Choosing healthy drinks and how to introduce drinking from a cup.

Breast milk and milk alternatives

  • Breast milk is the best choice for your child until they are two years or older. Your toddler does not need any milk other than breast milk if they continue to breastfeed.
  • At nine to 12 months of age, if your toddler is eating a variety of iron-rich solid foods (for example, meats, poultry and legumes), you can offer pasteurized 3.25% M.F. cow’s milk in an open cup. Start by offering sips of milk and gradually increase amount up to two cups (500 mL) every day.
  • Offer pasteurized 3.25% M.F. cow milk during meal or snack times.
  • Offer water between meal times for thirst to prevent tooth decay and to allow your toddler to feel hungry for meals.
  • Limit your toddler to no more than three cups (750 mL) of cow’s milk per day. Too much milk fills a child’s tummy and leaves little room for other healthy and iron-rich foods.
  • Pasteurized full fat goat milk, with added folic acid and vitamin D, may be given as an alternative to cow milk. However, most goat's milk in B.C. is not fortified with enough folic acid or Vitamin D so speak to a registered dietitian for advice on how to meet your child’s nutrient needs.
  • All toddlers who are breastfed or fed some breast milk should be given a liquid vitamin D supplement of 400 IU (10 µg) every day.
  • Healthy young children do not need toddler milks/supplement beverages.

Drinks to limit or avoid

  • Babies, toddlers and young children do not need juice. If juice is offered, select 100 per cent unsweetened juice and limit it to a half cup per day using an open cup, and not a bottle or sippy cup. For dental health, it is better to offer juice during meal times.
  • Pop, coffee, energy or sport drinks, fruit punches, hot chocolate, sweetened milks and tea are not recommended for children even if water is added. These drinks are high in sugar and/or caffeine and are not suitable for toddlers or children of any age.
  • Do not give beverages containing artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes such as aspartame.

Drinking from a cup

  • At six months of age, a baby can learn to drink from a small, open cup while sitting down. Sippy cups are not recommended. Keep in mind that your child continues to need the nutrition from breast milk.
  • Be patient. It takes time to learn to drink from a cup. Find tips for breaking the bottle habit.
  • Sleeping with a bottle at night or during nap time may also cause tooth decay because all milk -- including formula -- contains sugar.
  • By 18 months of age, your toddler should no longer be drinking from a bottle.

Lead and tap water

Usually tap water is safe. But some plumbing in older buildings may contain lead that can leach into the water. Lead in water can be harmful to health.

For more information on how to protect yourself and your child from lead in drinking water.

Nitrates in well water

If you use well water for drinking, cooking, or preparing infant formula, be sure to have your well water tested regularly for nitrates. Find drinking water safety tips for private well owners.

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