A Complete Guide to When Can Babies Drink Water

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when can babies drink water | Baby Journey

Feeding your little one isn’t as easy as it sounds. Aside from giving them milk and formula, many parents wonder when can babies drink water.

Do they need water to stay hydrated if they are getting milk or formula? At what age should you offer water, and how much? When starting solids, you may even question if your baby will become dehydrated without water.

These are all valid concerns. Our guide aims to cover everything you need to know about water for babies!

CHAPTER 1:

Water For Babies: When To Give Them, And The Possible Risks

You often hear that milk or formula is best during the first six months of your baby’s life, but that still leaves the question of when can babies drink water?

Here, we answer the best age for your child to start taking water, and also, the possible risks of consuming water too early.

When Can Babies Drink Water | Baby Journey
Source: Giphy

So When Can Babies Drink Water?

Does a baby need water to stay hydrated? No, not while they are six months or younger.

It is recommended that you do not give babies under six months of age water. Until your little one is six months they should receive only breastmilk or formula. After six months of age, you can introduce water in small amounts with meals.

According to Kellymom, exclusively breastfed babies do not need water at all. [1] This is because breastmilk is nearly 88% water. Therefore, breastfed babies receive all the hydration they need from breastmilk. Formula-fed babies don’t usually need extra water either.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states water, glucose water, and other supplemental liquids shouldn’t be introduced to breastfeeding newborns unless deemed necessary by a doctor for a medical condition. [2] When your baby is under six months, even if in a hot climate, water and juice are not necessary and could expose your baby to allergens or contaminants.

Breastmilk and formula act as both all of the nutrition and hydration babies under six months need. Giving water to newborns is especially ill-advised. Water is not recommended for young babies because of the risk of water intoxication.

Older babies and toddlers can generally have water. - A Complete Guide to When Can Babies Drink Water | Baby Journey
Older babies and toddlers can generally have water.

Risks and Effects of Water for Babies

Like all things, giving your baby water earlier than the recommended age can pose some risks and undesired effects. Here are some of the common consequences of introducing water to babies too early:

  • Lack of nutrients from milk or formula
  • Slower weight gain and decreased development
  • Weaker immunity
  • Potential of reduced breast milk supply
  • Water intoxication

According to St. Louis Children’s Health, an excess of water can disrupt a baby’s normal sodium levels. [3] Water intoxication in a baby can lead to seizures, brain damage, coma, and even death. Babies up to nine months of age are especially susceptible to water intoxication.

Additionally, giving water to your baby may result in them drinking less breast milk or formula. This can hinder their growth and development. Less breastmilk may also affect their immunity. As a result of not breastfeeding regularly, the mother may face decreased milk supply.

The bottom line is that giving a baby water when they are under six months of age can make them unwell. Some doctors advise that it is okay to give a baby between four and six months of age small sips of water when they are learning to use a cup.

However, it is generally better to give them sips of expressed milk or formula rather than water.

CHAPTER 2:

How Much Water Should I Give
My Baby? And How to Introduce It?

Source: Dribbble

Alright, so now, you know that the minimum age to start introducing water to babies is around six months of age. Next, let’s look at how much water should a 6-month-old drink and beyond.

In this section, you will learn how much your baby should drink according to age, plus the ways on how to start giving your baby water.

How Much Water Can I Give My Baby?

How much is too little, or too much, or just enough? Knowing the right amount of water to give your baby can be tricky, so here’s a simple table of age versus water intake recommendations to help you out.

Infants AgeRecommended Water Intake
Newborn – 4 months None
4 months – 6 months A few sips at meals (no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours)
6 months & beyond Offer at meals and in moderation (generally no more than 4-6 oz per day)
Source: Kellymom

So that water doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding or formula feeding, it is important to only offer small sips with meals when your babies are between four and six months of age. This is because they don’t necessarily need water for hydration at this age.

Instead, water can be used as a tool when they are learning to use a cup, but this depends on parents’ personal preference. Some parents choose to give them expressed milk rather than water at this stage.

Most doctors recommend sips of water when babies start solids.. - A Complete Guide to When Can Babies Drink Water | Baby Journey
Most doctors recommend sips of water when babies start solids.

