When Can Babies Drink Water And How To Feed It To Them

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Lisa was in a dilemma. The climate was hot, but she wasn’t sure if her six-month-old baby should be given water to drink. The little one was yet to taste H2O, and Lisa wanted to know the right time for the babies to begin drinking water.

Among the various doubts a new mother has, one pertinent one is about introducing water to her baby. Whereas we clearly know when to begin solid food to the little ones, there isn’t much clarity on water. It depends on the baby’s age, food intake and activities.

When can a baby drink water? Can you let her drink as much water as she likes? Find the answers to all your questions in this MomJunction article.

When Can Babies Drink Water?

Once your baby is six months old, you can begin giving water in small amounts. This is the time when you introduce solid foods, and also when she gets more active. You can also offer clear soup but not soda or other sugary drinks. You may start with a sippy cup, spoon, or bottle feeder.

However, excess water might result in her tummy pain or any other discomfort (1).

[Read: Is Mineral Water Safe For Baby]

Is It Not Safe To Give Water Before Six Months?

It is, usually, not for the following reasons (2):

  1. Affects nutrient absorption: Water fills the baby with empty calories and can affect her ability to absorb nutrients from breastmilk or formula. Breast milk or formula has enough water, extra water makes kids pass more urine. It can lead to weight loss and elevate the levels of bilirubin, and also increase the risk of infection.
  1. Water intoxication: Too much water can cause water intoxication in babies, thus diluting the nutrients in the body. It will result in seizures, and reduced body temperature.
  1. Dehydration: According to the researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, US, babies younger than six months should not be given water as their kidneys are still not developed, they flush out sodium, along with excess water (3).
  1. Excess water can stimulate the kidneys to flush out sodium and electrolytes causing dehydration.
  1. No appetite for breastmilk: The baby’s tummy is full with water and she would not want to drink breastmilk. This will make her miss on her daily dose of nutrients (4).

[ Read : Munchkin Miracle Stainless Steel Sippy Cup Review ]

Let’s now see how much water should a baby drink after six months.

Water For Babies Aged Six To 12 Months:

When you start to give solid food around six months, the baby’s intake of milk reduces from 25-30oz to 14-25oz a day. This, however, depends on the kind of solids you introduce and the frequency with which the little one eats.

Along with breastmilk or formula, she may not require more than two to four ounces of water every day (5). If your child is very active, you can provide some more water occasionally.

Water For Babies Older Than 12 Months:

When your baby enters the 12th month, the milk intake reduces to 16oz a day. By this time, you may have introduced a variety of foods and established a routine of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Therefore, with the reduced milk consumption, varied food intake and increased activity, your child’s need for water increases naturally (6).

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, toddlers need around 1.3 liters of water every day (7). It includes water from milk, food and other sources. Proper hydration will help ease bowel movements and replenish lost fluids.

What Kind Of Cup Or Bottle Is Best To Use?

You may have to choose different kinds of cups or bottles depending on the age of your little one.

Around six months: At this ideal age to introduce water, use a cup containing handles and a straw or soft spout. You should choose a non-spill valve that is removable. The free-flow cup will help your baby to drink without sucking. This also helps oral development as she uses different muscles to drink.

If the baby is transitioning from breastmilk to formula, a bottle with a breast-like nipple should suit her. Your baby’s latch will be natural.

Around 12 months: This is the age you can assist them in drinking from cups. If she is already drinking from a spout or straw, moving to cups is easier for her. You can use a sports cup or an open cup. A non-spill valve is ideal.

[Read: How To Choose Bottle For Baby]

How To Give Water To The Baby?

You should make sure the baby is drinking water carefully. The following instructions may be of some help:

  • Teach your baby to hold a cup/glass.
  • Then help her tilt the cup just enough to make the water flow steadily.
  • Hold the cup as she drinks from it.
  • You will have to do this regularly before she can hold the cup without your help and without spilling the content.
  • You can use no-spill sippy cups so that the water doesn’t spill. The sippy cups are safe even if they are turned upside down, as the water does not come out unless the baby sucks it.
  • You may experiment with multiple sippy cups until you find the one that is comfortable for your baby.

Follow these basic guidelines to introduce your baby to water, and keep her hydrated.

Some Additional Measures To Keep Your Baby Adequately Hydrated

You can make the early days of water consumption interesting and healthy for your baby. Here are a few tips:

  • Let your baby have small quantities frequently. Give small amounts of water or watery fluids all through the day.
  • Use colorful cups and differently shaped straws so that your baby will be excited about drinking water.
  • Be wary of weather conditions and activities. Give enough water during activity time, and in hot weather. Let them take at least four ounces every 20 minutes.
  • Give more water-rich foods such as soups or fruits like orange, watermelon, and grapes. Flavor water with lime, lemon, oranges or cucumber to make drinking fun.
  • You can replace the lost fluids by giving your baby formula, breastmilk or a rehydration solution. However, do not give plain water to rehydrate her body.

Do not be in a hurry to introduce water to your baby. In the first six months, breastmilk is everything for her –food, water, fruits, and vegetables all packed in one. Introduce water gradually after six months but make sure the baby is not drinking so much that she loses her appetite.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should you give boiled water for babies?

Yes, it is good to boil and cool the water for your baby. Boiling kills the microorganisms, thereby reducing the risk of any infection. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sterile water should be used for babies even while preparing infant formula (8).

2. Can babies drink bottled water?

It is not safe to give bottled water for babies as it is likely to be high in sodium and sulfate content. Give water that is low in sodium and sulfates. One liter water should contain less than 200mg of sodium (Na) and 250mg of sulphate (SO or SO4). You may use bottled water that is labeled as purified, deionized, demineralized and distilled (9).

[Read: Is Alkaline Water Safe For Babies]

3. Can you dilute formula with water?

Do not add excess water to dilute the formula feed. Read the directions for making formula and add the recommended amount. Adding excess water can only raise the risk for water intoxication, wherein your baby takes in fewer nutrients than what she should.

4. When can babies drink tap water?

You can start giving tap water from the time you introduce water to your baby but make sure the water is not fluorinated. You can also use a water filter so that filtering removes certain additives such as chlorine and fluoride to keep the tap water fresh (10).

5. Can you give juice to drink?

You may give juices to your baby when they are 12 months old. But ensure it is 100% fruit juice without any added sugars or preservatives, or else it increases the risk of tooth decay. Give as less as four ounces per day, along with a meal or a snack because juice can fill up their tummy. It can also lead to diarrhea, diaper rash and weight gain (11).

We hope our little guide helps you begin the process of introducing water to your baby smoothly. If you have got any more ideas to share, feel free to write them below.

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Dr. Raju C Shah

Dr. Raju Shah is the medical director of the Ankur Institute of Child Health and is a former professor and head of the department of pediatrics at the GCS Medical College, both in Ahmedabad, India. He obtained his MBBS in 1970 and MD in pediatrics in 1974 from the B. J. Medical College in Ahmedabad and trained in vaccinology at... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more