It is important for infants and young children to maintain a good fluid intake. It is also important that drinks provided are not harmful to teeth. Children need 6 – 8 (100 – 150mls cups) to ensure they get enough fluid.

Water and milk are the only drinks that should be provided between meals and with snacks as they do not damage teeth or increase the risk of tooth decay.


Milk is an important drink for the under-fives. It is the main source of calcium in the diet and also provides protein and a range of other nutrients.

  • Breast milk is best for children under 12 months.
  • Infant formula is appropriate for children who are under 12 months of age and not being breastfed.
  • Full cream milk is suitable as the main milk drink from the age of 12 months for most children.
  • Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced from the age of two years if a child has a good mixed diet and is growing well.

Skimmed milk is NOT recommended for children under five years of age


  • Water should be encouraged as a drink to quench thirst. It does not damage teeth and does not spoil the appetite.
  • There should be easy access to clean and palatable drinking water and regular drinks should be encouraged.
  • Tap water no longer needs to be boiled for children aged over six months.
  • Bottled waters may have a high concentration of mineral salts and are not suitable for young children. Kettles with built-in water filters should not be used.

Fruit juice

Pure fruit juices are a good source of vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption. They are therefore most beneficial when offered with a main meal.

  • Fruit juices are acidic and can damage teeth by eroding dental enamel. It is therefore recommended that fruit juices are well diluted (one part juice to 10 parts water) and only served with meals.

Soft drinks

There are a wide range of soft drinks available such as squashes, fizzy drinks and fruit type drinks. Most of these are sweetened with sugar or sweeteners or both. Both diet and non-diet varieties are discouraged, as these can erode the tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. Also, many of these drinks contain artificial sweeteners that are not recommended for children under three years of age.

Other drinks

Avoid tea and coffee and other drinks with added caffeine or other stimulants.

Cups and beakers

It is recommended that free-flowing/trainer cups are encouraged from the age of six months for drinks. By the age of 12 months it is recommended that bottle feeding is discouraged and all drinks are offered in free-flowing/trainer cups.

The 'no spill' feeder/trainer cups are NOT recommended. They promote the continuation of the sucking action similar to drinking from a feeding bottle which does not assist a child in progressing from sucking to drinking. In addition it is thought that the sucking action may delay the development of tongue and jaw muscles required for speech.