If you’re a parent or a soon to be parent, chances are that at some point you’re going to be paranoid about everything, including something as little as giving your baby water. Turns out your worries are not unfounded, because simply put, if you’re questioning ‘can I give my baby water? is it safe?’, the answer is no.
No Water for 6 Months
While you want to keep your baby hydrated, as a general rule, giving your baby water is a big no-no until they are about 6 months old.
Until that age, they get all the necessary hydration from formula or breast milk, regardless of weather. Dehydration is a condition that should be taken seriously, and if you think that your baby is not getting enough liquid, then it’s time to contact your doctor.
You can simply tell if they’re hydrated enough by counting the wet diapers. Until they are 6 months of age, they should have at least 6 wet diapers every day.
Signs of dehydration that you can look include having fewer bowel movements, being excessively sleepy or fussy, cool discolored feet and hands, wrinkled skin or sunken eyes. In some cases, if the baby has stomach flu, for example, your doctor might advise that you give them Infalyte or Pedialyte, or other electrolyte drink in order to keep them from becoming dehydrated.
What Makes Giving Your Baby Water Dangerous?
Until they are 6 months old, the kidneys of the baby are not mature enough to filter plain water correctly, thus leaving them susceptible to water intoxication.
Even when they are 6 months old, if a baby drinks too much water, it can interfere with the ability that his body has to absorb the nutrients from formula or breast milk. Moreover, his stomach will feel full and he might not want to eat anymore.
In some rare instances, babies who drink too much water can end up developing what is known as water intoxication, which could lead to seizures or even a coma. This happens when the concentration of sodium in their body is diluted by too much water, thus causing tissue to swell as a result of upsetting the electrolyte balance.
Sip by Sip
Once they are 6 months old, giving your baby water in small amounts is safe, without having to worry about any issues. It is ideal though to only offer little bits of water at a time, as they don’t need it as much as grown-ups, and water will not replace formula or breast milk, which is necessary for the first year of their life.
Until they are 12 months old, giving your baby water should be seen only as practice, meaning that you can offer them a few sips every now and then, as babies also get used to the sippy cup around that time. The idea is to get the little one familiar to drinking water. Once they are 9 to 12 months old, they can drink a few ounces of water every day.
Diluting Formula With Water. Is It Safe?
If you add to much water, not only it increases the risk of water intoxication, but the baby might end up getting fewer nutrients from the formula. Moreover, too much water could mess up their electrolyte balance. In order to avoid complications, simply stick to the recommendations, or use breast milk instead. When making formula you should follow the directions on the package and use the amount of water that is recommended.
Bonus: Drinking Juice?
Giving your baby water after they are 6 months old is the healthiest choice, and will get them used to it. On the other hand, it is ideal that water is the only drink that you introduce, as there is no rush. According to pediatrician Catherine Pound, Juice is really not necessary, and it’s simply sugar. She advises that if parents are going to give them juice, they should make sure that it’s real fruit juice, and they should offer no more than 4oz/day.
Next time you ask yourself ‘can I give my baby water?’ try to keep this in mind:
- Giving your baby water is unsafe until they are at least 6 month old
- Small amounts of water are enough
- Diluting formula with too much water is dangerous
- Giving your baby water will not replace formula / breast milk