When Is It Okay To Offer Your Baby Water?
Here's an easy rule to remember: It's safe to give baby water whenever you start introducing solids, when babies are around 6 months old. Learn more here:
Generally, your baby shouldn’t drink water until he's about 6 months old. Until then, he gets all the hydration he needs from breast milk or formula, even in hot weather. Here's when to give baby water to drink. Once your baby is 6 months old, it's okay to give him sips of water when he's thirsty. Don't overdo it though, or you might give him a tummy ache or make him too full to eat well. After his first birthday, when your baby's eating solids and drinking whole milk, you can let him drink as much water as he likes.
If you're breastfeeding exclusively, your baby does not need water. Breast milk is 88% water and supplies all the fluids that your baby needs. Even in the first few days after birth, before mom’s milk has “come in”, colostrum is all that is needed to keep baby well hydrated (assuming baby is nursing effectively). Formula-fed babies also do not routinely need extra water. Some sources do suggest offering water to a formula fed baby when it is very hot outside (though baby may prefer to get extra water from more frequent feeding), or when baby is sick with a fever. Consult your baby’s doctor for guidelines.
Guidelines And Stages For Offering Baby Water
Exclusively breastfed babies do not require additional water even when it is very hot outside. As long as baby can nurse as needed. Even in extremely hot, dry weather your baby can get all the liquids needed via breastmilk. A number of research studies investigating the need for water in exclusively breastfed babies were done in various locations (both humid and dry) at temperatures ranging from 22-41°C (71.6-105.8°F) and 9-96% relative humidity [see references below]; these studies concluded that exclusive breastfeeding provides all the fluids needed.
Experts advice that supplementation in the first few days may interfere with the normal frequency of breastfeeding. Supplementation with water or glucose water, increases the risk of jaundice, excessive weight loss, and longer hospital stays.” During the first 6 months of age, even in hot climates, water and juice are unnecessary for breastfed infants and may introduce contaminants or allergens.”
For newborns (especially under 4-5 weeks), water supplements can be risky
- Babies under two months should not have supplemental water.
- Water supplements may cause increased bilirubin levels (jaundice), excess weight loss, and longer hospital stays for newborns.
- Too much water can lead to a serious condition called oral water intoxication.
- Water supplements fill baby up without adding calories, so water supplements can result in weight loss (or insufficient weight gain) for the baby.
- Babies who get water supplements are less interested in nursing. If baby is not nursing as often as he should, it will take longer for mom’s milk to come in. It can also delay or prevent mom from establishing an optimum milk supply.
For babies past the newborn stage
- Too much water can interfere with breastfeeding because it fills baby up so that he nurses less. Babies need the nutrition and calories in breastmilk to grow – water has none of these.
- Breast milk has all the water your baby needs, even in very hot weather.
- When your 4-6 month old baby is learning to use a cup, giving him a few sips of water a couple of times a day (no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours) is fine and fun.
- Once baby starts solids, you might want to give him a few sips of expressed milk or water with his solids. Some babies need this to prevent constipation.
- For older babies & toddlers, continue to breastfeed and offer water in moderation (4-6 oz per day). Breastmilk supplies plenty of fluids, so many older babies or toddlers who breastfeed without restriction can get the fluids they need through breastfeeding. Others may need a little water with solids to prevent constipation. No need for a bottle – just offer a cup. Most older babies and toddlers particularly like to drink water from a parent’s cup or straw.
Baby and Dehydration
As long as baby is feeding well and gaining weight appropriately, he’s unlikely to suffer dehydration. The exception is when baby has a cold, flu or other health problem. Dehydration can easily happen when babies are sick. Or if they aren’t drinking enough or they’re losing fluids through vomiting or diarrhea.
How can you tell if baby suffers dehydration? Call your pediatrician right away if there are fewer wet and dirty diapers than usual, if baby is lethargic, unusually tired or isn’t making tears, or if the soft spot on top of baby’s head appears sunken. You may need to breastfeed more frequently, give baby an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte, or in more serious cases baby may need to be hospitalized for IV fluids.