Many new parents want to know when their baby should start drinking water. This is especially the case if the live in a warm or tropical environment where excessive sweating is common. Some health care professional recommend that babies drink water as well as formula or breast milk, especially in warm climates. Other health care professionals maintain that a baby does not need extra water and is getting enough hydration from breast milk or formula alone. So which information is correct and when should babies start drinking water?
When should babies drink water?
Medical professionals have concluded that it is counterproductive to offer babies water before the age of 6 months. There are a number of different reasons why this is the case. Firstly giving a baby water can negate the body’s ability to fully absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula. This means that a baby may not gain weight or get the full nutritional value from their food due to the diluting effect of water. Water makes it more difficult for the enzymes in the stomach to break down formula or breast milk correctly leading to poor absorption. Giving babies water also fills up their stomachs making the feel that they do not require as much food as they need.
The other reason not to give baby’s water is that there is a risk that young babies can experience water intoxication. This is where too much water is ingested upsetting the electrolyte balance and causing tissues to swell. Too much water dilutes the sodium or salts in the body and causes an imbalance that can result in seizures and in extreme cases, coma. This happens in adults too, but it is fair easier for a baby to overdose on water due to their small size.
Research suggests that the best age to start babies on water is around the 6 month mark when they begin their first solid food. At this age they can be given sips of water when they are thirsty, but it is still recommended that the amount of water offered be carefully monitored. After their first birthday and when they are eating mainly solids and ingesting other liquids they can begin drinking water throughout the day.