Can babies have water? That question is common for pediatricians. The answer is yes or no, depending on the age. Babies should not be given plain water until 6 months of age. Until then, only breast milk or formula provides all the fluid and nutrition they need.
Once an infant is 6 months, they only need a few ounces of water daily since they continue to drink a substantial amount of either breast milk or formula. Up to 4-8 ounces of water is enough. Once they are past a year, they can have more and need 4 cups of liquid daily, which can be a total of milk and water.
Older infant drinking a sippy cup of water - this can be offered after 6 months
You can begin to offer water in a sippy cup at 6 months. Offer this after they have had their breast milk or formula. Two to three ounces of water can be offered a few times daily. Water should not replace feeding.
Plain or free water can be harmful for babies under 6 months. Their bodies and kidneys are not yet mature enough to handle water. Drinking plain water can dilute their electrolytes, specifically sodium, leading to hyponatremia (low salt). Hyponatremia can cause weakness, seizures, brain damage, and even death. Young infants don’t need water as older children and adults do - giving them water can be dangerous.
Babies can dehydrate in some situations. Dehydration can occur with illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, fever, or feeling poorly enough that they don’t feed. Also, being in a hot environment can lead to rapid dehydration. Signs of dehydration in babies include a dry mouth without saliva, irritability, lethargy or drowsiness, inability to cry tears, lack of urine output (less frequently than every 3-4 hours), or a depressed soft spot on the top of the head.
Rehydration should be done with an oral rehydration solution specifically for infants, such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or a store brand, not water. This is if your infant has mild dehydration and can take fluids. For concerns about dehydration, it is best to have your infant seen.
Baby drinking a rehydration solution
Parents should only mix formula according to directions or as instructed by their pediatrician. Mixing too much or too little water can be dangerous and lead to problems such as dehydration or water intoxication. First, measure the water into the bottle, then add powdered formula.
Another note on water – parents should consider having tap water tested for lead or other chemicals if they do not have a filtration system. Well-water should also be tested. If you boil water, it should be refrigerated within an hour. Distilled or purified bottled water can also be used.
So, yes, babies can have water once they are old enough, but not before then!