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8/15/22 blog post

how do I keep my child hydrated?

in this article:

School may be back in session, but we’re still soaking up the last dog days of summer, which means LOTS of time outside! And hot temperatures plus outdoor activity means your child will likely need LOTS of water. Whether your kiddo is playing in the park or on the soccer field, it can be hard to know (or tell) how much water they need to stay hydrated.

We sat down with Jennifer Hilgeman, MD, pediatrician with Dayton Children’s Pediatrics to learn more about hydration needs by age and how to tell if your little one is struggling with dehydration.

basic hydration for baby

New guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. 

Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, it is important to remember that your baby's feeding needs are unique. If you choose to bottle feed, on average, your baby should take in about 2½ ounces of
expressed breastmilk or infant formula per day for every pound of body weight. This is about 24-32 oz/day. But they will likely regulate their intake from day-to-day to meet their own specific needs, so let them tell you when they've had enough. 

Around 6 months, you can start offering your baby a little bit of water (4-8 oz/day) in an open, sippy, or strawed cup. Whole milk is not recommended before 12 months of age. 

hydration needs for big kids

DCH_Hydration Graphic_V2

As kids get bigger, naturally, they need to take in more milk or water to stay hydrated. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Toddler

    • No more than 16 oz/day of milk
    • 8-32 oz/day of water
  • School-age/teenager
    • No more than 16 oz/day of milk 
    • 24-40 oz/day of water depending on activity level (when active, kids should take a break to drink water every 30-60 minutes

signs of dehydration

With the hot weather and lots of activity, it’s possible that your child may become dehydrated.
If your child is dehydrated, they will likely:

  • Play less than usual
  • Urinate less frequently (for infants, fewer than six wet diapers per day). For toddlers, less than three wet diapers in 24 hours
  • Have a parched, dry mouth
  • Express fewer tears when crying
  • Sunken soft spot of the head in an infant or toddler

one last thing

While drinking only water and plain milk is the ideal, we know young children may be exposed to any number of other drinks at some point. Juice is very sweet tasting and lacks fiber, an important nutrient found in whole fruit. Once children are exposed to juice, it may be difficult to limit portions or get them to prefer plain water again. Infants less than 1-year of age should not drink juice and eating fruit is always preferred to drinking juice.

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Jennifer Hilgeman, MD, IBCLC, FAAP

general pediatrics
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