Some parts of the U.S. are just now starting to thaw from a pretty rough winter, but in Arizona we are rapidly approaching 100 degree F heat. Young children don't seem to mind operating at full-speed in hot temperatures but can dehydrate faster than adults, so it's especially important to make sure that they are drinking enough fluids, especially in hot weather. We want to share some favorite mom hacks that keep kids - and adults - hydrated all summer (and all year) long.
How much is enough?
For babies under 6 months of age, breast milk or formula will fulfill all of their hydration needs, and additional water is not recommended (and can even be dangerous in large quantities). Breastfed babies should have at least 5-6 wet diapers and at least 6-12 feeds per day, depending on baby's age. Formula fed babies will usually drink at minimum 20-24 ounces per day after the newborn period. Hydrated babies have moist mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes, pale yellow urine, plenty of tears when crying, and no sunken soft spot.
Babies 6 months and older can have a few ounces of water per day, gradually increasing water intake toward their first birthday. Click here to learn how to introduce cups to your 6+ month old. It is important to not displace breast milk or formula with water until baby is closer to 1, as baby's milk will remain their main source of nutrition and hydration in infancy as their solid intake slowly increases.
Fluid need estimates for toddlers vary depending on the source. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends about 44 oz of fluid (5.5 cups) per day for 1 - 3 year olds, while other various sources recommend about 4-6 cups of fluid per day. If you'd like to calculate your child's estimated fluid needs by weight, check out this calculator.
Yes...this is a lot of fluid. It's a lot more than what many toddlers drink. Instead of focusing on a number, watch your toddler. His urine should be pale yellow (unless taking B vitamins, perhaps as part of a multivitamin supplement), and he should not have a dry mouth. Watch for crankiness, headache, lethargy, dizziness and dry skin - all signs that your child is dehydrated. Call your pediatrician immediately if you're worried about your child's safety when it comes to their hydration status.
Other hydration estimates from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are below:
Your child will need extra fluid while playing outside in the heat, performing strenuous activity or while sick.
What counts as fluid?
Water, milk, juice, and fluid from soup, veggies, fruit, and other high-fluid foods like popsicles all count toward your child's water intake. We don't recommend juice regularly unless indicated by your doctor for constipation, hydration issues or medical issues. We recommend sticking to water as much as possible.
If your toddler drinks milk, it is recommended to limit their intake to no more than 16-24 ounces (2-3 cups) per day - that leaves a need for at least 1-2 cups for water for a child that drinks milk.
Try to offer water as the sole beverage besides milk and encourage free access to water throughout the day for all children 12 months and older. Offering at least 3 types of veggies and at least 2 fruits daily also helps to increase your child's water consumption, although we are fully aware that your toddler or kid might not eat the food that is served.
What can I do to keep my child hydrated?
Happy start of summer, and happy drinking (water, that is)!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!