Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have discovered that drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth by three times. There have always been conflicting messages about how much or even whether women should or should not drink when they are expecting a baby, and this new research attempted to clarify the conflicting messages.
A staggering 60,000 women were questioned, all of which who were between 10 and 12 weeks pregnant. The results they gave were then tallied up and studied once they had had their babies. Those who drank more than 20 units a week were considered to be heavy drink drinkers, and it seems, they were more likely to have premature babies.
A fifth of the women said that they never drank and 71% claimed to be occasional drinkers (that's 0-5 units a week). However, some women could have been misreported or under-estimating their drinking habits. >10% of the pregnant women drank a moderate amount of alcohol (which is 6-20 units a week). These women were more likely to smoke, be in work and to have private health care compared to those who never drank.
Approximately 2 in 1000 admitted to being heavy drinkers (which means they drank more than 20 units per week). The babies born to these women we more prone to very premature birth and all the problems premature babies have.
The best advice is to avoid alcohol all together just to be sure!
When the weather is hot, it is relatively easy to encourage little ones to take in plenty of fluids with cold drinks, ice cream and lollies to keep them hydrated; but in the cooler weather, it's less obvious that your child may be getting dehydrated. Consuming water is so important, more so than eating food.
Water is vital for life.
- It regulates the body temperature
- It helps flush body waste in the form of urine
- It is required for transporting nutrients throughout the body
- It helps maintain a good weight
- It helps avoid constipation and urinary infections
- It helps digest food and absorb the nutrients from your food
- It increases your energy levels
How much to drink:
- Children aged 1-3 need just under 1 1/2 litres each day, although not exclusively in drink form as this includes the liquid consumed in food
How to encourage them to drink:
- Encourage little and often. Offer them cups of water each time you have a drink.
- Drink in front of them to show you do it too!
- Give older children a little plastic jug to pour their own drinks.
- Try new drinks: peach or grape juice (watered down by 1/2) is unusual and tasty.
- Make sure there is water and milk available at pre-school or nursery. Encourage your child to have a drink while away from home too.
- Find some fun 'sippy' cups or drinking straws to make it more fun for toddlers.
- Offer warm milk, chilled water, cool juice so vary the temperature.
- Feed liquid based foods: yoghurt, soups, etc.
- Eat juicy fruits like watermelon and pears.
When you are out and about or running round a school playground, a public drinking fountain can be a welcome sight, a place to rehydrate and for free! But how safe is it to drink from the same fountain that hundreds of others have drunk from? Would you share a water bottle with strangers in the park? I doubt it!
Are you likely to pick-up germs, bacteria and disease from all the other people who have used the fountain before? The answer seems to be unproven! There is plenty of evidence to suggest that germs and bacteria are all over drinking fountains. Some research suggested there were less germs on toilets and door handles than drinking fountains, because they are cleaned and disinfected more often. So there are more micro organisms on water fountains! Shocking.
However, this does not mean that the water is infected. The nature of the water fountain shooting an arc of water means that the water itself should not be contaminated even if the pump is itself covered in germs. So if the water is clean, it remains clean even if it comes through a mucky water fountain. Evidence to prove this fact seems sparse either to confirm the water is safe or to say it is not safe.
I suppose we should take comfort from the fact that there is not an abundance of studies proving they are contaminated. And, indeed, that we never hear of swathes of disease or outbreaks because of water fountains being unclean.
So, should we drink from water fountains and let our little ones drink from them? Yes, probably, but only if they are able to drink from the arc of water and not need to suck, lick or get too close to the spout itself! If they are too little to manage this, use the fountain to top up a water bottle or cup.
Two thirds of our body is made up of water, so it seem logical that we need to drink enough fluids to keep that level topped up especially in the hot weather - this advice is particularly important for children too! Everyone loses fluids throughout the day by sweating and urinating, so in hot weather it's critical that we don't dehydrate.
