La Croix, Spindrift, Bubly, and now even Tickle Water? There are so many sparkling water brands to choose from, and Tickle Water is the first brand created specifically for children. Their website shows children that look to be ages 5 and older, which begs the question, is sparkling water OK for toddlers to drink?
Tickle Water founder Heather McDowell came up with the idea for her preservative-free, sugar-free, sodium-free sparkling water after her son tried sparkling water before the age of 2 and loved it, per the Tickle Water website. As 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 of mom's sparkling water?) But Anita Mirchandani, RD, a dietitian who practices in New York City, tells Romper that sparkling water was originally created to aid digestion — which means it could pain developing tummies. You'll want to be cautious.
“For children, it can cause gas. To start with, I’d say sparkling water, 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 that somebody could get alternative hydration into their system, but it is carbonated, so there’s gas,” she explains.
There may also be some concerns about dental health, since sparkling waters are acidic and can erode tooth enamel, as reported by The New York Post.
“I would say any child under the age of 7 shouldn’t be drinking carbonated water,” says Mirchandani. “It can damage the teeth, obviously more than traditional water or something like apple juice.”
Alyssa Pike, RD, manager of nutrition communication at The International Food Information Council Foundation in Washington D.C., tells Romper that 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,” says Pike. “There’s not really any definitive research on sparkling water and its effects on something like, say, 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.”
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.
Aside from encouraging parents to stick to water for physical health reasons, she stresses that it’s important for building good habits.
“For children, we want to emphasize water to make sure they’re building healthy habits and getting proper hydration,” says Mirchandani. “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 4 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, having juice in moderation or even eliminating the ability to have sugary drinks, great, because 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 v. sparkling water comes up, but that ultimately there are better options for little ones to drink.
“I would guess it’s more of an on-trend option for people who want to not consume soda. As far as other options, dietary guidelines recommend low-fat milk, homemade juices, or smoothies if those are accessible options. Plain water is best, and it will always be helpful to work with your personal health care professional if you have questions.”