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When to give your baby water for the first time: Here’s what you need to know first

Your new born baby’s system cannot handle water during their first months. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when giving your baby water to drink for the first time!

It is a well-known fact that water is essential to sustain life and no living being can live without it. However, when it comes to babies below six months of age, the rules of drinking water differ significantly. Read on to find out when to give baby water for the first time, how often and in what quantities.

Why newborns shouldn’t consume too much water

Water contains no calories but can still fill you up. The same can be said about your baby’s body. Water can cause your little one to feel full and lose interest in milk. It can also result in weight loss and a rise in bilirubin levels. Additionally, your baby’s kidneys are still not fully capable of handling too much fluid. Feeding your baby water will cause their kidneys to flush out sodium and essential electrolytes, causing potential dehydration as well as an electrolyte imbalance.

When to give baby water?

Many expectant and new parents are not aware of when to introduce water into their baby’s diet, or that they don’t need to at all until nine months. An infant’s water requirement varies according to age and giving them too much water early on can cause multiple side effects. Here’s when to give baby water at different stages of growth and how much.

1. Birth to four months

From birth until four months of age, you do not need to wonder when to give baby water. This is because your baby’s diet consists exclusively of breastmilk. A mother’s breastmilk is, without doubt, a superfood and meets all the dietary and fluid requirements your little one needs. In short, you don’t need to worry about when to give baby water as long as you are nursing on demand.

Even if you formula-feed your baby, your little one still will not require additional water. Infant formulas have specific instructions about the amount of water to be added for proper dilution. Following these instructions will keep your baby sufficiently hydrated. During this time, your baby should not consume more than 30 ml of water. Baby dehydration is extremely rare as long as they are fed with either breastmilk or formula feed at regular intervals.

2. Five to eight months

While there is no hard and fast rule of when to give baby water during the five to eight month period, until the age of six months, there is no need for your little one to drink water. Babies usually start making the transition from a breastmilk-exclusive diet to solid food between five to eight months. During this time, you can introduce water in a sippy cup to your baby a few times a day. This needn’t be too frequent, considering you are still giving them a combination of either breastmilk or formula feed and solid food.


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3. Nine months to one year

Once your baby turns a year or so old, you can continue breastfeeding and give them water or a little diluted fruit juice at mealtimes. The expert-recommended amount of water to give your baby at this stage is only two ounces per 24 hours. Any more will only interfere with your baby’s milk intake which is still crucial at this stage. Remember to avoid fizzy drinks or liquids with artificial sweeteners or added sugars. Once your little one transitions entirely to solid food, you can give them a little more water without replacing breastmilk or formula feed. When your baby approaches their first birthday you can further increase their water intake according to an increase in their activity levels.

4. 12 months and over

Once your baby has completed a year, their milk intake has reduced and solid food consumption will consist of three full meals a day plus a few healthy snacks. At this age, your little one’s physical activity levels would have gone up as well, naturally increasing their consumption of water. Experts recommend at this stage that toddlers get no more than 1.3 litres per day. Remember, you don’t need to restrict them to just water. All fluid intake including milk and juices count.

If you are experiencing some trouble in getting your little toddler to drink enough fluids, then try giving it to them in colourful sippy cups or giving them water-rich foods like orange segments, watermelon, grapes, etc instead.

Water intoxication in babies

Too much water doesn’t cause irreparable damage in adults, but the same can’t be said for your baby. If you’re wondering when to give baby water, remember that for infants below six months, too much water interferes with their body’s natural ability to draw nourishment from breastmilk or formula feed.

As mentioned before, up until their first year, your baby’s kidneys cannot handle large quantities of water and consuming too much can lead to a condition called water intoxication. Water intoxication can occur due to the consumption of even 240 ml of water in a day. Water intoxication manifests itself through multiple symptoms including:

  • Blurry vision
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy and drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Low body temperature (less than 97°F)
  • Seizures (twitching of facial muscles, lips smacking, rolled-back eyes, rhythmic jerking movements in the arms and legs)

Water intoxication is also the reason paediatricians advise against taking your baby swimming. The possibility of them gulping large amounts of water is extremely high, increasing their chances of water intoxication and resulting in a medical emergency.

Water is an indispensable source of survival for all living beings. As adults, we are always advised to drink plenty of water each day to meet our daily dietary and fluid requirements for optimal health, but it isn’t the same with our babies.

If you’re wondering when to give baby water for the first time or when it would be the right time depending on their age, do not hesitate to connect with the city’s top paediatricians at mfine.

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