Watch out for symptoms and signs of any side effects of dehydration in your little ones throughout the day. Thisis particularly important if they aren't able to talk as they won't be able to tell you how they are feeling,
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- a feeling of light-headeness
- passing darker urine than normally
- feeling thirsty
Side effects of dehydration:
- feeling tired and light headed
- feeling dry in the mouth and reducing the amount of saliva you produce
- becoming more vulnerable to picking up coughs and colds (saliva is one of the body's main defenses against viruses)
- physical fatigue
- mental fatigue
Make sure that your little ones continue taking fluid throughout the day. Here are some ideas to make drinking water a bit more fun so that they don't find drinking too much of a chore:-
- Add coloured ice cubes (make them with food colouring or fruit juices) or a slice of lemon to their water
- Give water a slight zing by Squeezing in some lemon or lime juice
- Keep a jug of water in the fridge to keep it icy cold
- Keep a bottle of water with a 'sports top' with you when your out and about, your little ones will like the novelty of drinking from a bottle!
You can also offer foods with high water content, here are some great hydrating foods for a hot day:-
- Slices of water melon
- Grapes (cut in half for little children)
- Ice lollies (read this post for some fun ideas on how to make your own!)
- Cucumber sticks
- Red, orange and green pepper 'traffic light' sticks
- Summer fruits, especially raspberries and strawberries
- Tropical fruit slices: melon, pineapple, kiwi, mango, papaya
Enjoy the sun with your children, but make sure you all stay hydrated!
Just because children are smaller, don't think that this means they need only small amounts of water. Water is, without doubt, one of the most important nutrients for children even though when we read about children and nutrition, it's often left out. Water keeps them healthy, keeps them hydrated in order for their body to function and keeps them on form at school and nursery. Dehydration leads to a reduction in mental and physical performance. And, long term chronic dehydration may cause health problems and illnesses later in life.
Many pre-schools and nurseries have inadequate resources for children to have access to water so parents should encourage their children to drink regularly at home and try to encourage lots of good drinking at their nursery too. In hot weather, when exercising or running around in the playground, children should especially drink more. Even a small degree of dehydration can reduce their performance and well-being.
Although children are physically smaller than adults, they need to consume plenty of water. Research states that older children age 11-14 should drink about 3 litres a day. For toddlers it depends on their weight. It is said that they should drink about 1½ ounces of water per pound of body weight.
Children should drink more often and even when they don't feel thirsty. Because their body is less developed than ours, by the time they feel thirsty, dehydration may have already set in. Headaches, irritability and drowsiness are all symptoms.
Why Is Water So Important?
Adults are made up of 50% water and for infants the figure is closer to 75%, so water for toddlers is vital in order to keep healthy. Water also cools down a hot body, lubricates joints and make muscles work more smoothly.
If your child won't drink liquids, make sure they eat lots of water rich foods: soups, vegetables, milky drinks, smoothies etc. Or, add a splash of juice to make it a bit more tasty!
Tips to get your toddler drinking:
- Get a snazzy cup or bottle for them to drink from
- Keep the bottle of water in the fridge so its nice and cold
- Add some ice or slices of orange or lemon and serve from a pretty jug. You can even get fun shapes. (just make sure they don't choke, though!)
- Use special straws
Do anything to get them drinking. It's vital!
Although fruit juice seems a healthy option, you must give it sparingly to babies and toddlers. Natural fruit juice contains lots of sugar and even though these are natural sugars, it can lead to tooth decay and even hinder development. The sugar concentrations can bring on diarrhea in young children. Your baby should never be given fruit juice before six months, and it's best avoided before the age of a year. In the first years, water is much better for your babies to drink through the day. If you do give fruit juice, give them no more than half a beaker a day, and rather than giving it all at once, just pour a small amount into their cup and dilute heavily with water. You'll find fruit juices specially formulated for babies in the baby product aisle of supermarkets; these are more diluted and may be fortified with extra vitamin C, but regular juices are adequate, and a cheaper option, so long as they are diluted appropriately.
A baby requires around 500ml (18oz) liquid a day, a young child requires up to 1½l (50oz) per day - here are some tips to ensure your young children ges the fluid they require each day...
- encourage toddlers to drink from a beaker by having them play with one and becoming familiar with it; make sure they have a beaker with drink on them throughout the day
- liquid is ingested with food, not just through drink; if your kids aren't drinking enough, particularly in hot days, boost their liquids with ice lollies, water melon, jelly and other water intensive foods
- add novelty to drinking; give your kids a straw, if they are used to straws, buy them a mug with a bendy straw! If they tire of straws, time to give them a sports bottle
- use grown up drinking implements - try open beakers, a cup and saucer or your own mugs, again they will adore the novelty
- Avoid too many sweet drinks or too much fruit juice; try to encourage your kids to drink milk and water, reserve fruit juices, cordials and soft drinks for treats