After six months, you can continue to offer water with meals. Again, some parents offer expressed milk when their child starts solids. This can help fend off constipation.

Older babies and toddlers can have a cup of water with meals or at snack time. Some parents also offer milk. Breastfed babies don’t require water outside of mealtimes as most of their hydration they will receive from nursing.

How To Introduce Water To Babies?

Introducing water to baby doesn’t have to be complicated. When your child is six months, or four months if advised by a doctor, you can introduce water with meals.

You should give your baby a small amount of water in a cup. They only need a few sips with each meal. As your child grows, you can continue offering water at meals and with snacks. In most cases, your child does not need a bottle of water.

A wide open cup has become more recommended for introducing water. - A Complete Guide to When Can Babies Drink Water | Baby Journey
A wide open cup has become more recommended for introducing water. Source: PishPoshBaby

Experts usually recommend either a sippy cup, sometimes known as a training cup or a simple plastic open cup. Be sure to start with a slow flow if you are using a sippy cup. As your child grows into an older baby and toddler they may like to begin experimenting with a straw.

A sippy cup is a great way to introduce water. - A Complete Guide to When Can Babies Drink Water | Baby Journey
A sippy cup is a great way to introduce water. Source: PishPoshBaby

CHAPTER 3:

Giving Baby Water in Different Conditions

Just when you thought you’re done with knowing when can babies drink water, the amount of water they can drink and how to feed them water, further questions arise: Should you give your child warm water, or is cold water okay for babies?

What if the weather is hotter than usual? Or that your child is sick with fever – is water a yay or a nay then?

This section addresses the questions above.

Source: Giphy

Can I Give My Baby Cold Water?

Remember, feeding baby water should not be done before at least four months of age. By the time your child is six months, they may be less sensitive to the temperature of liquids. However, some babies may still prefer lukewarm water to cold water.

You can try cold water though as it may be soothing to their gums if they are teething. Additionally, little ones may prefer cold water if the weather is quite hot. Check that the water is not too cold by sipping some yourself or placing a drop on your inner wrist. Cool water is best.

Does Tap Water Need to Be Boiled Before Feeding Babies?

The WHO recommends boiling all water before it is given to babies. [4] This is true when you are giving them water alone or when you are mixing it with formula. Infant formula instructions state that you use safe drinking water, as you should when you are giving your child a cup of water.

However, how safe your tap water is can depend on your location in the world. Boiling water for babies is vitally important in places like developing countries.

Also, it is recommended that you use cool tap water for boiling rather than hot. This is to avoid lead poisoning as hot water can concentrate lead. The water needs to be sterilized by boiling to avoid infection and kill microorganisms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not make a specific statement on whether or not to boil water, only advising that if your water is unsafe or if you are unsure either boil it or use bottled water. [5]

In general, if you live in a well-developed country and your home is on a public water source, you may not need to boil your water. Water provided by public sources is always being monitored. Many homes have installed water filtration systems as well that can help ensure the safety of your water.

Giving Babies Water Under Special Circumstances

Even when the weather is hot, or your child is sick, it is still better to offer more frequent breastfeeds or formula feeds to a baby under six months. Many experts recommend this even for children up to twelve months. If you do feel that you need to offer your child water to support hydration during one of these situations you should discuss it with a pediatrician first.

For babies older than six months, you can offer two to four ounces of cool water if your pediatrician okays it. Water for an infant is not advised even if your child is sick or the weather is hot. If you are concerned about dehydration, you should check with your child’s doctor.

Dehydration and constipation can make you question when to give baby water, but most doctors advise offering the breast or formula more often instead of water.

CHAPTER 4:

Babies & Dehydration: Signs and Tips
to Keep Them Hydrated

Source: Giphy

Just when you thought you’re done with knowing when can babies drink water, the amount of water they can drink and how to feed them water plus special circumstances, further questions arise: Should you give your child warm water, or is cold water okay for babies?

What if the weather is hotter than usual? Or that your child is sick with fever – is water a yay or a nay then?

This section addresses the questions above.

What Are the Signs of Dehydration in Babies?

