La Croix, Spindrift, Bubly — there are so many sparkling water brands to choose from these days. Given the prevalence of bubbly drinks, you might be inclined to give your kids some, especially considering that sparkling water doesn’t contain the sugars and syrups that sodas do. However, before you reach for an ice cold can to let your kiddo sip on, you might be wondering, can toddlers drink sparkling water?
Since seltzers have become more popular as an alternative to sodas, it makes sense more children will begin trying them sooner. And what kid can resist the pretty, bright can sitting out on the counter? Since the grocery store’s fridges are stocked with different sparkling beverages, you may be tempted to grab a few yummy-sounding flavors for your little ones — especially if they aren’t huge fans of drinking plain water.
As it turns out, however, sparkling water may not be the best thing to give your young kids. For all you need to know about whether sparkling water is OK for toddlers, Romper spoke with nutrition experts to get to the bottom of the issue.
Concerns about children drinking sparkling water
It can cause gas
Sparkling water was originally created to aid digestion — but that actually means it could pain developing tummies, so you'll want to be cautious. “For children, it can cause gas,” Anita Mirchandani, RD, a dietitian based in New York City, tells Romper. “The nature of why it was introduced is for digestion, and it’s an alternative to drinking water. People find drinking water boring, so this is a way somebody could get alternative hydration into their system — but it is carbonated, so [it contains] gas.”
It may erode tooth enamel
There may also be some concerns about dental health, since sparkling waters are acidic and can erode tooth enamel. In fact, a 2018 study in the Korean Journal of Orthodontics found that carbonated water has negative effects on enamel, namely decreasing microhardness and removing adhesive material. “I would say any child under the age of 7 shouldn’t be drinking carbonated water,” says Mirchandani. “It can damage the teeth ... more than traditional water or something like apple juice.”
While some sparkling water here and there won’t rot teeth, it’s still safest to stick to basics. “Carbonated water is acidic, but our body is pretty good at maintaining a stable PH no matter what we consume,” Alyssa Pike, RD, manager of nutrition communication at the International Food Information Council in Washington D.C., tells Romper. “There’s not really any definitive research on sparkling water and its effects on our teeth, and when it comes to digestion, it would be individual to each person. I don’t think there’s inherently anything wrong with ingesting carbonated beverages, but I definitely think just plain water would be the healthiest regardless of who’s drinking it.”
It might impact the kidneys
Mirchandani raises additional concerns about toddlers’ kidneys. Sparkling water often contains sodium, which on its own may be processed by the body, but too much sodium sneaking into the diet this way can put a burden on the kidneys. “Typically, with carbonated beverage consumption, sparkling water is carbonated and it does contain sodium, so it could be a little heavy for a child’s kidneys,” she says.
Given all of that, steering clear of large amounts of sparkling water for your kids is the best thing to do.
Alternatives to sparkling water for kids
Aside from encouraging parents to stick to water for physical health reasons, Mirchandani stresses that it’s important for building good habits in kids. “For children, we want to emphasize water to make sure they’re building healthy habits and getting proper hydration,” she says. “Incorporating a carbonated beverage into a child’s lifestyle is something I’d advise against. If it’s ad hoc and they’re at a party and have a couple sips of a Spindrift, OK, but not as a replacement for anything else. Regular water is the way to go. I give my kid his four fluid ounces of apple juice a day, and he’s very happy, and he knows he can’t have more unless there’s a birthday party.”
If young children aren’t interested in water and parents are concerned about hydration, Mirchandani’s method of diluting juice is a great way to entice them to drink more without any health consequences.
“Diluting juices is a very popular thing to do,” she says. “If you can try to keep your child, until the age of 2, [drinking] juice in moderation or even eliminating the ability to have sugary drinks, [that’s] great. Their teeth are developing and there’s a lot of physiological changes happening in the mouth. I always suggest starting off by giving diluted juice with water. The best juices to consider are either fresh-squeezed or apple juice in its most authentic form. I would try to stay away from fruit punch blends and things from concentrate.”
Pike adds that she understands why the question of toddlers versus sparkling water comes up, but that, ultimately, there are better options out there for little ones to drink. “I would guess it’s more of an on-trend option for people who want to not consume soda,” she says. “As far as other options, dietary guidelines recommend low-fat milk, homemade juices, or smoothies if those are accessible options.”
There really is no substitute when it comes to healthy hydration, but if you have concerns about the amount of water your child does or doesn’t drink, definitely reach out to your medical provider. “Plain water is best,” Pike says, “and it will always be helpful to work with your personal health care professional if you have questions.”
Ryu, H. K., Kim, Y. D., Heo, S. S., & Kim, S. C. (2018). Effect of carbonated water manufactured by a soda carbonator on etched or sealed enamel. Korean journal of orthodontics, 48(1), 48–56. https://doi.org/10.4041/kjod.2018.48.1.48
Anita Mirchandani, RD, dietitian based in New York City
Alyssa Pike, RD, manager of nutrition communication at the International Food Information Council
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