Is your toddler drinking enough water?

When it comes to drinking water, babies and toddlers appear to fall into two distinct groups, there are those who always seem to have a sippy cup in hand and those who stubbornly refuse to drink anything but milk.  Given water is such a necessity how do you overcome the daily battle over the beaker?

Rosena Allin-Khan, a Paediatric Consultant at St George’s Hospital acknowledges it can be “notoriously difficult to get babies and toddlers to drink enough fluid.”  Her advice is to vary the cups toddlers use as “novelty can work wonders” and says it’s important to remember that teething toddlers can be very fickle about what they put into their mouths.  They may reject harder cups some days, but return to them when their gums aren’t as painful.

Rosena also suggests using unsweetened squash or natural fruit juice to tempt your toddler.  “Try letting your child see you put a tiny amount into their cup or beaker before diluting heavily”, she says “as this can fuel excitement and make them want to try something new.”  But remember, where possible, to use free flowing cups as dentists warn that sugary drinks given in bottles can cause tooth decay.

‘Peer pressure’ can also be used to your advantage.  Getting your child to drink at the same time as their friends and having water with snack time is a useful ploy, as is creating a ritual or game around drinking.  Jo, mum to two year old, Iliah said, “getting my child to give water to her dolls and teddies worked a treat as they then gave it back to her – well I did!”  And Danielle credits her husband with a good solution, “every time we wanted our little boy to drink we said “cheers”, touched cups and had a drink too.  This slightly annoying game did the trick and Rudy now drinks water very happily.”  Leaving cups of water around the house can also work as an independent toddler may be happy to take sips himself, but refuse them from mum or dad.

So what exactly is the right amount of fluid to drink?   In general a toddler aged between one and three needs between one and one and a half litres of fluid per day, but, says Rosena “this varies according to weight, age and the time of year,” adding “it doesn’t need to be pure water… juicy fruits such as cucumbers, satsumas and grapes are effective, as are yogurts, soups and milk.” Whilst any source of fluid is better than none at all, it’s important to remember that plain water is the best way to keep your toddler well hydrated without feeding them excess calories.

While for many parents getting a child to drink is just another obstacle to overcome, for others it can become a very serious issue.  Dehydration occurs from not drinking enough water during hot summer months, excessive sweating, diarrhoea and vomiting. Urine is a key indicator and your child should be passing urine around six times a day.  Other signs of dehydration are a lack of tears when crying, a dry mouth and lips, becoming drowsy and mottled (blue and white) skin on the arms and legs.  “If you’re concerned your child is dehydrated due to illness, you can always syringe fluid into their mouth 5-10mls at a time,” says Rosena, “but you should also seek immediate medical attention.”

Author: Rhiane Kirkby

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