Drinks for children, which ones to choose and which to avoid


  • 1 Drinks for babies: breast milk 
  • 2 Drinks for children: infant formula 
  • 3 Drinks for children: cow's milk
  • 4 Drinks for children: alternative milk to cow's milk
  • 5 Drinks for children: vegetable ones
  • 6 Drinks for children: water
  • 7 Drinks for children: sugary ones
  • 8 Drinks for children: those based on fruit 

“But yes, what do you want it to be! Give him some water! Can't you see he's thirsty ?! ”: Who knows how many of us have ever heard something like this. Grandmothers, aunts, neighbors a little over the years are always ready to dispense advice, even unsolicited. And one of the classics is about water for babies. But if in the past this was a normal habit, today it is known that, until the moment when weaning begins, water is absolutely superfluous. But how to deal with all other children's drinks? 

Hydration is essential for young and old. Especially now that we are facing the heat it is right to know how to behave and what to give to our children to ensure that they have the right amount of fluids. But at the same time we must also pay attention to what they drink. Did you know, for example, that some fizzy drinks contain a quantity of sugar equal to 7 lumps or 20 cookies? It really is too much. 

How to clarify? With the experts of the Infant Jesus Institute for Child and Adolescent Health, directed by Professor Alberto G. Ugazio, here is the guide on what to make our children drink in the various stages of their growth.

 Drinks for babies: breast milk 

It is the first nourishment of the little ones once they come into the world. It is the first contact with the mother. It is the first source of health. It is well known that breast milk is the food par excellence for babies because it provides the nutrients necessary for development. It is composed of approximately 87% water and a well-balanced proportion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It is easily digestible and satisfies all the baby's food needs in the first 6 months of life. In this period it is indicated as an exclusive food by the World Health Organization and by the most important scientific societies for nutrition. 

In the second semester the supply of breast milk is integrated with other foods and is also recommended during the second year of life and beyond. Full-term breastfeeding is defined as breastfeeding that stops only when the baby decides, even in old age. It seems a bit daring choice, but there are many mothers who manage to carry it out. 

Breast milk has many recognized benefits. They are better protected from the risk of contracting infections, allergies or complex diseases such as type 1 and 2 diabetes, sudden death syndrome, lymphomas and leukemias, obesity, chronic intestinal diseases, arterial hypertension. Premature babies are less likely to suffer from systemic infections, retinopathy, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and necrotizing enterocolitis. There are also advantages for women, such as greater protection from breast and ovarian cancer. 

Drinks for children: infant formula 

In some cases, the new mother cannot breastfeed. An example is taking medications to treat certain diseases that are incompatible with breastfeeding. We remind you that only some substances pass into the milk and among these there are also drugs. The alternative is therefore the so-called "formula milk", which we call artificial milk much more simply. It is a derivative of cow's milk, in powder or liquid form, with a composition of nutrients that is inspired by that of humans. 

Even if well tolerated, it is not a food that can be superimposed on breast milk. How is formula milk prepared? After washing your hands, the powder is dissolved in water which must not have a temperature below 70 ° C. The bottle must then be cooled under tap water and should not be prepared very in advance, but just before feeding.  

After 6 months, we move on to the "follow-on formulas", which are used up to one year of age. Then, if you do not switch to cow's milk, there is the so-called "growth milk" up to 3 years of age. 

Drinks for children: cow's milk

Among the drinks for children, when it comes to milk, the first thought goes to the cow one. But when can we offer our children safely? The guidelines of the Ministry of Health recommend waiting for the completion of the first year of life. Also, don't overdo the quantities. The limit is 400 ml per day so as not to overload the body with proteins. 

Cow's milk contains a fair proportion of the main micronutrients. Proteins are made up of essential amino acids. Fats are well balanced between saturated (provide energy) and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (have a structural function). In addition, it has calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, vitamins.

Which milk to choose? For children, whole milk is recommended because fats allow the best absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as D, A and K. In case of lactose intolerance, "highly digestible", delactosed or "HD milk" products are available. , which allow its hiring.

