Keeping Kids Hydrated in the Heat (and All Year Long) - Feeding Littles

Keeping Kids Hydrated in the Heat (and All Year Long)

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 1-2 ounces of water per day, gradually increasing water intake toward their first birthday. Some physicians recommend 1-2 oz a day at 6 months and 3-4 oz a day at 9 months. 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. We recommend offering water in cups starting at 6 months, as this will help them learn to use a cup. Click here to learn how to introduce cups to your 6+ month old. 

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 (32-48 oz)  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. Their urine should be pale yellow (unless taking B vitamins, perhaps as part of a multivitamin supplement), and they 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.

Other hydration estimates from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are below:

  • 4-8 years: 7 cups
  • 9-13 years: 9 cups (girls), 10 cups (boys)
  • 14-18 years: 10 cups (girls), 14 cups (boys)

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 (and milk, see below) as much as possible.

If your toddler drinks milk or milk alternatives, 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?

Below are some additional tips that might help your child drink more water:

  • Set a timer or other digital notification that reminds everyone in the family to drink more water. Have a visual kiddo? Check out the app Plant Nanny (on iTunes or Google Play Store) and watch your plant grow and thrive – or not – depending on how much water you drink. 
  • Offer water in a designated water bottle or cup, and make sure you have water with you at all times to offer to your tot. We have so many favorite straw bottles – check them out here in our Amazon shop!
  • Put a mark on your child’s cup or water bottle as a visual cue to drink down to the mark. A rubber band or hair tie can also serve as a visual cue. (“Let’s drink down to this line!”)
  • High water volume veggies and fruits like watermelon, tomatoes, cantaloupe, broccoli and cucumber are great summer staples that have high water content.
  • Figure out how your child likes water best – with a straw? Iced? Room temperature. Try to serve it in their preferred form when possible to promote more hydration.
  • Make homemade popsicles! Try combining coconut water or coconut milk with fruit and a bit of sweetener like honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup if desired. Freeze in popsicle molds until set.
  • Use novelty (just like we teach in our online course)​ to encourage more sipping! Break out silly straws, have your child use a clean medicine syringe or eye dropper to pipe water into his mouth, whip out small cups or unique drinking glasses, or even practice drinking water out of an ice cube tray using a straw. You can also make up a funny dance or song every time your child takes a drink. 
  • Serve broth-based soups or cold soups like gazpacho.
  • Make water more flavorful with creative water infusions, such as strawberry and lemon, watermelon and lime, or blueberry and orange.

Happy start of summer, and happy drinking (water, that is)!

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