Babies’ first food is liquid—whether that’s breast milk or formula, and most babies don’t start solids until they are six months old. They get all the nutrients they need from breast milk and don’t need any extra fluids, even in hot weather conditions. After 6 months, and when you start weaning your baby onto solids, your baby may have less appetite for milk so you can add small amounts of water to your diet.
Why shouldn’t I give my baby water before six months? Breast milk or formula is your baby’s food and drink at this age. It’s all they need. It can cause your baby to drink less breast milk and lose nutrition. This may put them in danger of not getting enough milk or formula to grow properly. Giving a lot of water or excessively diluted formula to your baby over a short period of time can also make them very sick. A condition known as water intoxication can happen this is when sodium becomes diluted in the baby’s bloodstream, causing tissues to swell and resulting in dangerous brain activity interference.
When can I give water to my baby? You can offer small amounts of cooled boiled tap water if your baby is about 6 months old, but you should not replace their breast milk or formula feeds. Their main drink should still be breast milk or formula up to 12 months of age. Their main drink after 12 months should be the milk or breast milk of water and cow. Water and milk can be offered in a cup. Once your baby is 12 months old, there is no need to boil tap water. If your baby has just started on solids, start eating with a couple of sips of water from a cup. This is so that they can learn about drinking from a cup and because of the increased bulk of their poo; it can also help prevent constipation. The goal is to get them used to drinking from a cup because from 12 months on this will be their main way to drink.
How can I keep my baby hydrated without giving them water? It is important to offer your young baby more frequent breastfeeds or bottle feeds in hot weather. Unless recommended by a doctor, water is usually not needed for babies under the age of 6 months. In fact, breast milk is 80 percent water so you can feed them whenever you feel your baby is thirsty and be sure they get all the hydration and nutrients they need. Your baby may want to drink for shorter periods than usual. You should also make sure that you drink enough water when you are breastfeeding. In order to make breastfeeding more comfortable in hot weather for you and your child: place a towel, sheet or pillowcase between yourself and your baby and lie down to breastfeed to reduce skin contact. If they have 6 to 8 pale wet nappies over 24 hours, your baby is properly hydrated.
It can be hard to know how much milk your baby gets so judge if you think the number of wet nappies your baby gets enough milk. If you’re concerned that your baby won’t get enough milk, talk to your paediatrician as soon as possible.