Water seems like the most natural drink for anyone at any age, right? After all, our bodies are mostly made up of water. Even though that’s true, and water is the best source of hydration for kids and adults, babies don’t need water until they’re bodies are ready for it. Check out these guidelines by age milestone for when to introduce water and how much your baby really needs.
The simple answer is: No. Healthy newborns who are exclusively breastfed or formula-fed do not need any water because the breastmilk or formula is meeting all of their hydration needs. In fact, giving them water can actually do more harm than good because their kidneys are still developing, and they simply cannot handle anything other than breastmilk or formula. So, hold off on the water for now (and everything other than breastmilk or formula).
When your baby starts eating solid foods (typically around the 4- to 6-month mark), it can be beneficial to give her a few sips of water with meals to help prevent constipation. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when introducing water at this age:
- Just a few sips of water over the course of the day are plenty. Your baby is still getting most of her fluids from breastmilk or formula, and there’s water in the pureed baby food she’s now eating too.
- Offer the water in a cup (with your help) so she gets used to drinking from one. Water is a great choice when learning to use the cup (over breastmilk or formula) since we can almost guarantee there will be spills!
Now that your baby is eating more solid foods, you can continue to give him sips of water with meals. This is also a great time to start letting your baby have a few ounces of water in between meals in a spout sippy or straw sippy cup—especially when spending time in hot weather. Just remember that your baby only needs breastmilk, formula or water to drink. That’s all!
It’s important that your baby learns to like the taste of plain water now; otherwise, it’ll be that much more difficult to get her to drink it later. Plus, she doesn’t need anything else. She’s still too young to drink cow’s milk, and sweet drinks (such as juice, sweet tea, soda or flavored water) simply aren’t good for her. Not only will sweet drinks, like juice, teach her to expect her drinks to always taste sweet, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no juice before the age of 1 because it can lead to:
- Poor nutrition
- Increased risk of tooth decay
- Increased risk of diarrhea, gas and bloating
- Increased risk of exposure to bacteria in unpasteurized juices