When & How to Start Giving Water to Babies

When & How to Start Giving Water to Babies

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Mahesh Patil (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

The rules of frequently drinking water and meeting a certain requirement for overall health and hydration that we follow do not apply to babies. This leads us to the important questions: From which month can newborns drink water? What are the signs of dehydration in babies? You may even wonder if a 1-month-old can even drink water! Let’s take a look at all the relevant and accurate details about how to give water to babies.


When Can Babies Start Drinking Water?

Many new parents are not sure of when they should introduce water in their baby’s diet. Unlike adults who must consume significant quantities of water every day, the case is different for infants. Their water requirement varies according to age, and giving too much water before their systems are ready for it can have adverse effects.

Birth to 4 Months

Breastfed babies do not need any additional water since breast milk is considered to be a superfood that meets all the dietary and fluid requirements of an infant. This is because breast milk provides the required quantity of fluids that your baby needs to stay hydrated. In short, you shouldn’t even be concerned about providing extra water for a newborn baby as long as you nurse on demand.

A formula-fed baby also doesn’t require too much additional water. Most infant formulas contain specific instructions for the amount of water to be added for sufficient dilution. When you follow these instructions and adjust the consistency of the formula with the age of the baby, it sufficiently keeps him hydrated when he feeds on time.

5 – 8 Months

Should babies drink water during these months? The answer is that there is no hard and fast rule in this regard. Until they are 6 months old, there is no need for your baby to drink anything apart from breast milk or formula. Water is generally introduced to babies once they are past the newborn stage and slowly transitioning to foods besides breast milk.

Babies usually start with solid food between 5 and 8 months of age. At this time, you can provide water in a sippy cup for your baby to sip on a few times a day. This needn’t be too frequent, assuming that you are still breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby besides providing solids.

9 – 12 Months

Once they turn a year old or so, you may continue breastfeeding; offer water or diluted juice in a cup at mealtimes. However, avoid giving fizzy drinks or drinks with artificial sweeteners. As a new mother, you may be confused about your baby’s water needs. Since they are too little to express thirst, you may be worried that your baby isn’t hydrated properly or if you should supplement breast milk with water. Babies generally communicate through various signals or sounds and tend to point to the water cup or use sign language to say they want water. During feeds, if they refuse to eat or swallow food bolus, it indicates they need water. When water is offered, babies drink as much required. If the water cup is taken away, they might cry or bend forwards to reach the cup, which indicates they need more water. Grizzling is a continuous soft cry which might be seen if the baby’s tummy aches or if there is an inability to pass motions, commonly due to inadequate water intake.

How Can I Introduce Water to Infants?

Water should be given to infants only after they start solid foods. Till they are a year old, their kidneys haven’t matured sufficiently to metabolise too much water. As a result, their water needs are minimal. However, it is possible to introduce your child to the taste of water by providing your baby small sips at a time. You can fill the baby’s bottle or sippy cup with water and give him a few sips from it when he expresses thirst. Also, don’t give your baby water from an open cup till he is much older.

How Much Water to Give Babies

If you are wondering how much water for 6-month-old baby is essential, you must know that it depends on the child and his food habits. If he is still breastfed, a few sips are more than enough to satiate him. Baby dehydration is rare when babies get their required fluids from breast milk or a formula feed. So, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Babies who are younger than 4 months of age do not need water to be separately provided to them. Their bodies are hydrated from the fluids in their feeds.

Water Intoxication in Babies

While too much water doesn’t cause any irreparable damage in healthy adults, it can be pretty dangerous in young babies. Giving children younger than 6 months of age too much water can disrupt the body’s natural ability to absorb nutrients from breast milk or a formula feed. Drinking too much water in very short spans of time can cause the sodium level in their bodies to drop. Their kidneys aren’t mature enough to handle large quantities of water at a time, and this can lead to a dangerous condition called water intoxication. If there are symptoms of water intoxication in your baby – blurry vision, irritability, exhaustion following water consumption – it requires immediate medical attention. Too much water can cause seizures in babies. This is also the same reason why it isn’t wise to administer swimming lessons to infants. In the likelihood that they gulp down huge quantities of water while in the pool, it can cause water intoxication and lead to a medical emergency.

Do Babies Need to Drink Water Sometimes?

Although newborn babies don’t need to drink water, their bodies will need it as they grow older. So, as your baby grows, you can safely introduce water into his diet. Babies can drink about 30 ml of water till the time they are 4-6 months old, but restrict any more quantity of water. You can slowly increase his water intake when your child is 9 months to 1 year of age. Once your child is a year old, his body system is mature enough to tolerate larger quantities of water. However, even after he reaches his first birthday, keep the water intake under regulation.

FAQs on Giving Water to Your Child

Let us address some of the most common doubts regarding giving water to young babies and clear any further confusion.

Is It Safe to Give Water to a 6-Month-Old or Younger Baby?

The answer is that you can always give a few sips of water to babies between the ages of 4 to 6 months. However, quantities that are greater than 30-60 ml are unsafe in a single day.

Can We Dilute Formula With Water?

If you are using a ready-to-use formula, you may not need to add any water to it. However, if you are using powdered formula, you will need to add water to mix it up. Be careful to not mix more water than recommended, as it may cause complications like seizures.

When Can Babies Start Drinking Water?

Many parents wonder about the age at which you can give a baby water. As was mentioned earlier, infants who are breastfed and formula-fed do not need additional water. It is, in fact, recommended that water be introduced into a baby’s diet only after he is 4-6 months old.

What If an Infant Becomes Dehydrated?

A baby who is exclusively breastfed on demand has very low chances of dehydration. Even formula-fed babies receive the required amount of water with their food.

Can We Give Water to a Breastfeeding Baby?

It isn’t suggested to give water to a breastfeeding baby. The baby’s fluid requirements are met by the breast milk itself.

Can Too Much Water for Babies Lead to Signs of Seizures?

Yes, too much water consumption will cause a condition called water intoxication in young babies. This is a very dangerous condition that can lead to dramatic seizures. It also has a significant impact on the baby’s body, as the sodium levels will fall with too much water input.

Water is an inevitable necessity for the survival of living organisms. As adults, we are advised to drink plenty of water every day and meet the daily recommended requirement for optimal health, but it isn’t the same with babies. Do make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations on giving water to your baby to ensure he stays healthy.

Resources and References: What to Expect

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