Baby Water Supplement Feeding Guidelines

Baby drinking water from bottle
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Is the weather hot? Or are you hoping to get your baby to "like" to drink water as a lifetime habit? Before you offer your baby water, be sure you know what the recommendations are around giving water as a supplement to breast milk or formula.

At What Age Can Babies Drink Water?

There are different ideas swirling around out there on what the appropriate age is to give babies water. What it all boils down to (pardon the pun) is this: Do not offer water before 4 to 6 months of age, unless your doctor specifically recommends it for a health concern.

Why not? Well, provided you are breastfeeding on demand or offering enough infant formula your baby will get the appropriate amount of hydration from that. And because breast milk and formula provide important nutrition along with hydration, you don't want your baby to opt for hydration without nutrition before they're at an age when they're getting nutrition from food sources.

Offering water before 4 to 6 months of age could lead to other problems, such as:

  • Weight loss or insufficient weight gain in the infant, since baby could fill up on energy- and nutrient-free water and drink less breast milk or formula.
  • A decrease in mother's breast milk supply because baby drinks more water and thus nurses less.
  • Water intoxication: Though not all that common, water intoxication is a serious issue that happens when someone (baby or adult) drinks too much water, which throws off the balance of salts in the blood. This can lead to seizures and even death. Help guard against this by never diluting formula with extra water, and always watching small children closely in pools and bathtubs to make sure they are not ingesting large amounts of water (especially if they are playing with cups in the water).

How Much Water Can Babies Have?

When your baby is ready for solid foods, you might consider offering small amounts of water with meals, in a cup so that baby can try sipping. This isn't meant to provide hydration, since breast milk and formula will do that. But it is a way for babies to practice drinking from a cup and advance their swallowing skills.

Well, Can My Baby Have Juice Instead?

So, it's a "no" for water before 6 months of age, but what about juice? Well, it's pretty much the same answer there, except the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not giving babies juice at all in the first year. The AAP recommends that when your baby is ready to drink something other than infant formula or breast milk, it may be wise to encourage water as an option over juice. Encouraging your baby to practice drinking from a cup and then to choose water to hydrate when they're a toddler is a good life habit to establish.

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