Drinks for children: alternative milk to cow's milk

The experts on the Infant Jesus make a fundamental distinction. Milk is defined as anything that has been milked by an animal. Vegetable ones therefore cannot be called that, but they are beverages or "drinks". And then they underline a very important aspect. The administration of everything that is different from mother's milk must be decided and agreed with the pediatrician. Do not go your own way even with what seems harmless to you, such as a soy drink. 

There are various types of alternative milk to cow's milk and they are often indicated if the latter is not well tolerated. They are milked by different mammals: goat, buffalo, llama, alpaca, dromedary, elk, camel, donkey, mare. They have the same basic components as cow's milk, but distributed differently. For example, reindeer and moose are very high in protein and fat and low in lactose. Exactly contrary the composition of those of donkey and mare. 

The advice is not to propose them in the first year of life neither to healthy children nor to those with particular pathologies (allergy to cow's milk proteins, lactose intolerance, gastrointestinal problems). In short, we do not follow any "fashions" of the moment, but we rely on our pediatrician.

Drinks for children: vegetable ones

Vegetable drinks are water-based extracts of legumes, oilseeds or cereals that simulate breast and cow's milk in appearance and texture. The nutritional characteristics, however, are completely different, therefore they are not suitable to replace them. The consumption of vegetable drinks in the first year of life, instead of breast milk or formula, can in fact be associated with important nutritional deficits. In the second year of life it can be risky if not included in a balanced diet.

There are various types of vegetable drinks based on: 

  • cereals: oats, rice, corn, spelled;
  • legumes: soy, peanuts, lupine, cowpea; 
  • nuts: almond, coconut, hazelnut, pistachio, walnut;
  • seeds: sesame, flax, hemp, sunflower;
  • pseudocereals: quinoa, amaranth. 

All of these products are low in protein. Only soy is comparable to cow's milk. Among other things, these are proteins with a low nutritional value. 

Drinks for children: water

First information: for the first 6 months of their life, newborns do not need to drink water. And this is true whatever the type of milk they take. The maternal one has a great deal of it. The formulated one is prepared with water. So, even if it's hot, you don't need to integrate liquids. 

When to start? With the introduction of solid foods into the baby's diet, therefore with weaning. If you live in areas where tap water is subjected to disinfection treatments and therefore is drinkable, you can safely use that. Otherwise you can buy mineral water. The one in glass bottles is certainly better because it is a material that does not deteriorate. 

How much water should we give to our children a day? It depends on the age: 

  • from 6 to 12 months: 800 ml;
  • From 1 to 3 years: 1.200 ml;
  • From 4 to 6 years: 1.600 ml;
  • From 7 to 10 years: 1.800 ml.

Drinks for children: sugary ones

To encourage the intake of water in a pleasant form, the market offers an infinite variety of drinks, juices, sweetened teas and energy drinks. The specialists of the Infant Jesus remember that they should be consumed with great moderation because they are loaded with sugars, calories and with little or no supply of other nutritional elements. Warning: up to 6 years of age they are not suitable for children. Subsequently, in order not to favor weight gain, tooth decay or the development of diabetes, they can only be drunk sporadically and as part of a balanced and varied diet.

A special note concerns energy drinks. What they "promise" is to give a nice boost of energy and vitality. It should be emphasized that excessive consumption could be responsible for cardiovascular problems. Utmost caution. 

Drinks for children: those based on fruit 

Let's talk about fruit juices. The 100% fruit ones are made entirely from squeezed fruit. Fruit nectar is made from juice or puree (or both) to which water, sugar or sweeteners are added. The fruit content must be between 25 and 50%. Fruit-based drinks must have at least 12% fruit and it is allowed to add water, sugars and additives. 

An indirect, but correct, way to take liquids and nutrients, primarily vitamins, are instead smoothies, centrifuges, juices and seasonal fruit and vegetable extracts. Children and adults should eat 2 to 3 servings of fruit per day. To reach this quota you can propose fruit to drink. A classic example is orange juice, a concentrate of useful nutrients, such as vitamin C. Never add sugar to sweeten it and don't filter it. In this way your child will take on the maximum of the citrus properties. 

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