Knowing when can babies have water is something that every parent — especially moms — need to know. Water is life, as they say. But how come babies are not allowed to drink water until they reach a specific age?
Babies, in general, are delicate. They are so sensitive that people need to be very careful of them. Needless to say, we should be very cautious especially with what food or drink we offer them – water included.
I am a first-time mom, and I must say, when I had my baby, it was really a mixture of emotions. I found him so cute, but at the same time so fragile that I was sometimes scared of him. He was very tiny, it freaked me out sometimes.
Before giving birth, and even after, one thing I made sure of is to breastfeed my baby. To be honest, I was very sure about it given my physique, but I was just so glad I made it. Every time I feed him, it feels so magical – but guess what? Every time I fed him, there certain questions that keep lingering in my mind. Those are, why can’t babies have water, and when can babies have water? I was so curious about it really.
You may find me crazy but I was so curious I kept wondering – if they say, water is life, why can’t babies have water?
A few days after being so curious about it, I researched and even asked my baby’s doctor about it. For sure, I am not the only one wondering about it, right? I am assuming you are one with me as well?
Anyway, here are some questions answered regarding when can babies have water and also how much water can babies have:
WHEN CAN BABIES HAVE WATER?
Generally speaking, babies are not allowed to drink water until they are six months old. Until then, your baby is only allowed to take breastmilk or formula milk to keep him full and hydrated. Yes, regardless of weather conditions or temperature conditions, your baby is not allowed to consume anything else other than milk.
However, once your little one hits the age of six months, experts say that it is already safe for your baby to drink water whenever he feels thirsty. However, unlike adults, you can only offer small amounts (or just a few sips) of cooled boiled tap water or distilled water to your little one. Never ever overdo it as it might cause your baby to have a tummy ache or make him too full he wouldn’t want to eat.
Please note though that water should never substitute breastmilk or formula milk. Also, it is until your baby turns one year old when you can let him drink water as much as he likes.
WHY CAN’T BABIES HAVE WATER?
Babies who are six months old and below are not allowed to drink water. In fact, it is considered unsafe for these young babies to drink water.
According to the Baby Center website, giving water to a baby who is less than six months old can “interfere with his body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula milk,” which is also the same thing that the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine advice. ABM says, “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.”
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that “Supplements (water, glucose water, formula, and other fluids) should not be given to breastfeeding newborn infants unless ordered by a physician when a medical indication exists… 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.”
Furthermore, giving water to a baby can cause his tummy to feel full, which can restrict his desire to feed breastmilk or formula milk.
In some rare cases, too much water intake among young babies can lead to a condition called “water intoxication”. Such a condition can be harmful to your baby as it can lead to seizures and even put your baby in a state of coma. Usually, water intoxication occurs, according to the website, when “too much water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the body, upsetting the electrolyte balance, and causing tissues to swell”.
Additional Information on Why Can’t Babies Have Water
I just thought the following information is essential also for moms to know. This also helps explain why can’t babies have water.
- For babies that are exclusively breastfed, water is unnecessary as breastmilk in itself is made up of 88% water, which also supplies all the fluids that your baby’s body needs. Upon birth, even before mom’s milk comes out, your baby does not need anything else because “colostrum” is just all that your baby needs to keep him well-hydrated.
- Exclusively breastfed babies do not need additional water regardless of the weather outside (yes, even when it is extremely hot) for as long he keeps nursing.
- In fact, a few studies were conducted investigating the need for extra water among exclusively breastfed babies who are in different locations with temperatures ranging between 21 and 41 degrees Celsius, and about 9 to 96 percent relative humidity. These studies concluded that babies who are exclusively breastfed have all the necessary fluids they need by simply taking breastmilk.
- Meanwhile, for those babies who are drinking formula milk, they also do not add water. The water used to make the milk is already enough for what your baby needs.
- In cases when the weather is hot and you feel like getting extra water will help, or when your baby is down with fever and you feel like your baby needs added water to stay hydrated, you better consult with your baby’s doctor first about it. An expert’s advice will greatly help resolve the concern.
HOW MUCH WATER CAN BABIES HAVE?
Apart from knowing when can, babies have water, it is equally important that once they are allowed to drink water already, we also know how much can they have.
Here are the general guidelines when it comes to how much water your baby is permissible to have:
The general rule when it comes to newborn babies who are below two months old, breastfeeding or not water supplementation should not be practiced at all.
In fact, it is particularly risky (and should really be avoided) to give water to babies who are under four to five weeks old.
Giving water to young babies can lead to the following conditions/situations:
- As earlier mentioned, water among newborns or young babies are associated with excess weight loss, and longer hospital stays for newborns, as well as increased bilirubin levels or also known as jaundice.
- Water intake among newborns fills the baby up without adding calories, which is why water supplementation is also associated with weight loss or insufficient weight gain among babies.
- Too much water intake among young babies can lead to a serious condition called oral intoxication.
- Experts say that newborns who get supplemental water careless interested in lactating, which is not good as it may result in mommy’s milk to come out longer and in fact, can also delay or prevent the mother from establishing a prime milk supply.
Babies Past the Newborn Stage
Meanwhile, for older babies, and we are talking about four to six months old babies, water supplementation is allowed – as it is during this age when babies start to learn how to use a cup. Giving your baby a few sips of water a couple of times daily (but take note that has to be no more than two ounces in a day) is considered as totally fine.
When your little one starts eating solid food, you can either give him a few sips of expressed milk or water to avoid or prevent constipation.
Older Babies and Toddlers
Now, for older babies and toddlers, mommies must continue to breastfeed or feed formula milk, at the same time offer water intake in moderation. Ideally, it is suggested to give at least four to six ounces of water per day. Although other babies may need a little more (maximum of a cup) to help prevent constipation.
