When Can You Start Giving Babies Water?
I‘ve been consulting Dr. Google for too many things throughout my time as a mother so far, and have found things that contradict one another, debunked studies, and “information” that just doesn’t make any sense.
One of the things I hoped to learn was the answer to the question, “when can you give your baby water?” Whether it was for the first time, at what frequency, and what amount per day. Water intake has become hugely important to me, (after being raised to drink soda or milk exclusively, I decided it had to be different for my family) and for good reason: water balances our body’s fluid levels, it helps to energize our muscles, and keeps our kidneys healthy. I imagined it was important for my daughter once she began eating solids through baby-led weaning, but it was one of those things that kind of stumped me–I realized that no one actually ever talks about giving their baby or toddlers water, despite knowing how important it is to keep a child hydrated. Surely everyone wasn’t only utilizing milk or juice to this end, right?
Getting the Right Information
Before I worked myself into a panic over giving my girl too much or not enough water or doing it too soon, I decided to speak with some professionals. After finally speaking with multiple healthcare providers that I know and trust, it made me feel as though I got the answers for so many things I needed–and helped me weed out the bad information I’d previously received.
When Can You Give Your Baby Water?
According to Dr. Payne* of Wake Forest Baptist Health, it’s not advised to give a baby water under the age of 6 months. “Many parents fear their infant is too hot and want to give them water, but this is not recommended in any amount under 6 months of age,” he explained to me. He also pointed out that breastmilk and formula are the ONLY liquids to give to a baby 6 months and under, and to wait to give alternate milks (cow, almond, soy, etc.) and juice until after baby’s first birthday.
How Much Water Can You Give Your Baby?
Once your baby has hit their half-birthday mark, you can begin giving small amounts of water a few times a week. They actually still don’t need it, but it can be given an ounce or two a day over the age of 6 months. Dr. Payne’s rule is to give no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours from 6-12 months of age, and the amount can increase (and should to prevent constipation) after 1 year of age.
What Could Happen if You Give Water Too Soon or Too Much?
Babies are rather resilient and tough little creatures, but there are certain things that are not good for their delicate systems. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, hyponatremic seizures can result from water intoxication, and have seen a resurgence in the last few years due to lack of knowledge on water intoxication. Because babies’ kidneys are still developing out of the womb, giving them too much water causes their bodies to release sodium along with excess water. Losing sodium can affect brain activity, so early symptoms of water intoxication can include “irritability, drowsiness and other mental changes. Other symptoms include low body temperature (generally 97 degrees or less), puffiness or swelling in the face, and seizures according to Dr. Anders, another pediatrician and expert at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.
Should Babies Over 6 Months – 1 Year Drink Exclusively Water?
When chatting with Dr. Payne, I told him I wanted to make sure my daughter got a healthy start and didn’t become addicted to sugary drinks like I did. I was always given juice and soda, and as a result have had a really hard time shaking those vices as an adult. Dr. Payne suggests alternating milk and water from ages 12-18 months, introducing juice (a mixture that is “cut” with water, about 80% water and 20% juice to avoid full-on sugar rushes) after 18 months and encouraging water for your active toddler when possible beyond that point. “Variety is a good thing, and encourages your child not to get ‘stuck’ on one or two things as toddlers tend to do,” he told me. Since I’d been implementing a similar regimen already, I found this to be easy-to-follow advice!
In short, the best time to give your baby water is in small doses after they’re 6 months old, and gradually increasing as time goes on. Always be sure to do your proper research before making any big parenting decision, and consult trusted healthcare providers when you have questions. I admitted to Dr. Payne that the questions I asked felt “dumb” on occasion, but he assured me that doctors have heard the gambit of questions from anxious new moms, and they never tire of giving positive direction and the answers that we seek!