When Can You Safely Give Your Baby Water to Drink?

baby drinking water from a bottle

Image: Shutterstock

Is it necessary to have babies drink water when they are 6 months old or when the weather is hot?

Does your baby need water during the hot months of summer? Do babies need to drink water anytime?

Babies do not need to drink water but offering a few sips won’t do any harm. It is often suggested that formula fed babies may need a drink of water when they are older and when the temperature is high. According to Dr. Sears, “Breastfeeding babies do not need extra water, though formula-fed babies often do. Your breast milk contains enough water for your baby, even in hot, dry climates. Formula contains higher concentrations of salts and minerals than breast milk does, so that extra water is often necessary for the kidneys to excrete the extra salt. Also, because of less efficient metabolism, formula-fed infants lose more water. ”

While breast milk is approximately 88% water, formula is not and many pediatricians will recommend that formula fed babies be given sips of water from 6 months of age or when solid foods are introduced. Letting babies drink water is a recommendation only and it really is not needed. The recommendation is not intended to be taken as an absolute directive that you must offer your baby water.

Should you decide to give your baby water, please limit how much you are offering. Baby should drink no more than 2-3 ounces a day or as your pediatrician recommends. You do not want the water to displace the intake of breast milk and/or formula. Take the opportunity to offer water from a sippy cup also. This will accomplish 2 things:

  1. A breast fed baby will not be subject to possible nipple confusion
  2. Water in a sippy cup is the perfect liquid to use when introducing the sippy cup. Add some ice cubes to give the cup a more interesting flair.

When babies can have water regularly

Please use extreme caution when offering infants water. Infants who drink too much water may come down with Water Intoxication. For children under 1 year old – and especially during the first nine months of life – drinking too much water may be a dangerous practice.

In fact, according to pediatricians like James P. Keating, MD, medical director of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Diagnostic Center, “too much water dilutes a baby’s normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death.

Breast milk or formula provides all the fluid healthy babies need. If a mother feels her baby needs to take additional water, it should be limited to two to three ounces at a time and should be offered only after the baby has satisfied his hunger with breast feeding or formula”

For those parents who are having their infants under the age of 12 months old take swimming lessons, please be cautious of the amount of water that baby may inadvertently swallow. Water intoxication may also occur due to a baby swallowing too much water when swimming.

Too much water leads to seizure risks in babies

Pediatricians at the John Hopkin’s Children Hospital estimate they receive over 3-4 visits every summer for otherwise healthy babies who have had dramatic (yet usually benign) seizures from water intoxication:

“Babies need extra fluids in the hot weather, but straight water is not one of them…A parent’s natural instinct is to give the baby water to prevent dehydration, but too much water can disrupt the delicate balance in a baby’s body, leading to water intoxication. Before you know it, the baby is seizing.”

Remember: the best way to give baby fluids is through breast milk or formula. Over-diluted formula can also lead to water intoxication in babies.

Symptoms of water intoxication in infants:

  • changes in mental status, i.e. irritability, confusion or drowsiness
  • low body temperature, usually 97 degrees or less
  • facial swelling or puffiness
  • seizures

TIP: A great way to get baby into using a sippy cup is to fill it with water and ice. The ice will make noise as it sloshes about and pique baby’s curiosity. The water is better than juice and giving water over juice will instill a love of this healthy and necessary liquid!

links2 Learn More About Giving Babies Water to Drink:

stop3 Remember, always consult with your pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.

HONConduct846961_s1 This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.