can drink small amounts of juice as part of a healthy diet. Limit this to no more than 120–180mL in one day.

How to drink less sugar

  • Encourage water rather than sweetened drinks and fruit juices. Water costs less and is the best thirst quencher.
  • Plain milk is a good source of nutrients for growing children over 12 months.
  • Soft drinks, cordials and fruit drinks have a lot of sugar and little or no important nutrients. These are not necessary for babies or children.
  • Try offering fresh fruits and vegetables instead of fruit juice or soft drink.

Resources for parents, families and carers

Growing Strong—Breastfeeding: Good for Baby, good for Mum (PDF, 637kB), Queensland Government

Growing Strong—Healthy drinks for baby (PDF, 557kB), Queensland Government

Breastfeeding your baby in Australia, Queensland Government—including booklet, poster and fact sheets for Sudanese, Burundian and Congolese communities

Raising Children Network—Newborns nutrition, Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Introducing solids, Australian Government

Brochure: Giving your baby the best start (PDF, 351kB), Australian Government

Brochure: Get Up and Grow (PDF, 166kB), Australian Government

Booklet: Breastfeeding and postnatal care, New South Wales Government—available in English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi and Tamil languages

Baby’s first foods, New South Wales Government

Booklet: Guide to foods—baby’s first year (PDF, 2.6MB), Victoria Government

Healthy eating for babies and young children, South Australia Government

Drinks for children, South Australia Government

Weaning… Introduction of solid foods, Australian Capital Territory Government

Booklet: Start them right—A parent’s guide to eating for under 5s (PDF, 1.15MB), Tasmanian Government

Related contentpages

The importance of breastfeeding

Introducing complementary foods

Introducing complementary foods: feeding from around 6 months

Introducing complementary foods: feeding from 12 months

Infant formula feeding

Healthy eating and weight control in children

Acknowledgements

This fact sheet is consistent with the National breastfeeding strategy 2010–2015.

Information is drawn from:

  • Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service 2015, Child health information: Your guide to the first 12 months.
  • National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Australian dietary guidelines.
  • National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines.
  • Preventative Health 2008, Growing Strong: Feeding you and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Preventative Health 2010, Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Queensland Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guidelines Program 2010, Breastfeeding initiation.

This fact sheet is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.

This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.