However, take note also especially for breastfeeding moms that breastmilk consists mostly of water, which means, if your baby needs more fluid intake in a day, he can get that from nursing.
For toddlers, which refers to children who are one year old and above, they are already allowed to take as much water as they want, but making sure they still drink their milk (whether it be breastmilk or formula milk). Children this age particularly like drinking water using their parents’ cup or by using a straw.
In my experience, my child was trained to drink milk using a glass, which he later on also use when drinking water. It’s actually better compared to using baby water bottles or cups.
IS IT SAFE TO DILUTE FORMULA MILK WITH WATER?
Perhaps some of you are wondering if the water is not ideal for babies, then how about babies who drink formula milk? It is safe to dilute formula milk with water?
Well, experts say that we should not stretch formula by diluting it using water. Instead, we should carefully follow whatever the instructions are in making the formula, which is usually written in the package. Also included there is the recommended amount of water when mixing formula milk.
Take note that adding too much water into your baby’s formula milk is not only putting your baby at risk for water intoxication but that it also means your baby is taking fewer nutrients than what he needs.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BABY BECOMES DEHYDRATED?
There are circumstances when babies encounter having stomach flu or gastroenteritis. During this case, never feed your baby with water. Instead, ask your doctor’s advice. Although most likely he will give your child electrolyte drink such as Infalyte or Pedialyte, both are effective in preventing dehydration among babies.
By the way, for your guidance, here are some signs to look out for to know if your baby is dehydrated:
- Fewer than six wet diapers in 24 hours
- Dark yellow urine
- Extreme fussiness
- Unusual sleepiness
- Cold hands and feet
- Cracked lips
- Sunken eyes
- Tearless crying or crying with very few tears
- Dry skin that doesn’t bounce back when gently pressed
- Sunken fontanelle also known as the “soft spot” on the top of your baby’s head
WHAT TO DO DURING HOT WEATHER?
During the hot season, babies are prone to dehydration, which is why more frequent feeding is very important especially among young babies to counter the risk of dehydration. As earlier mentioned, water is generally not needed among babies younger than six months – unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.
If your baby is older though, apart from breastfeeding or formula milk feeding, make sure to also have him or her drink enough water.
Meanwhile, to help ensure comfortable breastfeeding for you and your baby during the hot season, you may do the following:
- Instead of cuddling your baby to breastfeed, lie down to help reduce skin contact.
- Place a sheet, a towel, or a pillowcase between you and your baby, which also helps reduce skin contact.
Now, to know whether or not your baby is properly hydrated, he or she must have at least six to ten wet nappies or diapers over a 24-hour period.
WHAT TO DO WHEN BABY HAS A FEVER?
When your baby has a fever, most likely he will feel discomfort. One way to help ease out how your baby feels is by ensuring he is taking enough fluids in his body.
But just like I have mentioned earlier, according to experts, babies who are young than six months should take extra breastmilk – water is definitely not an option. However, if your baby is formula-fed ad is under six months, experts say you should offer formula milk more frequently but in smaller amounts. Again, no water must be offered unless advised by your healthcare provider.
Meanwhile, for babies older than six months, you must continue breastfeeding or formula feeding. In between feedings, you may offer water to help ensure your baby is getting enough fluids. But then again, make sure it’s just within the allowable amount within a day. Otherwise, check with your healthcare provider to be sure.
WHEN CAN BABIES DRINK WATER AND JUICE?
Apart from water, another question that is common among us, moms, is when can a baby drink juice. Personally, I was once also curious about that. So, I researched and ask my son’s healthcare provider about it.
According to my son’s pediatrician, which is also what KidsHealth.org says, just like water, it is best to wait until your baby is six months before offering fruit juices. Although in my case, I waited until he is one year old.
Anyway, according to KidsHealth.org, most pediatricians (my son’s doctor included) do not recommend feeding babies with juices – as it adds calories without the balanced nutrition that your baby gets from drinking breastmilk or formula milk.
Also, drinking too much juice may lead to extra weight, as well as may cause tooth decay or even diarrhea among infants and toddlers.
Instead of feeding your baby with juices, serve him or her with pureed fruits and vegetables instead, which is absolutely more nutritious than juices. Make sure to give your child water in between feedings though.
Furthermore, when feeding your baby with juices, KidsHealt.org encourages you to follow the following steps (written in verbatim):
- Serve only 100% fruit juice, not juice drinks or powdered drink mixes (which are sweetened).
- Limit the juice to no more than 2–4 fl. oz. (60–120 ml.) per day.
- Offer juice in a cup, not in a bottle.
- Serve juice only at mealtimes.
In addition, on a personal note, as mommies, we have to ensure that what we offer our babies is the right kind of food, in this case, juices for their age. I read somewhere that citrus fruits like lemon must not be offered to babies until after they are one year old. The reason behind this is that it may be too acidic that it may cause a reaction to your baby.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GIVING YOUR BABY WATER?
Before we end, I thought it’s just right to share with you also apart from when can babies have water, the different benefits that your baby will get from drinking water. But then again, this is only applicable among older babies (never on newborns or babies younger than six months old).
- Drinking water helps in transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells, at the same time, helping remove waste in the body.
- Water helps keep your baby’s joints and tissues lubricated.
- Water helps maintain blood volume.
- Drinking water helps in eliminating the need to drink fruit juices (which, as I have mentioned earlier is not recommended until your baby is older).
Although it is sometimes tempting to offer your baby water especially during the hot season or when you feel like your baby is not taking enough fluids, it is very important to wait for the right time.