On this page
– When can babies drink water?
– Why is water not suitable for babies younger than 6 months?
– How much fluid does an infant need?
– Healthy and unhealthy drinks.
– How to encourage your child to drink more water.
As a new mum you may be wondering how much fluid does an infant need?
Should you give water to your baby on a hot day? Is my baby getting enough fluids? There are plenty of articles about when to introduce solids, but not so many about how much fluid does an infant need. So here’s what you need to know.
When can babies drink water?
As with adults, teenagers and small children, babies need to be kept adequately hydrated. Newborn babies will be getting all the fluids they need from feeding, whether you breastfeed or use formula. Breastmilk contains about 88% water, so it contains everything your baby needs for nutrition and hydration, up until you start introducing solids. If you are formula feeding make sure you follow the packs instructions to mix the right amount of formula with the right amount of water. Too much water in the mix can mean that your baby is not getting enough nutrients, and may cause your baby to lose, and not gain weight.
The best time to start introducing water to your baby is when you start introducing solids. Offering them small amounts of water will help your baby digest solid foods and avoid constipation.
Why is water not suitable for babies younger than 6 months?
Babies younger than 6 months will be getting all the fluids they need from breast-feeding or formula. Young babies do not need extra water, even on very hot days. They may require extra feeds, but your baby will let you know. As long as you have regular nappy changes with pale yellow urine, then your baby is getting enough fluids.
Babies who are given water supplements from a young age may suffer from the following:
- longer hospital stay for newborns,
- weight loss due to a loss of appetite, and not getting enough calories from breastmilk or formula,
- an increased risk of jaundice due to high bilirubin levels which causes a breakdown of red blood cells,
- too much water given to a young baby may cause ‘water intoxication’ which can be serious.
If in doubt consult your doctor or health worker.
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How much fluid does an infant need?
Infants under 6 months: Breastmilk or formula is all your baby needs. No extra water should be given, unless advised by your doctor. Regular feeds are important and will be determined by each individual baby.
4 – 6 months: Your baby’s fluid intake will still primarily be from either breastmilk or formula. But when you start introducing solids you may want to give your baby a few sips of water to help prevent constipation caused by new ‘solid’ food.
6 – 12 months: Breastmilk or formula should be included in your baby’s diet until they are at least 12 months of age. As their solids intake increases they will require less, but breastmilk and formula should still be their main source of fluids. You can offer small amounts of water in a straw or sippy cup to help with independent feeding.
12 months plus: Your baby should now be drinking a combination of water, breast milk or cows’s milk. You can offer drinks in a cup at meal times, but please avoid juices, fizzy drinks or anything with caffeine or too much sugar. Water intake for toddlers is very important for developing healthy habits at a young age and for keeping hydrated.
Healthy and unhealthy drinks.
Healthy drinks include breast milk and formula, especially for babies under 6 months. As they get older water should be slowly introduced. By 12 months, breastmilk, water, full fat cow’s milk or even sheep’s milk are all considered healthy for your toddler fluid intake. Full fat milk is recommended, as your toddler needs all the nutrients that full fat milk provides to meet his or her growth, development and energy needs.
Unhealthy drinks, or drinks to be avoided include soft or fizzy drinks, cordials, and sports or energy drinks. They all contain huge amounts of sugar and sometimes even caffeine. Too much sugar can lead to obesity and tooth decay. As we all know, caffeine causes energy boosts, which your toddler definitely doesn’t need! Plus caffeine can interrupt your child’s sleep patterns, causing tiredness and irritability.
The surprising drink that is unhealthy for young babies and toddlers is fruit juice. Fruit juice contain a very high level of sugar, acid and very little fibre. Your child does not need the sugar, but the fibre is really good for them. Try and encourage your toddler to eat fruit rather than drink fruit juice. If your child does drink juice, it’s better to make it yourself as then you know there is no added sugar. Use a blender and not a juicer to retain more fibre and dilute the juice with plenty of water.
When introducing new foods or fluids remember to watch out for any allergic reactions. For more information about food allergies and babies please check out our blog here.
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How to encourage your child to drink more water.
It’s not just about your child, everyone in the family should be encouraged to drink more water. The following are some great tips to include in your daily routine:
- Lead by example, if your children see you drinking water they are more likely to follow.
- Have water on the table at meal times.
- Keep a jug of chilled water in your fridge at all times.
- Make water easily accessible by having water bottles available for everyone in the family.
- Take water bottles for you and your baby with you whenever you leave the house.
Water for children, from toddler to teenager, is the healthiest way to stay hydrated, especially on hot days or when your child is running around or doing strenuous exercise.
Almroth S, Bidinger PD. No need for water supplementation for exclusively breast-fed infants under hot and arid conditions. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1990;84:602-604. [This study took place in India at temperatures from 35-40°C and relative humidity of 10-35%.]
Cohen RJ, Brown KH, Rivera LL, Dewey KG. Exclusively breastfed, low birthweight term infants do not need supplemental water. Acta Paediatr. 2000 May; 89(5): 550-2. [This study took place in Honduras at temperatures from 22-36°C and relative humidity of 37-86%.]
Healthy drinks for kids and teenagers
Dietitians Association of Australia (2011). A modelling system to inform the revision of the Australian guide to healthy eating. Canberra: NHMRC. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
American Academy of Pediatrics (Hyponatremic seizures secondary to oral water intoxication in infancy). Opens in a new window.Australian Breastfeeding Association (Keeping baby cool in the heat). Opens in a new window.National Health and Medical Research Council (Infant feeding guidelines). Opens in a new window.NSW Health (Babies and children in hot weather). Opens in a new window.Raising Children Network (Fever). Opens in a new window.Raising Children Network (Healthy drinks for kids and teenagers). Opens in a new window.Royal Children’s Hospital (Guide to foods for baby’s first year). Opens in a new window.World Health Organization (Why can’t we give water to a breastfeeding baby before 6 months, even when it is hot?)