May 28, 2024

When Can Babies Have Water?

When Can Babies Have Water?

Becoming a parent is a journey filled with joy, excitement and a multitude of questions, especially when it comes to ensuring the well-being of your little one. You want to make sure that they get the right nutrition and the right amount of hydration, and do not leave any room for deficiencies. One common query that often arises is, "When can babies have water?"

Should you give them water as an infant? If not, how will they get hydrated? Is breast milk or formula enough for them?

Let us delve into some of these questions, explore the importance of water for infants, the recommended timelines for introducing water, and the potential risks associated with giving water to newborns.

The Importance of Water for Babies:

We're fully aware of the significance of water and how we should keep our bodies hydrated. However, this is not the case with infants. In fact, a baby under 6 months should not be given water at all.

The American Academy of Paediatrics strongly recommends that only breast milk and/or formula must be given to babies under 6 months of age. It provides all the necessary hydration and nutrition for their growth and development.

Photo by: Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

While formula, when prepared according to the instructions in the package, contains 85% water, human milk contains 87% water. This is enough water to keep your little one healthy. It's crucial to be mindful of their well-being anything beyond that anything beyond that could be potentially detrimental.

Understanding the Developmental Stages:


1. Newborn Stage:

During the first few weeks of life, a baby's digestive system is still developing. As such, healthcare professionals generally advise against giving water to newborns. Breast milk or formula alone is sufficient to meet their hydration needs.

2. Exclusive Breastfeeding or Formula Feeding:

For the initial six months, exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding is recommended by health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). These sources provide the appropriate hydration and nutrition for infants.

3. Introducing Water and Solid Food:

Around the age of six months, as solid foods are gradually introduced, this is the time when you can start giving your little one sips of water. You may start with very little amount of water, initially along with the continuation of breast milk and/or formula. But generally, this is the time when newborns can drink water in very small amounts.

Introducing Water in Your Baby’s Diet

One crucial thing to keep in mind is the safety of the water source. You may choose to give tap water to your infant if you are sure of the source and safety. Additionally, it is always good to check with the public health department and your caregiver. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating the quality of water and the legal limit is set on more than 90 contaminants.

But if you would like to be safer, you may also choose to boil the water before giving it to your little one. It is important to make sure that the water is at a comfortable temperature.

When Can Babies Drink Water?

1. Around 6 Months of Age:

As mentioned, the consensus among healthcare professionals is that it's safe to introduce small sips of water around the six-month mark. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends starting with 4-8 ounces of water. You can get your little munchkin a sippy cup as by then, they will have learned to hold cups and sip, too. This could be a great learning for them.

2. During Meals:

Offering water during meals can also aid in the transition to a varied diet. It helps babies get used to different tastes and textures while ensuring they stay hydrated.

3. Supplementing Breast Milk or Formula:

While water can be introduced, it's crucial to emphasize that breast milk or formula remains the primary source of nutrition until at least the age of one. Water should not replace these essential liquids but rather complement them.


Can Newborns Drink Water?

The question of whether newborns can drink water is often met with a unanimous "no" from healthcare professionals. Apart from the stated fact that breast milk or formula is enough for them, the kidneys of a newborn are not mature enough to handle large amounts of water. Introducing it too early can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes in the baby's system. This is why it is recommended to wait until at least 6 months and teach your little one to have water gradually, in very little amount.

Risks Associated with Giving Water to Newborns:

1. Water Intoxication:

Newborns are more susceptible to water intoxication, a potentially dangerous condition that arises when there's an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. A baby’s kidney is almost the size of a grape and too much water can overwhelm their little organ.

With an increased consumption of water, their kidneys tend to flush out electrolytes such as sodium. This is when water dilutes the other nutrients in the body. Such waterlogged blood with low sodium levels can lead to seizures, brain swelling and in severe cases, be fatal.

2. Impact on Nutrient Intake:

Your little one’s tummy is the size of an egg. They need the calories they get from breast milk or formula. An increased intake of water means less space for the same, which is crucial for providing the necessary nutrients for a baby's growth and development.

They tend to be less interested in nursing which may cause weight loss after a certain period. There is an additional risk of an increased bilirubin level in the body, too.


What to do if your baby is dehydrated?

Sometimes, in case your little pumpkin is not well or they are losing more fluid than the intake, there is a risk of them being dehydrated. Typical symptoms of dehydration include urinating less frequently, less than usual, or a dry mouth.

In this case, consult your doctor as soon as possible. If an infant is younger than 3 months, usually more breast milk or formula is suggested. In case they are over 3 months old, little amounts of water or an electrolyte drink may be recommended by your doctor.


Other Drinks for Your Baby

According to CDC recommendations, until the age of 12 months from 6 months onwards, it is recommended for a baby to drink only breast milk or formula and water. After that, they can also be given soy milk or whole cow’s milk.

Whole milk is recommended for your little ones after they turn 1 year old until at least they turn 2 years old as it contains important nutrients. Alternatively, almond milk or other unsweetened milk can be given as they are a booster for calcium and will help in bone development.


Drinks to Avoid

According to the CDC and NHS, unpasteurized drinks, rice milk, caffeinated drinks, fruit juice and smoothies must be avoided for an infant.

In the journey of parenthood, it's vital to make informed decisions regarding your baby's health. While the question of when babies can have water might seem straightforward, the nuances in timing and quantity are essential for ensuring the well-being of your little one. Remember to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance based on your baby's unique developmental milestones. As your baby grows, so will their ability to handle water, making the introduction of this essential beverage a seamless and safe transition in their nutritional journey.

It is essential to understand your baby's needs and nurture them from an early stage. In this case, if you are not sure how to go about it, our programs for babies and toddlers would be perfect for you to understand how to bring out the genius in your little one.

For parents eager to optimize their child's early development, consider the Prodigy BASYCS program by Raising Superstars. This introductory course offers insights into the strategic foundation of our child development programs, emphasizing the "BASYCS" of early education and how it can catalyze your child’s potential from a young age. Explore the Prodigy Courses to give your child a head start in their developmental journey.

Home Programs for babies & toddlers?

Learn More