“Drink your water – it’s good for you!” How many times have you heard that in your life? And it’s true, but not for newborns. In fact, giving a newborn water can actually be harmful.
Babies Don’t Need Water
Part of the reason you shouldn’t give newborns water is because they simply don’t need it. They drink often, even if it isn’t that much at one time, so there’s not much danger of dehydration. They get all the hydration and nutrition they need through breastfeeding or formula. If you’re feeding your baby formula, it’s important to remember to always follow the instructions for proper mixing procedures – don’t try to stretch the formula by adding too much water. The measurements have been studied and presented the way they are on the packaging for a reason. In fact, unless your pediatrician says otherwise, it’s recommended your baby only be given breast milk or formula until at least 6 months after birth.
They’re Growing! They Need All the Nutrients They Can Get!
I probably don’t have to tell you how packed full of nutrients breast milk is – not only will it provide all the nutrients newborns need in these important formative months, but it also passes along invaluable antibodies to help them fight off illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria. Breast milk has been shown to help protect against ear infections, upper and lower respiratory issues, colds, viruses, staph, strep, allergies, E. Coli infections, and Type 2 diabetes, among other issues. Formula is also a good source of important nutrients for growing babies. Even if your infant showed an interest in water, you wouldn’t want them to waste valuable tummy space on something that isn’t contributing to their overall health or well-being the way breast milk or formula do.
Water Intoxication Is Real and Can Cause Death
There are well-documented cases of adults dying after forcing themselves to drink too much water. When someone consumes too much water, it causes a disturbance in brain function because the body’s balance of electrolytes are off. This is called water intoxication, water poisoning, hyperhydration, overhydration, or water toxemia. It takes an awful lot of water for an adult to suffer from water intoxication. An adult has to push themselves past a normal level of thirst – it’s almost always a forced action. But with a newborn, it doesn’t take nearly as much water, so refraining from giving an infant water is definitely better, especially considering there are better, more nutritious options available. While water intoxication in newborns is rare, it’s still important to know it’s a possibility.
So remember – while water will be an instrumental component of your child’s diet as he or she gets older, stick with breast milk or formula, unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise, at least until 6 months old.
Dr. Wright is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Summer Creek Clinic in Humble. Child obesity, newborn care, and ADHD are among her top clinical interests. Being around kids makes every day at work fun for her.