Water Intoxication in Babies – What is it, Causes and Tips to Prevent

6 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Water Intoxication Baby

Water is necessary for survival. Babies who are older than 6 months of age need a little bit of water along with the solids they consume. This water is essential for hydration, digestion, and to maintain mineral balance. But this water intake should be maintained at an optimal level. Excess water intake can cause water intoxication in babies.

Yes, too much water can cause health issues and may require immediate medical attention, even a visit to the ER. In some rare extreme cases, it can also prove fatal to the baby. So, how much water is too much? And what to do if water intoxication in babies happens? This article will take you through the symptoms and what to do in case this condition happens in your munchkin.

In This Article

What is Water Intoxication in Babies?

Water intoxication in babies occurs due to excess intake of water. Babies are highly sensitive until they turn one year. Their bodies are not suited for water consumption during the first six months. After six months, it is important to be vigilant as far as the intake of water is concerned. According to a research study published by PubMedCentral, when infants drink large amounts of water within a short period the kidney cannot excrete excess water and the sodium level goes down leading to brain damage or seizures.

Water is an unnecessary substance for babies till six months. They depend on breast milk or formula for hydration and nutrition. Breast milk or formula provides everything babies need. If your baby needs additional fluid, you can give only two to three ounces of water at a time. But only after the baby turns six months old. You should provide water only when your baby is still thirsty after feeding formula or breast milk. Consult the pediatrician before you introduce water to your baby.

Even after your baby is six months or above follow your pediatrician’s suggestions when you introduce water to your baby. According to renowned pediatrician James P. Keating, excessive intake of water may be dangerous as it dilutes the sodium level of a baby and leads to coma, seizures, brain damage, or threatens life. He also suggested the parents not take the babies for swimming lessons as gulping water repeatedly can harm the infants.

Causes of Water Intoxication in Babies

Water Intoxication Causes

This condition in babies occurs due to a lack of attention or knowledge by the caretakers or parents. Parents or caretakers should be extra careful when babies are playing with water. It may take place during bath time or in the pool. Babies are likely to gulp down excess water.

Listed below are the causes of water intoxication in babies

1. Feeding Water Before 6 Months

Babies up to six months do not require water. So giving water to them may cause intoxication.

[Read : Does My Breastfed Baby Needs Water In Hot Weather?]

2. Feeding Diluted Juice

Many parents start giving diluted juice to babies under six months with the notion that it provides nutrition. But that may cause harm as a baby’s kidney is not fully developed like adults to process water.

3. Feeding Over-Diluted Formula

When excess water is mixed with the formula it gets diluted. It may lead to water Intoxication in babies as it disturbs the electrolyte balance. The preparation of formula milk should be as per the instruction.

4. Using Cups For Feeding

If babies start sipping from a cup before one, they may tend to gulp excess water. This may lead to excess water intake, and in turn, water intoxication.

[Read : When Do Babies Drink From an Open Cup?]

Symptoms of Water Intoxication in Babies

Water intoxication in babies may lead to neurological changes such as

Other symptoms of water toxicity include

  • Clear urine
  • Diapers get wet quickly in a day
  • Swelling of face, arms, legs, and brain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fits due to sodium deficiency

In extreme cases, babies can go into a state of coma and seizures. You should consult a pediatrician immediately if you observe such symptoms in your baby.

Diagnosing Water Intoxication in Babies

Water Intoxication Diagnosis

Water toxicity can occur due to numerous causes. Hence, it is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms of in babies are vague.

The doctor may go for a physical examination. He or she may prescribe urine or a blood test to check the sodium level of your baby. The doctor may observe for other water toxicity symptoms and initiate treatment accordingly.

Common markers of intoxication include changes in mental status, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. Misdiagnosis of the symptoms may occur due to their variable nature. But, there is a need to detect this condition in babies as early as possible to prevent seizures, coma, and death.

Treatment Options For Water Intoxication in Babies

Water intoxication in babies is generally a severe condition and treatment cannot be done at home. Take pediatric advice when you notice any symptoms of excess water consumption and intoxication in your baby.

In severe conditions, you need to take your baby to an emergency. The doctor will suggest treatment accordingly. The doctor may prescribe an intravenous saline drip to restore the sodium level of your baby.

In most cases, limiting the water intake and letting the water pass through urine will resolve the condition. But a doctor’s advice is mandatory in such a situation.

Risks of Water Intoxication in Babies

The risks associated with giving excess water to babies are discussed below

  1. Excess water may lower the sodium level which affects the brain leading to changes in the behavior.
  2. Excessive water intake may lower the baby’s body temperature (generally 97 degrees or below). This condition is known as Hypothermia.
  3. This dangerous condition also causes puffiness, swelling in the face, and seizures. A seizure is an early symptom that needs immediate medical attention.
  4. It can also cause swelling of the cells within the body. It may further lead to brain damage if you do not take proper medical advice on time.

Tips to Prevent Water Intoxication in Babies

baby in bath tub with mother

Babies are born with little tummies. It takes six months for the digestive system and other organs to grow and mature. Thereafter, their bodies are ready to consume water and food in very small quantities to begin with.

Giving water to them beyond their capacity to intake may cause dangerous situations. Here are a few tips to follow to prevent water intoxication in babies

  • Do not give water to a baby during the first six months.
  • You can start giving water only after the first six months pass.
  • Start with small quantities of water and slowly increase their intake.
  • Ideally, a baby after six months should take 0.5 to 1 cup of water.
  • Consult with a pediatrician regarding the amount your baby needs.
  • Follow AAP guidelines too to know when to introduce water to your baby and the quantity you should give according to the age.
  • Never give diluted formula milk or breast milk with water.
  • Do not leave your baby unmonitored in the bath or pool.
  • Never give cups to play with during bath time or in the pool as babies may fill the cup with water and drink it.

When to See a Doctor?

If your little one consumes excess water or/ and they behave weirdly, do not waste time. Instead, head straight to any hospital emergency and seek immediate medical attention. The treatment will depend upon the sodium level of your baby.

Water intoxication in babies is a serious condition. Precautions should be taken to prevent it. Babies under six months should not consume water as their hydration needs are met through breast and formula milk. After the six-month is over, seek medical advice on the amount of water your baby should intake. Excessive water intake may lead to hyponatremia where sodium level fall drastically and cause seizures and coma. But there is no need to panic because early detection of the symptoms can effectively resolve the condition. The condition is preventable and treatable. Just be a little vigilant towards your baby during the first year of life.


1. Is Water Intoxication in Babies an Emergency?

Yes, water intoxication in babies is an emergency and may need a trip to the hospital or to the ER.  But this condition is treatable with timely medical intervention. Emergency care is important so that it does not cause permanent damage.

2. How Severe is Water Intoxication?

Water intoxication left untreated may lead to mild behavioral changes that may progress to seizures, and coma and can be life-threatening at times.

Read Also: When Can I Give Water To Baby?

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

Responses (0)

Please check a captcha

Want curated content sharply tailored for your exact stage of parenting?

Discover great local businesses around you for your kids.

Get regular updates, great recommendations and other right stuff at the right time.


Our site uses cookies to make your experience on this site even better. We hope you think that is sweet.