When should I start giving water to my baby ? If you are a mom, you have certainly asked yourself this question numerous times. As always, there are resources and opinions aplenty, but ultimately it’s down to the parent to make this decision depending on the specific circumstances at hand. However, before you decide to give your baby water there are some facts related to this subject that are good to know:
Exclusively breastfed babies do not need additional water – breastmilk is 88% water and supplies all the fluids that your baby needs. Even in the first few days after birth, before mum’s milk has “come in”, colostrum is all that is needed to keep baby well hydrated (assuming baby is nursing effectively). Exclusively breastfed babies do not require additional water even when it is very hot outside, as long as the baby is allowed to nurse as needed. Even in extremely hot, dry weather your baby can get all the liquids needed via breastmilk. A number of research studies investigating the need for water in exclusively breastfed babies were done in various locations (both humid and dry) at temperatures ranging from 22-41°C (71.6-105.8°F) and 90-96% relative humidity. These studies concluded that breastfeeding provides all the fluids needed.
Formula fed babies also do not routinely need extra water. Some sources do suggest offering water to a formula fed baby when it is very hot outside (though it’s probably preferred for the baby to get extra water from more frequent feeding), or when the baby is sick with a fever (consult baby’s doctor for guidelines). If you give water to your baby before the age of 6 months, use water from the kitchen tap and boil it, allowing it to cool before giving to your baby. Water for babies over 6 months does not need to be boiled. Bottled water is not advisable for babies, as it usually isn’t sterile. If you do decide to give bottled water to a baby under 6 months, you should boil and cool it. Many mineral waters contain amounts of sodium or sulphate that are unsuitable for babies. Check the label, if mineral waters contain more than 200 milligrams (mg) of sodium per litre (also shown as ‘Na’) and 250mg of sulphate per litre (also written as SO or SO4) they are not suitable.
Newborns (Especially Under 4-5 Weeks)
For newborns, water supplements can be risky. Babies under two months should not be given supplemental water. Water supplements are associated with increased bilirubin levels (jaundice), excess weight loss, and longer hospital stays for newborns. Too much water can lead to a serious condition called oral water intoxication. Water supplements fill baby up without adding calories, so water supplements can result in weight loss (or insufficient weight gain) for the baby. Babies who get water supplements are less interested in nursing. If the baby is not nursing as often as he should, it will take longer for mom’s milk to come in and can delay or prevent mom from establishing an optimum milk supply.
Babies Past The Newborn Stage
Too much water can interfere with breastfeeding because it fills the baby up so that he nurses less. Babies need the nutrition and calories in breastmilk to grow – water has none of these. Breastmilk has all the water your baby needs, even in very hot weather. When your 4-6 month old baby is learning to use a cup, giving him a few sips of water a couple of times a day (no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours) is fine and fun. Once you start with solids, you might want to give him a few sips of expressed milk or water with his solids – some babies need this to prevent constipation.
Older Babies & Toddlers
For older babies & toddlers, continue to breastfeed and offer water in moderation. Breastmilk supplies plenty of fluids, so many older babies or toddlers who breastfeed without restriction can get the fluids they need through breastfeeding. Others may need a little water with solids to prevent constipation. No need for a bottle – just offer a cup. Most older babies and toddlers particularly like to drink water from a parent’s cup or straw. Offer a cup of water at mealtime, or when someone else is getting a drink, and let the child choose whether or not to drink.
When To Stop Boiling Tap Water For Your Baby?
You should always boil water to make powdered formula milk, whatever age your baby is. This is because hot water is needed to kill any bacteria in the powdered milk. However, once your baby is six months old, you can give her a separate drink of water straight from the tap. There’s no need to boil it first. Use water from the kitchen tap, where it will be fresh from the mains. If you get water from the bathroom tap, it may be coming from a storage tank, so it won’t be as good for drinking. You can use a water filter if you want, but make sure you follow the filter manufacturer’s instructions. Keep filtered water in the fridge, as the filtering process removes some of the additives, such as chlorine, used to keep tap water fresh. When buying bottled water, try to use water that’s low in sodium and sulphates. As mentioned above, always look out for Na (sodium) and SO or SO4 (sulphate) levels on the label. There should be 200mg or less of Na per litre, and no more than 250mg of SO or SO4 per litre. Always check that the seal on the water you are buying is intact. If you feel more comfortable boiling all water until your baby’s a year old, carry on doing this, as you may find it less confusing.
So, When Can I Start Giving Water To My Baby?
After they are six months old, infants do begin to need some fluoride, and so that is a good time to introduce some extra water into their diet, especially if they are breastfeeding, or simply prepare their iron fortified infant formula with fluoridated tap water. But before six months, the average healthy baby doesn’t need any extra water.