When you become a mommy or daddy, you might ask yourself questions that you never thought of before in your life. And after every one of us drinks a lot of water every day and it is basically the fuel that we need to keep us going, you might wonder now: When can you give an infant water?
Babies drink breastmilk or formula. But an essential for all of us humans is water. So when can (and should) you start to give your little one some?
Don’t give water to your baby in the first 6 months. Even in hot conditions, all the hydration a baby needs will be covered by the breastmilk (which consists of 88% water) or formula. You can slowly start to give water to your infant after the first 24 weeks.
Breastmilk or formula will contain all the fluids that are needed.
BUT there is a lot more to find out about when you can give an infant water and what you should know before. I will show you everything I found during my research out in the following paragraphs.
Water – The Gasoline For Our Motor
You might already know that an adult should drink between 2 – 3 liter of water on a daily base (can vary, of course, depends on gender, age, region, etc.).
Also, that about 60% of an adult human body is water might be something that you have heard before.
If you ask yourself what water is good for in our body and why we need it, it would be probably easier and quicker to answer what we DON’T need water for…
Pretty much everything in our system – every organ, blood, every cell – needs water.
That’s why you can look at it as that ‘magic fluid’ that keeps us alive and moving.
Water And Babies
So what about your cute little newborn?
As already mentioned above, my research revealed that you should wait with offering water until the baby is at least 6 months old.
Even though newborns should not consume water, their body contains (as a percentage) even more water than those roughly 60% of an adults body. So doctors state that newborns have even up to 78% of their bodies made up of water.
This percentage slowly decreases. So around age 1, your baby’s body should contain about 65% water.
So why exactly should you not give water to your baby? What can happen if you do?
Is Water Bad For Babies?
Breastmilk contains things like carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, hormones. antibodies and lymphocytes from the mother that help the baby resist infections.
Especially in those early stages when the body goes through all those changes and grows a lot, a baby really needs those nutritions to have a healthy development.
Water would only fill up the infant and kill the appetite for those important ingredients. It would also interfere with the ability to properly absorb the important nutritions provided by the breastmilk or formula. This can cause weight loss. And especially in those early stages, this could be a serious health risk for a baby.
Also tummy aches, or in the worst case, a water intoxication which can cause seizures and a coma, could be the result of a water consuming infant. So keep in mind: NO water at all in the first 6 months!
So really all the baby needs, even to prevent dehydration, is just the breastmilk or formula as a replacement. It’s safe to say, that it is best to not offer your baby water to drink for the first 6 months.
Doctors state that Babies can easily go without water even until they reach year 1 of age.
Water In Formula?
A lot of mothers use formula these days (even though research shows that breast milk is the better option). In some cases, they might have no other choice.
So how can you use water in a formula, if it can have so dangerous consequences?
To eliminate the danger of water intoxication, follow exactly the description on the packaging. If you do so, your baby will be able to get all the necessary nutritions that will come with it. So just don’t put more water to it than the producing company asks you to.
Also, the kind of water you use can be important. But more about this later on in this article.
Can I Give My 6 Month Old Water?
After the first 24 weeks of life, you can slowly start to offer your baby a few sips of water every now and then, if it is really thirsty. But still, make sure to not fill up your baby with just water.
Other things he has to get in his system via breastmilk are still so important to him, that water should really just be used very occasionally. He wouldn’t take more than a few sips anyway, but yes, a 6-month-old can drink a little bit of water from time to time.
So if you start around the 6th month to give your little one a few sips of water here and there, how much should that actually be? How can you make sure it is not too much and still safe for the baby?
How Much Water Should A 6 Month Old Drink?
As stated before, you don’t actually need to introduce water to your baby before its first birthday at all.
Breast milk and formula, maybe the first bites of solid food, that’s all your little one really needs.
Only if your baby suffers from constipation 6 months after being born, you might need to give some sips of water with the food already.
Some experts suggest though to start somewhere between month 6 and 12 to give a few sips here and there and to slowly increase the amount of water between month 9 and 12 even a bit. This can go up to a few ounces a day, but there are no strict guidelines to it.
You can do this, to help your little one get accustomed to the habit of drinking water which is, of course, a crucial part of a healthy system and body. But you won’t need to look for advice for questions like ‘how much water should a 9 month old baby drink’ or ‘how much water should a 10 month old drink’. Just a few sips to get used to it is enough.
