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Why Can't Babies Have Water? How to Know if They are Ready

mother helping baby drink

When it is hot outside, you are ready to get quick hydration. You might want to give your baby a little water, but that could be a mistake. If your infant is under six months, hydration should come from formula or breast milk. Let's look at a few reasons why babies should have water. 

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Nutrition Interference

Babies have small stomachs. A baby's belly can only hold about 1 to 2 teaspoons when they are born. Plus, these tummies tend to empty fast, so they need many feedings throughout the day and night. With that limited space, you need to fill it with nutrient-rich formula or breast milk

Water is fine for children and adults, but there is no nutritional value for those little ones. As soon as the stomach fills up, there is no room for minerals, fat, vitamins, or calories, causing problems for development and growth. 

After six months, your baby's stomach will grow. They will have a stomach capacity of 7 ounces by one year of age. However, even as your baby's stomach expands, you still want to watch the amount of water consumption. It is okay to give them a taste of water, but you never want to use it for hydration. Remember that formula and breast milk are hydrating and nutritious, and they should be the sources used to help them thrive and grow

Related: Can You Overfeed Your Baby? How Much Is Too Much Breast Milk 

Water Intoxication

You might not have been aware of this, but water can cause intoxication in the body. If anyone drinks water in large quantities, it can lead to water intoxication. Keep in mind that age and size play a role in whether someone will experience this ailment. An adult with healthy kidneys will have to drink several liters of water to develop water intoxication. 

This condition can occur when the kidneys are given more water than they can handle. All of that excess water ends up in the bloodstream, diluting the fluid and lowering the concentration of electrolytes. Sodium is one of those virtual electrolytes, and when it is diluted, a person could be at risk for hyponatremia. 

Since those problems can occur in adults, think about what can happen to a baby. An infant's kidneys can't handle high amounts of water. Along with that, these kidneys are not developed and cannot process water. 

Giving a baby younger than six months a moderate amount of water could lead to hyponatremia. This ailment can be deadly for infants, causing brain swelling and death. Since the brain is still developing, the swelling can occur more easily in a baby than in a fully grown adult. 

With a small stomach, immature kidneys, and developing brain, it could be fatal if you give babies water under the age of six months. 

Related: How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night 

Keep a Lookout

For the most part, parents are not filling up water bottles and allowing their infants to drink. There are other risks for your baby. For example, a swimming pool can lead to these problems. Most swimming schools will not accept students under the age of six months, but some will allow classes for those young swimmers at four months. While you will want to introduce a baby to water, you need to take the proper precautions. If the baby swallows too much pool water, that can lead to water intoxication. 

mother feeding baby

Think twice about diluting breast milk or formula with water. You might want to mix a little water into your baby's formula on a hot day, but that is never a good idea. Doing that can deprive your baby of those vital nutrients and cause them to get more water than those little kidneys can handle. 

On their own, breast milk and formula are rich in calories. As a result, they will stay in your baby's body longer and not overwhelm the kidneys. In addition to that, formula and breast milk do a great job of keeping your little one hydrated - all without the help of water. 

When Can Your Baby Have Water?

When your baby is six months old, it is acceptable to introduce a small amount of water - nothing more than a tablespoon. Yes, your little one can get a taste of water, but always keep breast milk and formula as the primary source of hydration. For the most part, babies will only see water as a novelty and still reach for their milk. Some might even try to avoid the taste of water in favor of the tasty formula or breast milk. 

Once your baby reaches the age of one, they can have a larger quantity of water, but make sure that your toddler has it with a nutritious diet and milk

doctor examining baby

Always Talk To Your Doctor

If you have any concerns about your baby's readiness for water or hydration needs, talk to your doctor. There are many reasons why you may want to wait to introduce your little one to water. Remember, there is no health reason to give your baby water; it is just to expose them to this new fluid. 

Water intoxication in babies is serious, and you will want to watch out for a few symptoms. If you notice these signs, head to the hospital, such as:

  • inconsolable crying
  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • seizures
  • tremors

Related: Feeding Chart For Babies: What You Should Know 

Skip Water for Your Baby

For the most part, you will want to skip the water. Stick to formula or breast milk. Eventually, your little one will be ready, and then you should provide them with water to meet their hydration needs. 

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