Introducing water to infants less than six months of age is not suggested as it may adversely affect the baby. Babies who are breastfed get all the necessary liquid intake from breast milk, which is essentially 88% water. The only requisite is that the baby gets to be nursed as and when she wants. Even formula fed babies do not require water as a supplement. The baby gets all essential nutrition needed for her from breast milk and/or formula, during hot, humid days too. Breast milk and formula keep the baby hydrated enough. Many researches on the subject have been carried out, and have proven that even in summers or dry weathers, babies less than 6 months of age get all the necessary hydration from breast or formula milk and do not need water as a supplement. The only exception to this is when the baby is sick or dehydrated and is losing fluids, like if she has diarrhea. Even then, you should consult your pediatrician before offering a cool sip to your baby.
An estimation states that infants need about 1.5 mL water/kcal of energy they spend, and this ratio if found to be present in breast and formula milks. Extra liquid intake by offering extra feeds during hot weather can suffice the water requirements for infants.
Why Is It Unsafe To Give Water To Babies Younger Than 6 Months?
Giving water to a baby may reduce her body’s ability to absorb nutrients from breast milk or formula. It can affect your baby in many ways like:
- If water is given in excess it may lead to the condition of Oral water intoxication. This is a rare condition when sodium becomes diluted affecting normal body functions negatively, cause seizures and even coma
- Too much water can make the baby feel full and miss out on a feeding, without getting enough calories that the baby needs because the baby feels full
- Water also interferes with the infant’s ability to absorb the essential nutrients from breast or formula milk, interfering with the baby’s growth process
- Infants, who are given water supplements regularly, become less interested in taking their routine feeds (formula or breast milk)
- If baby is not nursing as she should, milk supply in mothers who breastfeed will get affected; since supply of breast milk is directly proportional to demand
- Water supplements keep a baby’s tummy full without increasing calories which may cause insufficient weight loss or sometimes weight gain in a baby
- Newborns can suffer an increase in bilirubin levels and get jaundice- prolonging their stay in hospitals. This also implies weight loss or gain for a baby
What Can I Start Giving Water To Baby?
The biggest cue is when your baby is ready for solids,somewhere between 4- 6 months after she has sprouted her first set of teeth.
- Once your baby becomes six months old, start with a sip of water when you feel she is thirsty. Do not give it in excess for six more months
- As she becomes one year old and starts eating some solids, you can give as much as water she may want to have
- Also, do not have her drink water from bottle. Use sippy-cups for making her drink water, so that she gets use to of holding cups
- Many believe that bottled water is safe than tap water. However, studies proved it wrong. Cooled and boiled tap water (by public water system) is always safe to use. In many cases bottled water does not meet the set standard (by health department)
- While preparing formula avoid adding extra water to it. Follow the guidelines mentioned on it and mix appropriate quantity of water. Do not go overboard by using more than the recommended quantity of water and stretching the formula
- You can always consult your pediatrician before introducing water to your baby if she has some medical issues. If baby is not well and losing fluids due to diarrhea, she might need water
Can I Dilute The Formula To Keep My Baby Hydrated?
If you feed formula to the baby, never mix more than recommended amount of water to the formula. If you add more water then what is recommended, your baby does not only miss out on essential nutrients but also runs a risk of oral water intoxication. Follow the package instructions carefully and diligently, and never try to dilute formula with more water to make it last longer.
It Is Very Hot Outside, Should I Give My Baby Some Water?
No matter how hot the weather, a baby gets all the necessary hydration from the breast milk and the formula. Even when it is very hot, the fluids in the baby can be increased by feeding her more often, which she would anyway signal. If the baby is having some gastroenteritis issues, the pediatrician will most likely advise you to give him an electrolyte drink like Pedialyte or Infalyte to prevent dehydration.
Water To Relieve Infant Constipation
If a baby is constipated, a few drops of prune juice mixed in the baby milk should suffice – but only if the doctor prescribes so. Breastfed babies do not pass stool very regularly as they absorb all the nutrients from the breast milk. Otherwise, there is no need to feed any juice to your baby, unless she is above the age of six months. You might also be tempted to give coconut water to your baby, find out more information here.
Giving Sugar Water To Babies
You might have seen that doctors sometimes give sugar water to babies after vaccinations in an attempt to calm babies or may have read about it. That is okay since it is done in closed medical procedure, you should never try to give sugar water to your baby neither to calm her nor to ease her thirst. It is only milk that can help both calming and quenching her thirst.
Since all the needs of a baby below the age of six months are sufficed by breast or formula milk, after the age of six months or when your baby starts sprouting his first teeth, water can be introduced to her. Once babies begin to feed on solids, a small cup or a few sips of water. You need not over do it, as this will give him pain in the stomach or make him too full to eat. It is generally after the first birthday that you can let your baby have as much water as she wants.
Water is a vital component of the human body, every cell, tissue, organ and vein has water and it helps carry nutrients and oxygen from and to cells of all parts of the body. However, since the infant’s need for hydration is met with his milk feeds, it is strongly recommended that water may only be introduced to infants after completing 6 months of age. For any deviation, the doctor is the best person to decide.