Are you concerned with your baby’s hydration on hot days, or if they are struggling with a cold?
Usually, a person will need extra fluids to avoid dehydration in warm weather, or if they are sick, but is that the same case with babies? Parents from around the world often ask these questions.
If you have wondered if your baby’s hydration needs are the same as yours, you are not alone. There are many concerns to be aware of when giving babies additional water. It is not necessary during the early stages of their lives and can pose a health risk.
Be sure to read on and see exactly when it is ok to give your baby water and how much.
Water is Good for Your Baby, Isn’t it?
Water is good for you, so why wouldn’t it be good for your young baby, right? Wrong. There are many reasons why very young babies should not have any additional water at all. Hydration is vital for adults and babies, but a baby’s hydration needs are significantly different than yours or an older sibling.
There are several reasons why you should not introduce water to your baby in the first six months of life. They can include:
- Nutrition Interference
- Misaligned Feeding Schedules
- Water Intoxication
- Weight Loss or Insufficient Weight Gain
- Imbalance of Electrolytes
1. Nutrition Interference
Water will fill their small belly up with a virtually useless liquid that is needed to obtain nutrients from formula or breastmilk. Your baby’s stomach is extremely small when they are born and takes some time to expand. At birth, a newborn stomach can only hold approximately 7 ml (0.5 ounces). This size is why your baby needs to eat frequently, as their bodies are processing small amounts of nutrients at a time.
By filling that space up with water, a baby’s stomach will not trigger that they are hungry and will interfere with vital nutrient intake. To avoid any malnourishment, avoid offering water to your baby.
2. Misaligned Feeding Schedules
Water can also affect how often or how much your baby will feed, causing a mother who is breastfeeding to slow down her milk production. If your baby is formula-fed, including additional water can misalign their feeding schedule and keep them from obtaining the correct amount of nutrients needed each day to remain healthy and growing properly.
3. Water Intoxication
This condition can happen to adults, but for babies, the risk for water intoxication is much higher, even with offering a very minimal amount of water. Babies’ kidneys are still developing when they are born. They need time to grow and mature, which means that their kidneys are unable to process water effectively.
When too much water enters your baby’s body, the kidneys cannot deal with it, and it enters the bloodstream instead. Any risk of added water in the bloodstream poses risks of brain swelling and even death. Even a very small amount of water can pose serious health risks since a baby’s organs are much smaller and less developed as they are still growing.
If your baby takes in too much water it can increase their bilirubin levels, causing jaundice. Jaundice will usually go away on its own by eliminating bilirubin through stools of soiled diapers. If your baby is not getting enough nutrients, these soiled diapers will not be as often, which will keep the bilirubin in their system longer.
5. Weight Loss or Insufficient Weight Gain
When water replaces essential nutrients in your baby’s regular daily intake, it can affect their body weight. They could lose weight from lack of essential vitamins and nutrients, or not gain weight and grow as quickly as they should.
6. Imbalance of Electrolytes
By offering water to your baby when it is not needed, it can alter the electrolytes in their system and create an imbalance. Since a baby’s kidneys are not fully mature to process water, it can interfere with the natural electrolytes in their body when introduced.
The Benefits of Water for Your Baby
After your baby reaches six months or older, water can be beneficial for them. If you introduce fluids correctly and monitor your baby’s consumption, water can be highly beneficial to your child as they grow and develop.
Water keeps your child hydrated in hot weather, especially if they are very active. It helps maintain blood volume in their system and transports oxygen and nutrients to the cells in their body. Water also helps keep joints and tissues lubricated and eliminates the need for offering useless liquids like fruit juice or sodas.
When is it a Good Time to Give Your Baby Water?
There is a good time to introduce water to your baby, but younger than six months of age is not the proper stage. To avoid any drastic side effects, restrict your baby from any plain water intake until after six months of age and eating solid foods. Unless otherwise specified by a medical professional with direct instructions, babies should not consume any water until after this time.
After six months of age, your baby will have grown significantly, and their kidneys will have developed more. At this point, your child should be starting to show interest in solid foods or consuming some foods in addition to breastfeeding or formula intake. Older than six months of age, you can start to introduce water to your baby in minimal amounts.
Even so, use caution when monitoring how much water you offer your infant between six months and one year of age. The purpose of water during this period is to get your child accustomed to using a cup or other method than breastfeeding or formula feeding. A few sips from a few tablespoons up to four ounces in total, here and there will suffice, as you do not have to encourage a great deal of water intake at this age.
What if Your Baby Doesn’t Like Water?
Most babies will not enjoy drinking water as it is tasteless, and they will prefer breastmilk or formula. Do not worry if your infant does not want to drink water, as it is not needed since they are getting hydration from breastmilk or formula and solid foods.
You should not introduce other unnecessary liquids to your baby as they can interfere with scheduled feedings and weight gain. Other forms of fluids you should avoid offering are juices and sodas. Essentially, these forms are liquid sugar, and your baby does not need them at all.
Continue to offer them water-rich foods like oranges, watermelon, grapes, and follow a scheduled feeding schedule, and they will do just fine until after one year old.
What to do if Your Baby is Dehydrated
Dehydration is a serious condition, especially for babies. If you suspect that your baby is dehydrated, contact a medical professional immediately for advice. Some signs of dehydration include:
- Not enough wet diapers
- Dark yellow or strong-smelling urine
- Fussy or crying without tears
- Dry skin with no elasticity, or cracked lips
- Sunken eye sockets
- Listless or lethargic
- Unusually cold hands and feet
- More sleepy than usual
- Sunken fontanelle (soft spot on top of baby’s head)
Any of the above symptoms are cause for concern. If your baby has any of these signs, a medical practitioner should assess their condition immediately. Do not give your baby water and assume that they will be fine. Talk to a doctor and seek medical advice on what would be the best course of action to help your baby.
Some babies can take Pedialyte when dehydration occurs from battling a sickness or other instances. You should always consult a health care professional before administering anything besides breastmilk or formula to your baby.
Water to Use in Baby Formula
For many babies, they will obtain enough water from what you include with their formula at each feeding time. One thing to consider is to never add extra water in with formula for a baby, as this can cause water intoxication. Follow the mixing directions exactly when preparing your baby’s formula, to avoid any mistakes of giving your baby extra water when it is not needed.
There are different types of water you can use for mixing with formula, each with varying attributes, including:
Each form of water can affect your baby’s development, so you will want to explore what is in the water you choose to mix with the formula before offering it to your baby. Some areas of the world will have added fluoride in their tap water, while well water in some locations could contain bacteria and harmful toxins that are not safe to drink.
Keep in mind that babies under six months of age do not need any additional water besides breastmilk and formula. After six months old, you can introduce a limited amount of water to your baby in small sips periodically. Monitor the total intake of fluids as they grow to ensure they are not taking in too much and risk water intoxication or other significant conditions. Talk to a medical professional if you have concerns about how much your baby is eating and drinking each day.