At What Age is it Safe for Young Babies to Drink Water?

by Caitlin Schott / Feb 24, 2022
At What Age is it Safe for Young Babies to Drink Water?

Parenting a newborn or counting the days until your little one arrives? Feeding them is at the top of your to-do list. But whether you’re breastfeeding, formula feeding, or both, you may wonder when it’s safe to give your baby water.

And you may be surprised that they’re not supposed to drink plain water during their first several months of life. Please keep reading to find out when babies can safely have water, how to introduce it to them, and what to watch out for (this is intended to be informational, this is not medical advice).

6 Months Is the Magic Number—Here’s Why

Breast milk and formula provide all of the nutrition and hydration your baby needs. Unless your little one is suggested something different by your pediatrician, breast milk and/or formula should be their only sources of nutrition until your bundle of joy celebrates 6 months of age.

Why? With such tiny tummies, they can only digest a finite amount of liquid. Therefore, that liquid needs to be packed with newborn-friendly nutrients plain water lacks. 


Don’t Dilute Formula

It’s not rare for well-intentioned parents to consider diluting formula or breast milk with extra water. However, even adding small amounts of water to young babies’ formula is a no-no for the above reasons. and  The American Academy of Pediatrics make it crystal clear babies do not need any more than the exact ounces of water specified by your formula’s manufacturer. The bottom line is adding extra water or diluting formula reduces nutrient intake and can slow growth and development.

How To Introduce Your Baby To Water

When your little one turns six months, you can start introducing water into their diet. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to tip back a glass of water with every meal.

While their stomach is still growing, too much water can overwhelm their immature kidneys and cause  water intoxication, leading to scary healthcare emergencies like seizures, coma, and brain damage. In addition, excess water flows into their bloodstream, altering electrolyte balance and putting them at risk of developing  hyponatremia.

Your baby’s kidneys aren’t primed to process water like ours. Therefore we need to offer water safely to avoid a scary trip to the children’s hospital. Wondering how much is enough water? Here are some basic guidelines revealing the recommended ounces of water intake your baby needs at mealtime

Remember, most babies will continue to breastfeed or drink baby formula throughout their first year—and perhaps beyond. However, when your child turns one year old, they’ll eat more solid foods and drink more water as they consume less breast milk and formula.

Most feeding therapists and swallowing specialists recommend skipping the sippy cup. Instead, at six months of age, they recommend transitioning to sips of water from an open or straw cup to help babies develop the muscles they need to swallow solid food properly.

What about in hot weather? Does my baby need extra hydration?

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that babies under six months should not be offered water to supplement their hydration even in hot weather. Instead, more frequent bottle feeds and breastfeeds will help to ensure they’re receiving all the liquids they need to stay hydrated without running the risk of developing water-related health conditions discussed in the previous section.

If you are breastfeeding, it’s essential to make sure you are thoroughly hydrated as well to be able to keep up with the increased feedings and provide water-rich breastmilk for your child.

Sign of Dehydration in Your Baby

If you’re worried that your little one isn’t getting enough fluids, watch for signs of dehydration, including:

  • Less than six wet diapers in a 24-hour period
  • Dark urine
  • Drowsiness or unusual sleepiness
  • Sunken soft spot on top of the head
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry mucus membranes
  • Tearless crying

You should consult your pediatrician if you believe your child may be suffering from dehydration.

What Kind of Water is Safe for Babies and Young Children?

Before six months of age, the WHO warns that your baby is highly susceptible to infection that could potentially occur from premature water intake.

So when your child reaches six months, and you’re ready to let your baby drink water, you might wonder what kind of water is ok to offer your little one. While tap water and bottled water are typically some of your safest sources, there are some common contaminants you may wish to avoid by offering filtered water to your child.

What About Other Drinks?

When your child turns one year old, you can introduce them to other drinks, such as pasteurized cow’s milk and pasteurized juices, but it’s best to avoid drinks with high sugar content as this can lead to tooth decay and other health problems.

According to the CDC, avoid caffeinated drinks like tea, soda, and sports drinks until your child turns two years old.

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