Do Babies Need to Drink Water?

Dear Dr. Manny,

Does my baby need to start drinking water? Is he getting dehydrated? I can’t tell and I don’t know what to do. Will water make him sick, or will it help him? Is breastmilk really all that is needed for a newborn? 

Most babies don’t start drinking water until they turn six months old. Too much water can give them a stomachache. Once your child starts to eat solid food, then they can drink water regularly. For most children, this happens when they turn a year old. 

Water interferes with a newborn’s ability to process nutrients in breast milk or formula. It also fills up the stomach, which causes newborns to feel full. This feeling discourages them from eating more. 

Occasionally, an infant who drinks water can get water intoxication, which can lead to seizures and even comas. Too much water has the power to dilute the amount of sodium in the body, which can lead to depleting electrolytes and also causes tissue to swell. 

If your child drinks formula, then he or she is already consuming some level of water. Do not dilute your child’s bottles with even more water, but adhere to the balance recommended on the package. If a child gets sick and becomes dehydrated, there are infant drinks, such as Pedialyte, which replenish electrolytes. 

Breastmilk is already 88 percent water, so infants are receiving the necessary hydration through the traditional methods of feeding them. If it is very hot outside, and there is a risk of overheating, your pediatrician might recommend that your baby have a little water to stay hydrated. But if your child is exclusively breastfed, then this is not necessary. 

Some of the risks of giving a newborn water include jaundice, weight gain, weight loss, and allergens. 

Don’t worry about your infant getting dehydrated. Breast milk and modern formula supply a newborn with all the nutrients he or she needs.