Water for Babies and How Advice Changes Over Time

Mother handing baby a glass of water

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that babies can begin drinking water (4 to 8 ounces a day) when they are about 6 months old. Up until that age, infants get all the fluid they need from breast milk or formula.

Fluoridated tap water can also help prevent tooth decay, and this is another reason to introduce extra water into a baby's diet, especially if they are breastfeeding. You can also prepare iron-fortified infant formula with fluoridated water.

Before 6 months, the average healthy baby doesn't need any extra water or fluoride. So if not breastfeeding, use water that has been purified, deionized, demineralized, distilled, or filtered by reverse osmosis to get rid of fluoride to prepare formula. Using fluoridated water in your baby's formula increases the risk of dental fluorosis, the faint white markings on teeth caused by excess fluoride.

Extra Water For Babies

While a younger infant wouldn't usually need extra water, a few ounces of pear or apple juice is sometimes recommended if an infant is constipated. For a younger infant, though, you should usually talk to your pediatrician before giving your baby extra fluids.

Another situation where you would give an older child extra water would be when they were getting overheated, but that shouldn't be happening to a newborn or infant.

If your baby is sick, they might also need extra fluids, but water wouldn't usually be the best choice in that situation. An oral rehydration solution, like Pedialyte, would be better, and again, under the supervision of a pediatrician.

Changing Advice and Opinions

Ideas and opinions over things like this change over the years. There are probably things you do for your baby, who likely turned out just fine, as many grandparents like to remind us, that we don't recommend now.

Some of these things are extremely important, like the new recommendations to keep newborns and infants sleeping on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS, and others are less important, like this one about water or some of the guidelines about the order of introducing solid baby foods.

Are You Being too Helpful?

But also consider how you would feel if you were a new parent raising your first child and someone was there telling you what to do or that your pediatrician was wrong. It is great that you are available to offer your help and expertise, but sometimes it is best to just offer your advice and opinions and why you did it the way you did and let a new parent decide what is best for their baby. Parents need to have confidence in their pediatrician too, and the 'advice of the day' is that you not give water to younger infants unless there is a specific reason to do so.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Recommended drinks for young children ages 0-5. Updated September 18, 2019.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infant formula. Updated November 3, 2015.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant constipation. Updated December 9, 2019.

  4. University of Michigan. Oral rehydration solutions for children. Updated February 26, 2020.