It’s summer time – time for some outdoor fun, sunlit evenings and family outings. But the unbearable heat and the scorching sun outside may make you feel thirsty all the time. You may notice that your little baby begins feeding on your breast milk more often. This may make you wonder whether you should give water to your baby in addition to the breast milk to keep her hydrated in the heat. Continue reading to know if your breastfed baby needs water as the weather warms up.
If you need a straight answer then it is a big NO! You don’t have to give water to your exclusively breastfed baby even in hot weather. If you let your breastfed baby feed as often as she wants, then be rest assured that your baby will not become dehydrated even if it is hot outside. Breast milk is made up of around 80% water. Your baby tends to feed more often for shorter period of time when the weather is hot outside. This way she is getting low fat milk which quenches her thirst. So letting your baby have those extra feeds will ensure that she gets enough water even in this sweltering season. Only thing you need to ensure is that you drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated all the time so that you don’t face any issue of dehydration when your baby is feeding more frequently on your milk.
A study investigating the need for supplementing water in exclusively breastfed babies was conducted in 4 villages across India in both humid and dry conditions where the temperatures varied from 35-41°C and had 10-35% relative humidity. This study concluded that exclusive breastfeeding provides all the fluids needed for a baby and there is no need to supplement water even in hot and humid weather (Source:1)
Water is best avoided for breastfed babies under the age of 6 months even in hot weather due to the following reasons:
Babies who are dependent on formula feeds may occasionally need water in addition to their usual feed especially in hot weather. If your formula fed baby is thirstier than usual, it is advisable to offer boiled and cooled water to her to prevent her from becoming dehydrated. However give only small quantity of water as you don’t want replace their regular feeds with water.
Also formula contains more salts and minerals than breast milk, so giving a few sips of that extra water to your formula fed baby is often necessary to help the kidneys to flush out the extra salt.
Another reason that it becomes advisable to feed a little water to formula fed infants is due to the fact that the metabolism of these babies is comparatively less efficient than the breastfed babies. This makes them use water much faster and have chances of getting dehydrated during the hot summer weather.
Also if your little one has fever or is constipated, it is advisable to ask your doctor and give your baby a few sips of water if they feed exclusively on formula milk.
If you are combining breastfeeding with formula feeds for your baby, then your baby who is on mixed feed may not require extra water in hot weather as long as there are enough wet nappies and the baby seems fine and active. However, feeding a few sips of water will not do any harm. Make sure you consult your pediatrician before offering water to your baby before she is six months old.
Once your little one is 6 months old, you begin introducing solid foods. It would be a good idea to feed a few sips of water along with the solid diet in order to avert constipation issues that commonly develop once the baby starts solids. But don’t overdo it otherwise your baby might be too full to have any food. If your baby is still feeding on breast milk, she may require very little water. On the other hand the formula fed babies who start solids may require little more water. The best way is to offer water to your baby is in a glass or a sippy cup rather than offering it in a bottle. This way your baby will get used to the taste of water and also learn to drink from a cup. Also read: When Can I Give Water To My Baby?
If your breastfed baby feels troubled while nursing due to the hot weather outside, try keeping a cool towel or cloth on your lap and arm while feeding her. You can also try lying down side wards and feeding your baby when the temperatures are soaring outside. Also since ACs and coolers tend to dehydrate your baby’s body so even though your baby feels cool, there may be a need to frequently feed her during hot weather. Also read: Guidelines For Taking Care Of Your Baby In Summers
When did you give water to your breastfed babies? How did you take care of your baby in hot weather? Do share your experiences in the comments section below.