This is the best drink for babies in the first few months and, ideally, up to a year old and beyond.
The only alternative to breast milk in the first six months is infant formula. Choose an infant formula based on cows’ milk unless you have been advised otherwise by your health professional. You should continue to give your baby breast milk or formula milk until he or she is at least a year old. A change to follow-on milk isn’t necessary at any stage.
- Full-fat milk isn’t suitable as a drink until your baby is a year old. This is because it doesn’t contain the right balance of nutrients to meet your baby’s needs.
- Semi-skimmed milk isn’t suitable as a drink for children under two. But you can introduce it from two years old, if your child is a good eater and has a varied diet.
- Skimmed milk isn’t suitable for children under five years old.
Goats’ and sheep milk
- Goats’ and sheep’s milk are not suitable as drinks for babies under a year old because they do not contain the right balance of nutrients to meet your baby’s needs, for example, they don’t contain enough iron. Providing they are pasteurized, goats’ and sheep’s milk can be used once a baby is a year old.
- Cows’ milk infant formulas are the alternative to breast milk unless you have been advised otherwise by your health professional. You should continue to give your baby formula milk until he or she is at least a year old.
- Only use soya-based infant formulas and hydrolysed protein infant formulas on the advice of your GP or health visitor. Babies who are allergic to cows’ milk may also be allergic to soya.
This is the best alternative drink to milk, but fully breastfed babies don’t need any water until they start eating solid food. For babies under six months old, take water from the mains tap in the kitchen and boil it. Remember to allow the water to cool before giving it to your baby. For babies over 6 months, plain tap water is suitable.
Fruit juices, such as orange juice, are a good source of vitamin C. But giving your baby juices and other drinks will reduce his or her appetite for milk. Fruit juice also contains sugars, which are present naturally, and these can cause tooth decay. Fruit juice is also acidic. For these reasons, it’s important not to give your baby fruit juice before he or she is six months old.
If you give your baby any juice, give very dilute juice (one part juice with ten parts cooled, boiled water) in a feeding cup (not a bottle) and at mealtimes only.
Squashes, fizzy drinks, flavoured milk and juice drinks
These are not suitable for babies or toddlers. They contain sugars and even if you dilute them they can cause tooth decay, especially when given in a bottle.
“Baby” and herbal drinks, diet drinks and ‘no added sugar’ drinks
These are not suitable for babies or toddlers.