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Do I need to give my baby water?

Do I need to give my baby water?

Depending on where you are, it is starting to get hot and you might wonder what you should do. Adults are advised to be careful with their hydration and increase the amount of water they drink to stay well hydrated, but what about babies? Should we offer them water too or is this not necessary? 

Here we answer all your questions!

Firstly, recommendations about offering water to a baby are very different depending on whether your baby is older or younger than 6 months. 

My baby is less than 6 months old, should I offer water?

Babies need to be a little more hydrated than adults. Therefore, the largest component of breastmilk is water. Between 85-88% of breastmilk is water. So when a baby is exclusively breastfed on demand, she or he is getting all the water she needs and, in addition, this amount of water is well complemented by essential nutrients for her optimal development. 

But if I give my baby a little bit of water, nothing will happen either, right?

If you have given your baby a tiny bit of water, it is probably ok, but you should know that it is not recommended or necessary to offer water before your baby is 6 months old. 

When a baby drinks water, even if it seems like a small amount, you are filling her stomach and therefore she is likely to suckle less on the breast, which is counterproductive for breastfeeding.

Later, this excess water will be eliminated in the baby’s urine, which also implies a loss of sodium and electrolytes and can compromise the baby’s health. 

In addition, the water could be contaminated, depending on where you live. While this is unlikely in most developed countries, it can still happen, and this could cause diarrhoea in your baby. 

For all these reasons, it is not advisable or healthy to give water to a baby under 6 months old. 

What if I am breastfeeding on a schedule?

It is not recommended to breastfeed on a schedule and the general guideline is to breastfeed on demand. However, if you breastfeed your baby in a routine and it is very hot, it is important to closely watch your baby and perhaps consider being more flexible with the timetable. If your baby asks to breastfeed before three hours have passed and it is hot, keep in mind that she may be thirsty and is asking for more hydration. 

My baby is over 6 months old, do I need to offer water?

Yes. From the age of 6 months, or with the start of introducing solids, your baby is ready for extra water in her diet. You can offer her the breast whenever you want and also give her water throughout the day and see how she responds.

My baby is less than 6 months old and does not breastfeed, but has formula milk, should I offer water?

No. Formula-fed babies under 6 months of age do not need to be given extra water either. If you have made up a bottle according to the manufacturer’s instructions, your baby will also drink all the water she needs. It is very important that you do not change the amount of water and powder when you make up bottles, just because it is warmer, as this can endanger your baby’s health. 

I offer my 7-month-old baby water but she doesn’t want it, should I force her to drink?

No. Just as we should never force a baby to eat, we should not force them to drink either. It is best to keep offering water and let them regulate themselves. There are babies who love water and others who refuse it because they have enough water in their milk. Both of these situations are normal, so keep offering water and listen to your baby’s needs.

On the other hand, you can also try to offer water in different cups, so your baby can try them out and get used to them. If your baby is not comfortable with a cup, sometimes special baby cups can help, which allows them to regulate the amount of water they drink a little easier.

Should I give my baby water in a bottle?

Not necessarily, especially if your baby has never had a bottle. Ideally, they should learn to drink just as adults do, from a cup. Sometimes they do not yet have good hand-eye coordination and can bathe themselves in water every time they try to drink. Therefore, specific learning cups are useful to help babies learn to drink from a cup without getting soaked every time they try. 

Do you have any more questions?

If you have any more questions about breastfeeding and motherhood, we can help. Please download our free app, LactApp for iPhone or Android. In the contact section of the app, you can find an in-app consultation channel, where our experts will answer your questions.

References:

World Health Organisation – “Why can’t we give water to a breastfeeding baby before the 6 months, even when it is hot? https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/breastfeeding

Australian Breastfeeding Association: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/you-and-your-breastfed-baby/cool

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