Worry over dehydration is the most common reason why parents want to give their baby water. If you think your child is at risk of dehydration either due to illness or the weather, watch for these signs:

  • Less than six wet diapers in 24 hours
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Cracked lips
  • Listlessness
  • Sunken fontanelle (or the soft spot on the top of the head)
  • Dry skin that remains depressed when pressed
  • Sunken eyes
  • Unusual severe fussiness
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Crying with little to no tears
  • Cold or clammy hands and feet

If you are concerned about dehydration because your child has diarrhea or is vomiting, call your baby’s doctor. If you are concerned about dehydration and noticing the symptoms above make your way to the emergency room and call your child’s doctor.

Six Tips To Make Sure Your Baby Stays Hydrated

Generally, babies under six months who are breastfed or formula-fed do not suffer from dehydration. Milk or formula supplies everything they need in terms of hydration and nourishment. Exclusively breastfed babies up to one year of age are rarely dehydrated as well.

If your baby is old enough to drink water, then here are a few tips to ensure adequate hydration.

  1. Offer breastmilk on-demand and formula regularly as per the schedule advised by your doctor.
  2. Have your child take small sips of water at meals or snack time for ages 6 months to one year. For older babies and toddlers, have them take small frequent sips with meals and when especially active.
  3. Make drinks more appealing for toddlers. You can add frozen fruit slices (in a bottle with a straw to prevent choking) or add fun-shaped ice cubes.
  4. Add age-appropriate foods that are water-rich into their diet. These can be things like watermelon, cucumber, celery, and tomatoes.
  5. Limit dry foods or snacks for older babies and toddlers.
  6. Be conscious of the change in weather & type of activity. If it is especially hot and your little one is active outdoors they may need extra nursing/bottle feeding sessions or sips of water depending on their age.
6 Tips To Make Sure Your Baby Stays Hydrated All The Time. - A Complete Guide to When Can Babies Drink Water | Baby Journey

CHAPTER 5:

What About Other Drinks?

Source: Giorgia Grassini

Sometimes when children are sick, instead of wondering when can babies have water, parents ask if they can offer some other fluids. Drinks like juice or Pedialyte may come to mind. Also, they may wonder, can their child ever have soda, coffee, or tea?

In this section, we talk about whether those choices are good for your baby.

Fruit Juice? Soda? Coffee? Tea?

Juice and Pedialyte are the safest choices for babies out of all the liquids mentioned above. Still, juice should not be given to a baby under one year. At age one or older you can offer small amounts of juice on occasion under the guidance of your doctor. Juice has lots of sugars as well as extra calories without the balanced nutrition found in breastmilk or formula.

Additionally, fruit juice can fill your baby up, leaving no room for formula or breastmilk. This can disrupt their growth and nutrition. Fruit juice may also cause diarrhea in some children as well as stomach cramping.

Sometimes doctors may recommend Pedialyte for infants. Again, this is usually when your baby is six months or older. Pedialyte can be useful for fighting dehydration when your baby is ill, but it doesn’t provide the benefits of breastmilk or formula.

As for tea, coffee, and soda, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that caffeine has no place in the diets of children or adolescents. [6] This is especially true for babies. It is never advised to give your baby tea, coffee, or soda at any age.

What about diluting breastmilk or formula with just plain water?

Parents should never dilute formula or breastmilk with water. Breastmilk is perfectly designed for your baby’s nutritional needs. When you add water it changes the balance and can take precious nutrients and calories away from your baby.

Similarly, formula is designed to suit your child’s caloric and nutritional needs. Diluting formula with water takes these important components away.

Diluting breastmilk and formula may also lead to water intoxication or water poisoning in infants. For these reasons, it is never recommended.

Water And Your Baby

Source: Dribbble

In a nutshell, water isn’t necessary for baby’s under six months. Breastmilk or formula provides them with everything they need and adding water to their diet can be dangerous to their health.

At six months your child can have small sips of water with meals. As they age you can slowly add more water to their diet but steer clear of juices, sodas, and caffeinated beverages.

Hopefully, this guide was helpful. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below or reach out to your child’s pediatrician!

The Author

Megan Moore

Megan is a mom of three who enjoys researching and writing during nap times and whenever she gets a free moment! Aside from producing content as an author on Baby Journey, she also loves running and gardening.

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