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Drinks for babies from birth to 12 months

Category: Children's health
Children's health


Breast milk is the best drink for babies.

Alternatively, infant formula milk (and water) can be given. These are the only drinks that should be offered before 6 months. See the image below to determine how much formula to give your baby depending on weight and age.

fluid requirments 0 12months PDIG



Of course, for breastfed babies you cannot measure the fluid intake, but a well-hydrated baby no matter how they are fed, will have 6-8 wet nappies every day.

A baby who is not drinking enough will become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include:

  • a dry nappy for 6 to 8 hours,
  • dark-coloured and strong-smelling urine,
  • lethargy,
  • parched mouth and lips,
  • no tears when crying,
  • sunken eyes,
  • sunken fontanels (soft spot on top of skull),
  • cold hands and feet.

If your baby has any of these signs, encourage small, frequent drinks of breast milk, or if feeding with infant formula milk, use the formula milk or cooled boiled water. If the signs continue, contact your doctor, public health nurse or dietitian for further advice.




  • Breast milk is the best drink for infants. It, or infant formula milk should be given as the main drink up to 12 months of age. Infants who are changed onto cow’s milk as the main drink before 12 months are at higher risk of iron deficiency and anaemia. For further information, please click here.
  • For formula-fed babies, use “first milk” (whey based infant formula milk) up to 12 months. Infant formula milks “for hungrier babies” and follow-on infant formula milks are not necessary.
  • Soya formula should only be used under medical supervision and "First milk" made from modified goat's milk is suitable from birth to 12 months. 
  • Powdered infant formula milk should be made up as per the instructions on the tin. Information on making up infant formula milk can be found by clicking this link. It is essential that powdered infant formula milk is made up at the correct concentration i.e. the correct number of scoops to the correct volume of water. The number of scoops required should never be reduced or increased.
  • Before the introduction of solid foods, cooled boiled water can be offered to bottle-fed babies in hot weather if they seem to be thirsty. Breastfed babies do not need additional water as they will feed more frequently to satisfy thirst. Once solids have been introduced, babies can be offered sips of water from a cup or beaker with meals. 
  • If tap water is unavailable (for making up bottles or as a drink), bottled mineral water (not sparkling) can be used. However, some bottled waters have high salt (sodium) content so check the label to ensure sodium content is less than 20 milligrams (mg) per litre (l). The bottled water, like tap water, must be boiled and cooled before using to make infant formula milk.
  • Babies should be encouraged to use a cup from the age of 6 months. Bottles should be gradually reduced with the aim of not using them at all by 12 months.
  • Drinking from a cup helps develop better oro-motor skills (use of muscles in the mouth) and is more protective against tooth decay.
  • From 12 months, babies can be given full-fat cow’s milk (or full-fat fortified milk) to drink from a cup or beaker.




  • Babies do not need to drink juice. Juice drinks, including “baby juices”, can:
    • reduce appetite for other foods,
    • contribute to excessive weight gain,
    • promote a preference for sweet tastes, and
    • contribute to tooth decay.
  • Your baby doesn't need fruit juices. If you choose to give your baby juices, only give them small amounts of well-diluted, unsweetened fruit juice. Dilute 1 measure pure fruit juice to 8 to 10 measures cooled boiled water. Serve this in a beaker only at mealtimes and only from 1 year onwards.

  • Squash/cordial drinks are not recommended for babies. They have limited nutritional value and can reduce babies’ appetite for more nourishing foods and drinks. Also the acidic nature and sugar content of these drinks increase the risk of tooth decay. In addition to this, most types of squash, including the ‘no added sugar’ varieties, contain artificial sweeteners which are not recommended for babies.

  • Tea and herbal teas are not suitable for babies. They have limited nutritional value and can reduce babies’ appetite for more nourishing foods and drinks. Tea can also reduce absorption of iron from foods.

  • Coffee is not suitable for babies as it can cause irritability, sleep disturbance and dehydration.

  • Carbonated or fizzy drinks, including sparkling mineral water and flavoured waters, are not suitable for babies. They have limited nutritional value and can reduce babies’ appetite for more nourishing foods and drinks. Also the acidic nature and sugar content of these drinks increase the risk of tooth decay. In addition to this, some types contain artificial sweeteners which  are not recommended for babies. The carbonic acid, or fizzy, in these drinks can cause tummy upset.

  • Energy drinks are not suitable for babies as they contain stimulants which are not safe for babies.


Created by the Paediatric Dietitians’ Interest Group (PDIG) of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) November 2015. Review date: November 2018       

© 2015 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling withadietitian. It is intended for educational and informtional purposes only.


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