Many parents think water should be added to a baby’s diet from an early age. After all, it’s just water! It’s great for adults, keeps us hydrated, and keeps our brains functioning well throughout the day. So is giving water to your baby necessary? In most instances, water is completely unnecessary to give to your baby, especially those under six months old.
When my sister and I were born, the doctors sent my mother home from the hospital with a pack of sugar water. Based on the facial expressions of babies who received glucose water, doctors used to think it had the power to ease pain especially after vaccinations. According to brain scans that detect pain triggers in the brain, this assumption is false.
Breast milk or formula alone should be adequate enough to keep your baby hydrated and well-nourished at least until they are 6 months old. Both liquids already have water in them! In fact, adding water to your baby’s diet on top of what they normally drink can lead to water intoxication. Too much water can dilute a baby’s electrolytes which can lead to seizures, brain damage and even death.
If you formula feed your infant it is very important to follow the directions precisely as it says on the can. Never water down your infant’s formula to make it last longer, even if you are strapped for cash.
While your little one may need extra fluid during hot summer weather, avoid giving them straight water. According to the John Hopkins Children’s Center, extra formula or breast milk is a better choice for babies who have not started solids under one year old.
Another negative side effect is it fills babies up on zero calories. You may want to lose a few pounds, but your baby certainly should not!
The only instance I was advised by my doctor to give my daughter water was when she was experiencing severe constipation. Remember to ask a health professional before giving water because your idea constipation and your doctor’s could be two very different things! Even then, I found that diluted juice, given under the direction of my lactation consultant, worked better for quickly alleviating my daughter’s blocked bowels.
In short, anything other than breast milk or formula, aside from the rare occurrence of constipation, should be adequate for your baby who has not started solids. What you think might be doing them some good by giving them a bottle of water could actually be putting them at serious risk.