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7/25/13blog post

the great drink debate

By: Dr. Melissa King

This is taken from the conversation that I had with Audrey, my 4 year old daughter, just the other day.

Audrey: “Mom, can I have some Gatorade to drink, please?”

Me: “No Audrey, you can have some water.”

Audrey: “But mom, you let me have some the other day.”

Me: “Yes, Audrey, I did. But the other day you were running fevers and vomiting. There is a time and a place for those types of drinks and today is not one of them. You can have water or nothing, your choice.”

Audrey: “Ok mom I will have water.”

Lately in clinic it seems that I am reminding mothers of newborns NOT to give water and mothers of children over the age of 1 year TO give water, and lots of it. So what ARE the recommendations since it seems that we may be giving mixed messages?

The trick to that question really lies in the child’s age, overall health, activity and acute health issues. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

(A couple of quick side notes – if I say “HCP” I mean health care provider – your child’s doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistance, HCP is much quicker to write:) Also, these recommendations are GENERAL recommendations, not specific for every child all of the time, so as always it is a good idea to take this information back to your child’s HCP to discuss).

WATER: great for most kids, most of the time. Initially 2-4 ounces per day and increasing as the child gets older. Before age 1 year children should consume the recommended amount of breast milk/ formula up to 32 ounces per day. Water offers an alternative if they are big drinkers or if you are out and about and run out of a bottle. After age 1, we recommend 16-24 ounces of milk per day and otherwise drinking water as they desire.

EXCEPTION: Infants less than 6 months old!

Infants of this age should ONLY drink breast milk or formula unless otherwise determined by your child’s HCP. Infants under 6 months need the calories from breast milk/ formula and do not need water most of the time. The drinking of too much water can cause harm to these little ones such as seizures and coma. I say this not to scare anyone but to advise you to speak with your child’s HCP before giving your child anything but breast milk or formula in those first 6 months of life. I will sometimes recommend juice or water to treat constipations in these little ones, but it should be a discussion that we have together. Even as the temperature is getting up to 100oF, breast milk or formula are still the best and safest options to give your child to drink. Breast milk and formula have a lot of water to keep your child hydrated and in the right concentration with electrolytes as well.

Electrolyte Replacement Solutions: (Gatorade, G2, Powerade, Pedialyte)

These are a great solution for when your child is vomiting, has diarrhea, or is exercising to the point they are sweating. Electrolyte replacement solutions are great for exactly that… replacing the electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium) that your child’s body needs when their bodies are losing them for some reason (sweating, vomiting or diarrhea).

This is NOT a drink to be consumed daily, just because!

You must be careful with serving it to your children. Infants and children’s kidneys are not as mature as adults and therefore are more sensitive to things that they eat and drink. Another precaution with these solutions is that some contain more sugar then others and that sugar content can make diarrhea worse just like juice can make diarrhea worse.

Speaking of juice… please remember that the recommended amounts of daily intake are 4-8 ounces per day depending on your child’s age. Juice contains a lot of sugar among other things. The best drink you can provide for your child is water and most of the time just plain tap water, but that is another discussion for another time.

  • Do I give my kids juice? Yes.
  • Do I give my kids Gatorade or Pedialyte? On occasion, yes.
  • Do I give my children milk? Yes.
  • Do I give my children water? Absolutely, every day!!

Kids learn their habits from watching us, so remember to set a good example and drink your water too!

Learn more about healthy drinks for kids on our website!

By: Melissa King, DO “Dr. Mom Sqaud”

Dr. King is a general pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s and the mother of two kids. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. King blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. King!