It's so hard to know what your baby needs when they can not yet tell you. You don't want them to be uncomfortable, hungry or thirsty.
When you thus get suggestions from well-meaning family members and friends, to offer your baby a bottle of water, you might wonder if you should.
But is it needed or even safe?
The World Health Organization confirms that babies under the age of 6 months should not receive any other food or drink, other than breastmilk or formula. That means not even water.
Now I know what you are thinking;
"I'm sure they don't mean MY baby" - They do.
"But surely it doesn't apply to VERY hot days" - It does.
"But a bottle of water won't be THAT dangerous" - It is.
Firstly, your baby does not need any water before 6 months because your breastmilk changes constantly to accommodate your baby's needs, even on hot days. The water content of your breastmilk is thus always sufficient. If you are formula-feeding, the water content of the formula bottles also satisfy your baby's needs.
The water content of the breastmilk and formula provides their daily need for water and meets their maximum daily limit.
Furthermore, adding a bottle of water to their diet is not only dangerous, (more on that in a bit) it will also interfere with their needed daily breastmilk / formula intake.
For breastfeeding mothers, it can cause a drop in breastmilk supply, seeing as the water is replacing feeds and lowering the demand, having a drop in supply as result.
Giving even one bottle of water has the potential to be deadly. I'm not being dramatic. I'm referring to the very serious, life threatening medical condition called water intoxication.
Water Intoxication is a medical condition where their immature kidneys are unable to tolerate the excess water, releasing the excess water along with their body's required sodium into their bloodstream, causing the delicate electrolytes balance in a baby’s bloodstream to become diluted.
The consequences are that their normal bodily functions become inhibited, affecting brain activity and leading to;
⏺ Other mental changes
⏺ Low body temperature
⏺ Puffiness or swelling in the face
⏺ Seizures that can cause permanent brain damage or death.
While water intoxication may not happen to every baby, it does happen.
I recall a news article I read last year, about a baby that received a bottle of water from his grandmother because she did not take the mom's warning to heart, since she had given her own children water bottles when they were little, and they had turned out fine. Unfortunately that evening the baby began to have seizures and his parents rushed him to the emergency room, but the outcome was tragic.
This however doesn't mean your child will NEVER have water.
Babies between 6 to 12 months can have a maximum of 2 oz / 60ml of other fluids per day. That means; in addition to their breastmilk / formula. The 60ml total includes all other fluids eg. Water, teas and diluted juice.
It's not a must tho. Many breastfeeding mothers choose to offer sips of expressed breastmilk with meals rather than tea or water. The water is mostly necessary for sips of fluids with dry meals and babies often don't finish their 60ml per day, only sipping on it occasionally.
After the age of 1, you can offer them water and let them drink to thirst.
It is important to remember to properly prepare water for your baby. You can either offer cooled boiled water or bottled water. Although I have heard that some bottled water have high sodium content, so perhaps just check the lable.
I myself sometimes offered expressed breastmilk in a cup with very dry snacks. E.g. Bread or rusks. Since breastmilk remains a baby's main source of nutrition until 1 year, I would nurse 30min before meal time, offer some expressed breastmilk if needed, or just nurse directly after a meal as well.
Mostly because I don't have a breastpump and hand expressing can be a pain in the...boob. So I would just offer it directly from the source.
Closer to a year, I would fill up a cup with the 60ml of water and then place it within reach during the day. Baby would then go and have occasional sips of water between playing. It is quite adorable.
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