Age 1 – Things Change!
Around the infants first birthday, when he is used to eating solids, he can drink water normally whenever he is thirsty and as much as he wants. There shouldn’t be any problems or risks at this stage anymore.
A good and healthy water drinking habit can be practiced now. Also, juices will probably find their way into your baby’s heart at this time, as they often taste better from an infants point of view.
But it is always good if your infant has a good habit of drinking water, instead of getting used to sweet juices every day and all day. Water is the best fluid to be consumed on a regular daily basis, for children, adolescents, and adults. Everyone.
What To Do If My Baby Is Dehydrated?
So you might ask yourself what you can do if your baby is dehydrated within the first 12 months of life. This could be caused if it gets sick, for example, has a cold or the flu. If diarrhea and vomiting are part of it, the baby can lose a lot of fluids.
Also, if there are fewer wet and dirty diapers than usual, it could be a sign, that your baby is dehydrated. Other signs could be that your infant is lethargic, unusual tiredness or the absence of tears when it is crying. Also, the soft spot on a baby’s had can appear to be sunken. In those cases, you should straight away go to see a doctor and ask for help and advice.
But if a lot of water is actually not good for an infant, what would be the solution to this? What can you do?
While in some cases it can be enough to increase the frequency of your breastfeeding routines, in other cases a doctor might advise you to use electrolyte solutions.
When all strands break and in more serious cases, it might be necessary to hospitalize your infant.
But basically, even in those times, you should not give water to your baby and always ask a doctor for advice first, before you act.
How Much Water Can A Baby Drink?
As stated before, after the first year you don’t need to worry about too much water. From now on you should make sure that your little one drinks enough, especially when you stop breastfeeding or giving formulas.
From now on, it is pretty easy. Offer a cup of water to your baby. If it drinks, fine. If not, it is probably just not thirsty.
To give you an idea about the recommended water intake:
- 5 – 8 years old = 1 liter (5 glasses)
- 9 – 12 years old = 1,5 litres (7 glasses)
- 13+ years old = 2 litres (8 – 10 glasses)
What Is The Best Water For Babies To Drink?
If you give your baby formula, you should either boil the water before you use it or get especially for baby formula produced water.
You can start to give your baby sips of plain water from time to time at the right age (after 1 year) And here, you can basically use normal drinking water that you would also use for yourself. If the tap water in your region is known to be good, clean and drinkable, you can go for it.
BUT there is one thing that experts recommend.
You should not use fluoridated water! Because this water can harm your baby’s teeth and lead to higher rates of dental fluorosis, thyroid impairment or even a reduced IQ.
So it is highly recommended that parents use water that is fluoride-free or low in fluoride.
And if tap water is used, it should come from a reverse osmosis home water filtration system, which removes most of the fluoride.
For more information about what that is and why you need it in this case, check out this link.
When Can I Give My Baby Juices?
Pretty much the same that was pointed out here before about water also applies for something that probably all infants love at some point: juice.
So also that sweet stuff that comes in many different flavors these days, shouldn’t be consumed regularly before the first birthday. And even then, you should keep in mind that the sugar in juices can cause stomach aches, diarrhea and decay of the brand new teeth for infants.
Therefore, always consider limiting the amount of juice you give to your little one. And if you do, mix it up with water. A 50-50 mixture will still have the sweet taste that little ones like, but it won’t have the amount of sugar that can cause problems.
There is also a study from 2014 that researches the connection of the early consumption of juice and adiposity. The researcher found out, that a greater juice intake in early infancy would not only be connected to also a higher intake of juice in the childhood, but also to a higher chance of adiposity.
You can have a look at this study here.
We hope you can take some good points and advice from this post and your question ‘when can you give an infant water?’, is answered in the best possible way.
After my research on this topic, I will remember the following things:
- no drinking water before 6 months of age, breastmilk provides all the fluids needed
- very few sips between month 6 and 9 to give the baby a feeling for water
- let him have a few more sips between month 9 and 12
- at 1 year of age, he can freely drink water whenever he wants and feels like it
- limit juice and if we give it to the baby, we mix it with water
- develop a good and healthy water drinking habit
See you in the next article!