Drinks are a primary source of nutrition for small children. They should be drinking water and plain milk rather than sweetened sodas, drinks, or juice.
Drinks are a primary source of nutrition for small children. Babies drink breast milk or formula. After six months, it’s time to introduce them to water, pediatricians say, and at the 12-month well-check, you can begin feeding your child cow or soy milk. After that, it can be confusing to know what to pick when so many drinks are marketed in colorful packages for children.
A consensus statement from four leading organizations advises that you keep your brood away from alternative milks, flavored milk, fruit juice, sodas, or energy drinks until the age of five. Early childhood is a chance to learn healthful habits and avoid developing a taste for sweets. The panel did not address the pros and cons of breast milk vs. formula.
The statement, their first collaboration on this topic, comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Here is the group’s timeline for introducing your child to water, milk, and small amounts of juice.
Six months to one year. Once you start your children on solid foods at around six months, you can also teach them to hold an open cup or sippy cup. A few sips of water at meals will help them get used to the taste. Water is important to stay hydrated. —But avoid juice. The group endorsed AAP’s previous recommendations that parents keep juice entirely away from children under the age of one.
Age one. Now you can introduce whole plain cow’s milk. It offers the key nutrients calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, and protein. If you need another option — perhaps you keep a vegan household, or your child reacts badly to cow’s milk — the group recommends fortified soy milk. Unlike other plant and nut-based milks, fortified soy milk is nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk. Your pediatrician may recommend a different kind of milk if neither soy nor cow’s milk works for your child.
Age one to three. If you decide to offer your children juice, stick to no more than four ounces a day. Use 100 percent juice, and consider adding water. Even better, offer small pieces of whole fruit.
Age two to five. Milk and water should be your child’s go-to beverage. Now instead of whole milk, opt for skim (non-fat) or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
Choose unflavored milk. While a chocolate or strawberry flavored milk may appeal to your child, the consensus advises that you stick to unflavored milk and help keep your child from favoring sweets. The group advises against toddler milks or transitional formulas, which are unnecessary.
Choose whole fruit over juice. Both children and adults are better off eating an orange or apple rather than drinking juice, but, if fruit isn’t available, small amounts of juice can provide nutrition.
Skip sweetened drinks. You don’t want to put your child on track for weight gain and diabetes with sugary drinks. Sport and energy drinks contain artificial sweeteners that may not be safe for young children, so avoid them.
Skip caffeinated drinks. There is no clear safe level of caffeine for small children, including caffeine in colas, tea, and coffee. Caffeine can interfere with your child’s sleep, and cause irritability, nervousness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
December 13, 2019