Is your child getting enough to drink?

Children should have six to eight beverages - ideally, water or milk - per day, though the amount needed varies with a child's age.
Children should have six to eight beverages - ideally, water or milk - per day, though the amount needed varies with a child's age.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Adequate hydration is essential for growing babies, toddlers and other children. Due to their smaller size, though, children are more vulnerable than adults to losing water through their skin.

Children also often forget to drink and may not recognise when they are thirsty, so parents need to be vigilant.

Children should have six to eight beverages - ideally, water or milk - per day, though the amount needed varies with a child's age. Those playing sports or are sick with a fever often need more.

Here are some guidelines.

INFANTS UNDER 6 MONTHS

Breast milk provides fluid and all the nutrition a baby needs at this age for proper growth and development. No extra water is needed, unless recommended by your paediatrician.

If you are formula-feeding, check that you correctly mix formula with the right amount of water.

Children should have six to eight beverages - ideally, water or milk - per day, though the amount needed varies with a child's age. Those playing sports or are sick with a fever often need more.

The amount of liquid nutrition your baby needs slowly increases as he grows and depends on his weight. In the first month of life, he may only need 340ml to 700ml a day, increasing to 590ml to 1,000ml a day by the time he is four to six months old.

INFANTS AGED 6-12 MONTHS

The liquid nutrition your baby consumes will slowly decrease as solid food nutrition increases. That said, he still needs liquid for hydration.

Rely on plain water, which is good for hydration. This gets an older infant used to the taste of plain water - a healthy habit for life. It's best to avoid sweet beverages and juice as that will just get your little one used to sweet-tasting drinks.

Initially, your infant will just take sips. But work up to a few ounces a few times a day by his first birthday.

TODDLERS AND PRE-SCHOOLERS

They need about 470ml of milk a day. After that, plain water should be your beverage of choice. Around two to five cups of water a day should suffice, depending on the child's size and what else he is eating.

On hot days when they are running around outside, they need even more water. Don't forget that fruits and vegetables also contain water, so encourage them to eat those.

Instead of fixating on exactly how much water your children are drinking, try to make plain water available throughout the day, have them carry a water bottle to school and activities, and model good habits by drinking lots of plain water yourself.

SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Water should continue to be the drink of choice. The amount varies with a child's age and activity level, and with the climate.

So while your five-year-old probably only needs about five cups of water each day, by the time he reaches 13, he should be drinking as much as an adult - eight cups per day.

Older children, particularly adolescents, should drink about two to three cups of low-fat or skim milk daily to support their growing bones. If your teen is vegan, lactose-intolerant or doesn't like dairy, ask your paediatrician for some healthful alternatives.

Juice should be limited to 120ml to 180ml a day. Look for 100 per cent fruit juices or simply encourage whole fruits, which are more satisfying and nutritious than juice.

Sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and vitamin water are loaded with sugar and are a big reason so many children are overweight.

CHILDREN WHO PLAY SPORTS

Most child and teen athletes do not require anything more than water before, during and after exercise.

Athletes should hydrate an hour or two before activity, as well as during and immediately after, to ensure they do not become dehydrated. Water should be readily available for children to drink every 15 to 20 minutes while they are active.

Sports drinks should be reserved for serious athletes in the setting of a prolonged, strenuous exercise (more than an hour).

These drinks should be discouraged outside of that setting because they are high in sugar and have been linked to obesity.

WHEN YOUR CHILD IS SICK

They will likely need extra fluids to stay hydrated. Fevers, rapid breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea can all increase your body's water losses.

Yet when children are sick, they generally eat and drink less. Infants are particularly vulnerable to serious dehydration during illness.

For babies younger than one year, continue to feed them breast milk or formula even if they have vomited. Keep in mind you may have to give smaller amounts more frequently. If your baby isn't tolerating milk, your paediatrician may recommend an electrolyte solution.

Older children should be encouraged to sip water frequently when they are sick. Keeping track of the number of wet diapers or number of times your child has urinated is a good way to make sure they are staying hydrated.

If a child goes for more than eight hours without urinating, it's a sign of dehydration and warrants a call to your paediatrician. Other warning signs that merit consulting a doctor include dryness inside the mouth, crying with no tears, and increasing sleepiness, weakness or fatigue.

WASHINGTON POST

•Tanya Altmann is a paediatrician and an assistant clinical professor at Mattel Children's Hospital at the University of California in Los Angeles, while Tiffany Fischman is a paediatrician in Boston and a clinical instructor of paediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2018, with the headline 'Is your child getting enough to drink?'. Print Edition | Subscribe