Weaning and signs of dehydration

I have a daughter who is 33 months old and is still on the bottle. She is also speech delayed. Anyway, I am wondering what is the minimum amount of liquid a child needs to avoid dehydrating. I have had her in the ER one other time when I was trying to be "tuff" with weaning her completely to a cup, and so now I am scared I may do it again.

She is fully capable of drinking out of a cup, she just takes one or two sips and that is it. So, that compared to several ounces doesn't cut it. I have gotten conflicting information on the amount of liquid in general and the amount of milk a child needs. If you could give me a certain quantity that would be helpful (if you have any suggestions on weaning, I would like to hear that too).

Thank you.


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Laura,

It is difficult to tell you how much fluid a child needs each day. Needs vary tremendously from climate to climate,and child to child. Requirements depend on size, activity level, humidity, temperature, foods eaten, etc. Remember, that not all fluid needs are met by drinking. Many foods contain significant amounts, especially fruits and vegetables. You can get lots of fluid into your daughter's diet by including things like watermelon, strawberries, red peppers, and any other fruits and vegetables she may enjoy. Yogurt is really a fluid. Pudding, frozen yogurt, milkshakes, and juices are other ways of getting fluids into her diet.

Try serving her fruit smoothies made with vanilla yogurt, orange juice, banana, and strawberries or peaches blended in a blender. Serve it in a sippy cup. Because it is not milk in the cup (which she seems to prefer in a bottle) she may drink it. Perhaps you can buy her an attractive water bottle that she can carry around with her during the day. By water bottle, I am referring to the type that athletes and bikers use. They come in lots of exciting colors and patterns. My 13 year old carries one to school each day to be sure she is well hydrated for track practice in the afternoon. Learning to drink water all day is a good habit to get into. Be encouraging without being forceful to get her to take the water. Maybe even keep one going for yourself as an example.

Wean her from milk in the bottle slowly. Cut out one bottle at a time. The first bottles to go should be those at meal times. A firm rule of no bottles at meals should be established. However, do not cut at all meals at once. Continue to allow them for snacks and wake up and bedtime if she is still drinking them then. Since she knows she can still have a bottle at snack, she may be more receptive to not having it at meal time, allowing her to try the sippy cup. Then, after meal bottles those have been cut out, gradually cut back the amount you allow her to have in the other bottles. Offer juice boxes, and fluid in sippy cups instead. By gradually transitioning off of the bottle, she has a chance to adjust. Perhaps when you were being tough the first time, she just wasn't sure how to react, and she got into trouble.

During those transition times, keep an eye out for signs of dehydration which include reduced frequency and amount of urination, urine which is darker in color and stronger in smell, dry mouth and lips, and dry eyes. If you notice any of this, make an effort to get fluids into her. Offer fruit juice popsicles, soda (made with sparkling water and a favorite juice), watermelon, low sodium soup or broth, or a favorite milkshake.

Because your daughter is so old, it may take longer to wean. Patience is paramount. A slow transition will work best as it is most apt to avoid the power struggle that can happen with a child of that age with such an intrenched habit. You may find that this patience, coupled with her exposure to other children her age and older who are drinking from cups (perhaps in preschool or visiting with friends) she will make the switch without much ado. I hope so.

Thank you for writing.

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