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 recommended 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. Further, 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 the baby could fill up on calorie-free, fat-free water, he’ll drink less breastmilk or formula.
- In newborns, research reveals that water supplements are connected to an increased risk of jaundice.
- A decrease in mother’s breastmilk 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.
How Much Water Can Babies Have?
Likely when your baby is ready for solid foods you might consider offering small amounts of water (2 ounces or so) in a cup with his meal.
Why a cup? Well, babies were designed with a strong suck reflex. Nature expects that what a baby sucks in would have a nutritional value. That’s not the case with water. Further, drinking from a cup is all a part of eventually weaning from a bottle. It’s simply an easy way to slowly begin that transition.
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. In fact, when your baby is ready to drink something other than infant formula or breastmilk, it may be wise to encourage water as an option over juice. As it is, adults often don’t get the daily water intake that they need. Encouraging your baby to drink water in appropriate amounts is a good life habit to build upon.