When Babies Can Drink Water and How to Introduce It

Posted by Jane Springston on

You know from day one your baby is going to take in breastmilk or formula as their main nutrition for the next year of life. You also probably know that it’s suggested to introduce solid foods to your baby around six months. But what about water? Adults and kids drink it everyday, but when can babies start drinking water?

Your baby should not have water until they are six months old. All of the nutrition and hydration your baby needs in their first six months of life will come in the form of breastmilk or formula. In fact, it can be dangerous to give your baby water earlier than 6 months, as outlined by the AAP.

Here we’ll discuss why it’s important to wait 6 months to give your baby to water, and how to introduce it appropriately when it’s time.

Why Giving a Young Infant Water Can Be Dangerous

Though we never want to make you fearful as a parent, there are important guidelines that you need to follow to give your baby the best care. Though we could stop at telling you to wait until your baby is six months old to give your baby water, we think it’s best that you understand why. Because you wouldn’t think giving water to a human could be dangerous, but for a baby between 0 and 6 months, it actually can be.

Healthline Parenthood outlines why you shouldn’t give a baby water at that age. Here are the main reasons:

  1. Water Becomes a Substitute for Proper Nutrition - When you consider how small a baby’s tummy is, only able to hold around 1 - 5 ounces of breastmilk or formula depending on age, it’s easy to see why you wouldn’t want to use up any of that precious space with water. Though water is healthy for adults, it’s not giving any nutrients to your baby, and on its own, is pretty useless. They get all the water they need from breastmilk or formula. 

  2. A Baby’s Kidneys Can’t Handle Too Much Water - Hyponatremia is a condition that people can get when they drink more water than their kidneys can handle. Though it’s extremely rare for this to happen in adults, it can happen much more easily to a baby because they don’t have the ability to process water as easily. Ultimately, it’s way too easy to give your baby too much water, which can be toxic.

How to avoid this? DON’T give your baby any water until they are six months old. 

If you are unsure about this or have questions, we urge you to reach out to your baby’s pediatrician.

For those first six months, you're just focusing on giving your baby the best breastfeeding and bottle experience you can, whether that's giving them the warm milk they love or lots of cuddles and snuggles while you feed them. Honestly, isn't it refreshing that there's one less thing to worry about?

RELATED: Best Bottles for Newborns

Do babies need water if it's hot out?

It’s a valid question to wonder if you should be giving your young baby water on a hot day. 

But the “rule” doesn’t change just because the temperature rises. 

Instead, it’s likely that your baby will want to nurse more or require more formula. This a big reason why it’s important to follow your baby’s lead when it comes to feeding. They know when they’re hungry and they know when they’re thirsty. So if it’s hot out, be extra mindful of your child’s hunger cues, so you can be sure that they are properly fed and hydrated.

They don’t need any extra water. 

Even if your baby has a fever, they should not have water. This is another time it’s really important to feed on demand and make sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk or formula.

Again, if you’re ever in doubt, we suggest you always call your child’s pediatrician for the best advice.

How to Safely Introduce Water at Six Months

Your baby doesn’t turn six months and suddenly need a bunch of water. And even at the age of one, the amount of water you’ll want to be giving your baby is still minimal. So, let’s talk about how much water a baby between 6 and 12 months needs, and how you can be sure you’re not giving them too much.

Until age 1, breastmilk and formula are your baby’s prime source of nutrition. In fact, that is all they actually need. Though it’s great to introduce a baby to solids between 6 and 8 months of age, you actually don’t HAVE to. Food before one is *mostly* for fun. Yes, it gives some benefit and vitamins, but a baby can thrive off breastmilk and formula until their first birthday. Water is no different.

But, just like offering solids, getting your baby introduced to water through sips at a time can be a good thing. Remember, you are just supplementing at this age, not giving your baby full bottles of water. Here is a good guide to how much water your baby can have between 6 and 12 months.

6 - 8 Months: Offer 1 - 3 ounces per day

8-10 Months: Offer 2 - 4 ounces per day

10 - 12 Months: Offer 4 - 8 ounces per day

Notice how we said the word “offer.” Your baby, especially in the very beginning, may drink hardly any water at all. 

These are the two reasons your baby may not drink any extra water initially:

  1. Remember, your baby should still be getting properly hydrated from breastmilk or formula. They may just feel the need to take in more fluids than they’re already getting from that. And that’s fine!
  2. We’ll cover this, but you’re going to want to introduce this water from a sippy cup. And for those first 1 - 2 months that you’re giving your baby the sippy cup, it’s very likely that not much of it will actually make it into their mouth.

A good place to start with water introduction is by placing a sippy cup of water with about 2 ounces of water on your child’s tray as you begin to introduce solid foods. You can try to offer sips from the sippy cup while gradually teaching them how to hold it, but they may refuse to drink or throw the cup on the floor. That’s okay! 

Your baby is learning a lot at this age, including how to keep food in their mouths, too. So don’t be surprised if they don’t want to have anything to do with the sippy cup at first. Just know that you’re making a bit of progress everyday toward them becoming an independent drinker. It takes time. 

And if you want to wait a few weeks to introduce the sippy cup of water just to focus on starting solid foods instead, that works, too. The AAP recommends that a sippy cup be introduced between 6 and 9 months, so if you want to wait a bit longer or if your baby isn’t showing any interest, feel free to give it a rest for a few weeks.

Do I need to give my baby water when she/he turns six months old?

There isn't any reason that you must give your baby water at six months old. It's perfectly fine to wait a few months longer before introducing any water at all.

However, because 8 ounces of water per day is suggested for a one-year-old, we do recommend staring the water introduction process via a sippy cup by around 9 or 10 months. That will give them plenty of time to get adjusted to the idea of drinking something other than breastmilk or formula, while also adjusting to drinking from something other than a breast or bottle.

What kind of water should I give my 6 - 12-month-old baby?

If you do decide to give your baby water between the ages of 6 and 12 months, you might be wondering what kind of water they should be drinking.

At this point, you can follow the same guidelines that are given for the best water to use to prepare infant formula. The Mayo Clinic writes that it’s fine to give a baby any type of clean water whether that’s tap or bottled. If the tap water in your area is safe for you to drink, then it’s safe for your baby to drink, too.

If you are unsure about the purity of your water, use these instructions from Wikihow to get it tested. Tap water is generally ideal because of the fluoride it contains, but you can also find bottle water with added fluoride. 

You should NOT give your baby carbonated water. As far as any other drinks? Juice or other beverages should not be given to your baby until they are at least one year of age.

To sum up: ONLY breastmilk and/or formula until 6 months. Between 6 and 12 monhts, keep that as their main nutrition and hydration until the age of one, but feel free to offer sips of water now and then as needed!

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