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Tips on your baby's first drinks and cups

Drinks and cups for your baby

Milk

If you keep breastfeeding as well as giving your baby solid foods, your breast milk will keep giving your baby the balance of nutrients that they need. It will also help protect them from infection, and your baby will benefit for as long as both you and your baby are happy to continue. First infant formula also provides a useful balance of nutrients alongside solid foods.

You shouldn’t give your baby cows' milk as a drink before they are 12 months old. It doesn’t have the right balance of nutrients for your baby.

After your baby’s first birthday, you can give your baby whole (full-fat) cows' milk as a drink alongside a balanced and varied diet. There’s no need to give follow-on formula, toddler milks, growing up milks or good night milks at any age. You can introduce semi-skimmed milk once your child is two, as long as they are a good eater and growing well. Skimmed milk doesn't contain enough fat, so isn’t recommended for children under five. You can give them skimmed milk or 1% fat milk as a drink from five years old.

Find out more about alternatives to cows' milk.

Water

If your baby is only breastfed, they don't need any water until they've started eating solid foods.

Formula-fed babies may need some extra water in between their usual formula feeds in hot weather.

If your baby's under six months old and you're giving them water as a drink, remember to boil fresh tap water and allow it to cool before you give it to your baby.

Water for babies over six months doesn't need to be boiled.

Bottled water from a shop isn't recommended as a drink for your baby as it may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate. If you do have to use bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure the sodium (also written as Na) level is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre. The sulphate (also written as SO or SO4) content shouldn't be higher than 250mg per litre.

Like tap water, bottled water isn't sterile, so you will need to boil it before you use it to prepare a feed.

Fruit juice and smoothies

Babies younger than 12 months old don't need fruit juices or smoothies. If you do choose to give them to your baby, dilute the juices and smoothies (one part juice to 10 parts water), limit them to mealtimes and offer them in an open cup or free flow beaker to help reduce your baby's risk of tooth decay.

Plain water is a better choice and won't damage your baby's teeth.

Don't let your baby suck juice, smoothies or purees straight from a pouch.

Squashes, fizzy drinks, juice drinks, flavoured milks and warm drinks

Plain water is the best drink to give babies over 12 months old.

Squashes, fizzy drinks, juice drinks and flavoured waters aren’t suitable for young babies. These drinks contain sugar and can cause tooth decay, even when they’re diluted. As your toddler gets older and you introduce them to a variety of different foods, these drinks can fill your baby up and may lead to poor weight gain. Even drinks that contain artificial sweeteners can encourage children to develop a sweet tooth.

Watch out for drinks that say 'fruit' or 'juice' drink on the pack as these can contain a lot of sugar.

Fizzy drinks are acidic and can damage your baby’s teeth so you shouldn't give them to babies or toddlers. Diet or reduced-sugar drinks aren't recommended for babies and toddlers either.

Flavoured milks and powders for flavouring milks usually contain a lot of sugar so you should avoid giving them to your child.

Other drinks to avoid include tea, coffee and herbal drinks.

Moving to a cup or beaker

If you're bottlefeeding, it's a good idea to introduce a cup instead of a bottle from about six months old. By the time your baby’s 12 months old, they should have stopped using bottles with teats or they may find it hard to break the habit of sucking on a bottle for comfort.

Drinks flow very slowly through a teat which means that children spend a lot of time with the teat in their mouth. Comfort sucking on sweetened drinks is the biggest cause of tooth decay in young children. When using a bottle or trainer cup, only give your child breast milk, first infant formula or water.

Choosing a cup or beaker

It's important to choose the right kind of cup. A beaker with a free-flow lid (without a non-spill valve) is better than a bottle or beaker with a teat.

As soon as your child’s ready, encourage them to move from drinking from a cup with a lid to drinking from an open cup. Using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve will help your baby learn to sip their drink rather than suck, and that’s better for their teeth.

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