Despite what well-meaning family members might say, experts now know that until your baby starts eating solid foods, infants get all the water they need from breast milk or formula. Both breast milk and/or formula will keep your infant plenty hydrated, even on hot days when you might be wondering if you should offer your baby a cool sip of water.
The only exception to the rule about not giving water to a baby this age is if the infant is sick and is losing fluids due to diarrhea or vomiting. (But ask your pediatrician about this first.). Why is this so?
Giving water to a baby can actually harm her. Unless she’s very sick, a baby who satisfies her appetite (and her need to suck) with bottles of water will miss out on the nutrition she needs from her feedings. If done regularly, this can cause weight loss, and in the case of breast-fed babies, it can decrease your breast-milk supply. Giving water to a baby in large amounts can even lead to oral water intoxication, a condition in which the electrolytes (such as sodium) in a baby’s bloodstream become diluted, inhibiting normal bodily functions and leading to dangerous problems such as low body temperature or seizures.
Just say no to juice too. Not only will it fill up your infant’s tiny tummy (leaving no room for milk), but also the sugar in juice can cause stomach cramping and diarrhea in young babies.
When can you start giving water to a baby, then? Most experts suggest that you wait until you’ve started feeding solids to your baby, when she’s between four and six months old. At that point, you can talk with your pediatrician about how much water to serve up to your little one. As for juice, hold off until your baby is six months old, and then, that you limit the quantity to four times a day. To make sure you don’t overdo it on juice (and that you don’t decay your tot’s few teeth), dilute it with water, and avoid giving the sweet stuff to your baby right before bed. But for now, though, just stick with breast milk or formula.
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
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!