The weather reports for a lot of the country are still, well, confusing. It is still very winter in most places. (Sigh, I almost miss that. Almost.) Around here it is already hot. Seriously, it is getting up to ninety degrees. We aren’t even in summer yet. Most areas of the country will have some level of summer eventually. Either you are experiencing warm weather already or dreaming of summer fun. That means we need to worry about our our little ones getting enough water. But how much water do babies and kids need? How do I get them to drink it? What should I do to keep us hydrated in hot weather? Here are some guidelines to help out.
Hydration Guidelines for Babies
Let’s start with the babies. Newborns really shouldn’t be offered water. They are getting all the hydration they need from nursing or formula feedings. If it is very hot and you can tell you need to drink more water you should offer up more nursing sessions to your babies. Yes, this can be frustrating if you are scheduling feedings. But really that young you are probably feeding them frequently anyway. Formula fed babies might need additional feedings as well. Up until two months of age babies really shouldn’t have water. They can fill up on that and miss important nutrients from feedings. Water intoxication is very serious in babies. Most babies this young have a lot of risks from being out in extreme heat, so if you are in this situation you are probably keeping to air conditioned environments as much as possible. If you are stranded somewhere and nursing, offer up some breast milk to your baby. If you are formula feeding try to keep some water and formula in the car. Offer it to your baby even if it is off schedule. Formula and breast milk are the safest options.
Starting at about four months babies can have some sips of water, but try to keep it to a minimum. Really they only need about 2-4 ounces a day. After six months of age they can have a bit more. It is a good idea to introduce water at this young age though. It helps them get used to it and enjoy it as the healthiest beverage. If you are doing baby led weaning with your baby they will need to have a little extra water to avoid constipation. A general rule of thumb is about as many ounces per day as months old the child is. That means a seven month old should have about seven ounces of water, an eight month old eight ounces, etc.
Once babies are a year they can have water when thirsty. Babies don’t always let us know they are thirsty, so I follow the rule if I am thirsty, they probably are too. I offer them drinks when I get one.
Hydration in young children
Children aged one through three need about 44 ounces of water, or about five and half cups. Keep in mind they can also be getting some of the water from foods (about 20% of it). After age four they need more. There are of course variables to this. Height, weight, activity level, etc. all come into play. Basically that means this isn’t a hard and fast number you have to stick by. If you are out in the heat and sweating a lot you probably need more.
After age one a good idea is to keep water out for kids to grab when they feel thirsty. Offer it up at meals. And again, if you are hot and thirsty grab your little ones a drink too.
Getting kids to drink
Some kids are really into drinking water, while others need to be encouraged a bit. There are few ways you can help your kids to drink water.
1) Have it handy. If it is available kids are more likely to grab for it. This means have some sippy cups of water in reach for your kids. Water doesn’t stain, so we allow water in any room of our house. If that is too messy or just not what you want to do, try offering it up every hour or so.
2) Introduce the sippy cup at a young age. Once you are starting solids give your kid a sippy cup of water. At first they will just play with it. They will get the hang of it making it easier to get them to drink later.
3) Give them a cold one. Ever since we moved my son asks for the cold water. We invested (invested like twenty dollars, not that much) in a filtered pitcher. It has been so worth any money spent. We have good tasting, cold water that my kids love.
4) Try a splash of juice. I use this trick to get my kids to start to drink from a sippy cup. Water is good, but doesn’t have a flavor. A little juice gives a touch of flavor that entices your child to drink more. Once they are drinking consistently I lower the amount of juice until it is just water.
5) Make flavored water yourself. I sometimes add a couple lemon slices and cucumber slices to a pitcher of water to keep in the fridge. There is a reason spas do this- it is so good! There are lots of combinations you can try, or just use whatever is in your fridge. Check out my Pinterest board for some inspiration!
6) Freeze fruit in ice cubes. It’s fun for kids to look at and fun to drink. As a fun activity your child could help you make the cubes too!
What to do when it is HOT
Sometimes you just have to get out when it is hot out. It is important to make sure you keep your kids hydrated on the go.
1) Grab water when you walk out the door. If you get into the habit of grabbing a bottle every time you go it will really help. Like most things with kids, plan ahead on this one. When you get home, wash out and refill your bottle so it is ready to grab next time you go out.
2) Keep water in the car. We live in a HOT climate now. We keep a small case of water in the trunk at all times. Yes, it might be warm and not taste super awesome, but it is better than nothing if we get stranded somewhere.
3) ‘When your water is halfway gone, your hike is halfway done.’ I laugh when I read this at our local hiking trail. It seems silly to have to say this, but it is so true! If you are running out of water it is time to go. It is not worth toughing anything out with your little ones.
4) Offer water when you get home. Anytime we get home from being out I give my kids a drink of water. We might have just been at the library, but it is still hot out. Even if we took water with us when we were out- we get home, everyone gets a drink.
5) Offer your kids a drink whenever you take one when you are out. Kids don’t always know they are thirsty. They might not have the words to tell you, or they might just be too busy playing to realize it. A good rule is to always offer up drinks to the whole family when you take a sip.
6) Get a squirt top sport bottle for babies. This might sound silly, but it really works for me. I have a squirt top bottle that is pretty big. My kids can all suck the water out of it. The bonus is when you squeeze it water comes out of course. With my girls I can basically squirt some water into them. (Not hard or meanly, just enough to get it going.) This entices them to drink more.
7) Let your kids pick their water bottle. If bringing water or drinking when you are out is an issue you can try to let your kid pick out the bottle they want to use. I don’t like having to spend extra money, but chances are this will pay for itself in time.
8) Try popsicles. They cool you off and have a good water content. They are a fun way to cool off after outside activities. You can get molds at most dollar stores to make your own if you would like.
Signs of dehydration
Alright, you have your plans in place to get enough water into your family. But kids don’t know when they are dehydrated. What signs should you look for?
3) Dry mouth, no tears
4) Soft spot appears sunken
5) Decrease in wet diapers (think less than six wet diapers in a 24 hour period, or going two to three hours without a wet diaper consistently)
3) Dry mouth, no tears
5) Dark yellow urine and going more than six hours without urinating
6) Complaints of headaches or dizziness
These are just some of the signs. If you are worried your child is dehydrated offer them some water and call your doctor. They will tell you what to do. If you think it is serious, or if it is a young baby you might want to head to the ER. It sounds like a trivial thing. Oh, I’m just a bit dehydrated. But when it comes to kids and babies dehydration can be very serious. Never feel bad for staying on the safe side and getting checked out.
Dehydration is no joke. At worst it can have some serious health implications. At best it can still be a real downer when your little ones are fussy. Either way, I don’t like to mess with it. If you plan ahead and have good water drinking practices you will be in great shape to keep active and having fun, even in warmer weather.
Want to learn more? Here are some resources to check out!
Kelly Mom- Offering Water to Breastfed Babies
CNN.com- How much water do babies need to drink?
EatRight.org- Water: How much do kids needs?
EasyBabyLife.com- Spending time with baby in hot weather
Babycenter.com- Dehydration in children
Babycenter.com- How much water should my toddler drink?
EMedicineHealth.com- Dehydration in children
HealthyChildren.org- Signs of Dehydration in Infants and Children
These aren’t the only resources or tips. Have something to add? Please let me know! Knowledge is power after all. 🙂