Preferred fluids

See the guidance below for information about preferred fluids for different age groups.


Up until six months of age, exclusive breastfeeding provides babies with all the fluid and nourishment they need. This includes replenishing the fluid or water needed to sustain bodily functions and life.

Between six months and 12 months of age, a baby's main form of fluid should be breast milk or infant formula. After introducing solids, cooled boiled water may also be given to babies from a cup.


Between 12 months and two years of age, plain (not flavoured) full fat cow's milk is recommended. It contains important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B and zinc, all of which are important for a child's growth and development.

Too much cow's milk however, can suppress a child's appetite and lead to some nutrient deficiencies such as iron, and so it is recommended that milk consumption for 12 month to two year olds be limited to 3 cups or 600mls per day.

From 12 months of age children should be encouraged to drink tap water as well as milk. Tap water does not contain any kilojoules and is the best fluid for quenching thirst and hydrating the body.


From two years of age onwards, children should be encouraged to drink tap water as their main form of fluid. Plain (not flavoured) reduced fat milk, rather than full fat milk, may also be consumed but in limited quantities.

Reduced fat milk has the same nutrients as full fat milk but it is lower in saturated fat which means two to five year olds can get all the benefits of milk without consuming excessive fat. Between two years and five years of age it is recommended that the consumption of reduced fat milk be limited to 3 cups or 600mls per day to prevent a child's appetite being suppressed, a nutrient deficiency developing or an over supply of kilojoules being taken in.

A note on milk

Powdered, evaporated or UHT (long life) milks are suitable alternatives to fresh cow's milk. Soy milk enriched with calcium is also suitable. However, skim milk and oat, rice and coconut milks are not suitable as they do not provide the same range of nutrients as whole cow's milk. They should not be used for young children unless advised by a health care practitioner.

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