Drinks for children aged 1 to 4 years

The best drinks for children aged 1 to 4 are water, breast milk and milk. Offer your child 6 to 8 drinks every day. Avoid sugary drinks and limit fruit juices.

Stop using a bottle after your child's first birthday. From 1 year of age, your child should be drinking from a cup or free-flow beaker.


You can use tap water if it is suitable for drinking. There is no need to continue boiling and cooling water for children this age.


Full-fat milk should be given to children under the age of 2 years. This is sometimes called ‘whole milk’ on the label.

Low-fat milk can be given to children from 2 years of age. This is sometimes called ‘semi-skimmed’ milk.

Skimmed milk is not suitable for children under 5 years of age. This is sometimes called ‘slimline’ milk.

Soya and plant milks

Children who do not have a diagnosed milk allergy should drink cow’s milk.

You can give your child soya milk if they are allergic to cow’s milk. These should be unsweetened and fortified with calcium.

Other plant-based milks are not suitable for children in this age group. They are mainly water and not good sources of nutrition. These include:

  • almond milk
  • coconut milk
  • oat milk
  • rice milk
  • almond milk
  • coconut milk
  • oat milk
  • rice milk

Another reason why rice milk is not recommended for young children is because it may contain traces of arsenic.

Breast milk

Breastfeeding is recommended in Ireland until children are 2 years of age or beyond.

If you are breastfeeding, you can also add cow’s milk to your child’s cereal or offer cow’s milk as a drink.

It is important to include milk, yogurt and cheese in your child’s diet. These are important for healthy bones.


Extended breastfeeding

Avoid fruit juice

Avoid giving fruit juice. It is not good for your child’s teeth.

If you are giving fruit juice, limit it to 100mls and dilute well with water. It is better to give your child whole pieces of fruit instead. Make sure the fruit is a safe size for your child to eat.

Orange juice and vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron.

Great sources of vitamin C include:

  • orange or mandarin segments
  • berries
  • kiwis
  • red peppers

Iron is an important nutrient for young children.

It is good to give your child a vitamin C food with a breakfast cereal that contains iron (12mg per 100g).

If your child won't eat a piece of fruit with breakfast, offer 100mls of unsweetened orange juice.

Sugary drinks

Avoid sugary drinks such as some cordials and fizzy drinks. Sugary drinks are not good for your child’s teeth.

If offered at all, make sure it’s with meals.

Sugar-free cordials and fizzy drinks are also not good for your child's teeth. Avoid these too.

Water, breast milk and cow's milk are the best drinks for your child.

Find tips on how to replace sugary drinks at makeastart.ie

Cups and beakers

Between 1 and 2 years of age, your child should start to move on from using a beaker with a lid. They can learn to use a beaker or cup without a lid.

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 30 September 2020
Next review due: 30 September 2023