What a difference a few weeks make! You probably feel more like a seasoned pro than a fumbling first-timer. You can burp your baby with the best of them, and feedings aren’t as fraught with anxiety as they were just a mere month ago. And you’ve probably also gotten pretty adept at ignoring all the (uninvited) baby advice of strangers (or relatives!) that you don’t need (with a smile, of course). Despite your newfound confidence (at least on your good days), it’s hard not to fall prey to other people’s suggestions when you’re not sure of the information. So, if your mom or mother-in-law advises you to give your infant extra water (“She’ll get dehydrated in the hot sun without it!”), and you’re unsure about the latest advice on giving water to a baby, you may be tempted to give it a try. Here’s why you should turn away from the temptation:
Breast milk or formula is enough for young babies. Despite what well-meaning family members might say, experts now know that until your baby starts eating solid foods, infants get all the water they need from breast milk or formula. That’s right — both breast milk and/or formula will keep your infant plenty hydrated, even on steamy summer days when you might be wondering if you should offer your little hottie a cool sip of water. The only exception to the rule about not giving water to a baby this age is if the infant is sick and is losing fluids due to diarrhea or vomiting. (But ask your pediatrician about this first.)
Giving water to a baby can actually harm her. Unless she’s very sick, a baby who satisfies her appetite (and her need to suck) with bottles of water will miss out on the nutrition she needs from her feedings. If done regularly, this can cause weight loss, and in the case of breast-fed babies, it can decrease your breast-milk supply. Giving water to a baby in large amounts can even lead to oral water intoxication, a condition in which the electrolytes (such as sodium) in a baby’s bloodstream become diluted, inhibiting normal bodily functions and leading to dangerous problems such as low body temperature or seizures.
Just say no to juice too. Not only will it fill up your infant’s tiny tummy (leaving no room for milk), but also the sugar in juice can cause stomach cramping and diarrhea in young babies.
When can you start giving water to a baby, then? Most experts suggest that you wait until you’ve started feeding solids to your baby, when she’s between four and six months old. At that point, you can talk with your pediatrician about how much H2O to serve up to your little one. As for juice, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you hold off until your baby is six months old, and then, that you limit the quantity to four ounces a day. To make sure you don’t overdo it on juice (and that you don’t decay your tot’s few teeth), dilute it with water (half-and-half anyone?), and avoid giving the sweet stuff to your sweetie right before bed. But for now, though, just stick with breast milk or formula.