Without fail, every night I put my 5 year old daughter to bed, turn the light off and close the door, she’ll get up and ask me to get her some water. She’s done this every night for the past 2 or 3 years and it’s basically part of her bedtime routine. She doesn’t have much, just a few sips. However, in only very rare instances she’ll wake up during the night asking for water.
So do toddlers and young children get thirsty at night? Or can they just sleep through it and wait until the morning like most adults?
Why is my child so thirsty at night?
There could be a number of reasons why your child is thirsty during the night. The most likely one concerns the sleeping environment. It’s possible the air in your home could be too dry (in which case you may need a humidifier) or your child’s room is too warm. A slightly cooler room is better than a warm one. Make sure the room temperature is between 60 and 70°F (16 and 21°C).
Your child could also be dehydrated. If they were particularly active before bedtime, or if they’ve been vomiting or had diarrhoea due to illness, they’ll need fluids to replace the water they’ve lost.
What causes excessive thirst?
While it’s true that excessive thirst and urinating can often be symptoms of diabetes, with children it’s a little more complicated and it could merely be a behavioural issue. For example, if you regularly give them juice to drink, some will want it all the time because they just like the sugary taste even though they’re not thirsty. Also, check that they’re having enough water to drink during the day. If you think they’re getting enough fluids, and the sleeping environment is fine, if they wake up multiple times a night for a drink, you can just not give it to them. They may cry when you say no, but they’ll probably get used to not needing to drink during the night. However, if you have any doubts on your child’s need to drink a lot, contact a paediatrician.
Should you give your toddler water at night?
If your toddler is genuinely thirsty at night, then by all means let them have a sip or two of water. However, just keep an eye on things and make sure it doesn’t become a regular occurrence. You don’t want them to develop a bad habit with this.
How much should toddlers drink in a day?
On average toddlers should drink around 2-4 cups of water a day. However, if your child is running around a lot or doing sport, they’ll need more. Like adults, toddlers and young children still need calcium and other nutrients from fluids, so it’s important they drink milk. After the age of 2, toddlers can drink semi-skimmed or non-fat milk, around 2 cups a day.
Should a 2 year old have milk before bed?
It’s fine for toddlers to have regular milk before bed, and this can continue for several years. The problem arises when they wake up at night and feel they need milk to return to sleep (when they don’t really need it). However, you definitely want to ensure they no longer need a bottle feed by this age. You should aim to get rid of the bedtime bottle by the time your baby is 12 months. At this age they should be getting virtually all their nutrition from food.
When should you stop giving toddler milk at night?
Toddlers don’t need milk at all during the night. You should be able to start night weaning your baby off the bottle at night from around 6-9 months, but if your toddler is still attached to it here are a couple of strategies to help:
- Introduce a sippy cup. There are different types so you might need to pick a couple to find one they like.
- Get rid of the bottle during the day. Start with lunchtime, then dinner, then breakfast.
And at night time…
- Gradually add more water to the milk at night. Start with just 25% water and work your way up to 100% water after a week.
- Reduce the volume of milk. Instead of adding water, you can slowly reduce the quantity of milk over the next few nights until they don’t need it any more.
- Brush their teeth after having milk. Toddlers who are still dependent on the bottle probably still love to have milk just before they go to sleep. You can break this cycle by doing their teeth afterwards.
- Drink milk in another room. This can also help break the cycle of needing milk right before bedtime.
This article has some more good advice on getting rid of the bottle for toddlers.
This is where toddlers and young children drink a lot of fluid and pass a lot of urine. In some cases excessive thirst can be a sign of diabetes.