When Can Babies Have Water?

If you’re anything like me, you always have your 40-ounce water bottle on hand and are obsessed with hydration. If this is the case, you may be wondering how to keep your baby as hydrated as you are. Can babies drink water? How much water should they drink, from what kind of vessel, and when can they start?! Here, we will discuss whether babies can drink water and how to keep them hydrated. We will also review how to introduce water to your baby and whether they can have any other drinks.

It may come as a surprise that young babies should not drink any water! Newborns should drink only breast milk or formula — no water. These milks provide the only hydration babies need, and anything other than breast milk or formula at this age can be really harmful.1 Of course, there is nothing inherently toxic about water. You can also use tap water to mix baby formula, but you should boil it first and then cool it for babies under 2 months old.3

Breast milk and infant formula are perfectly formulated to give your baby the right balance of water, electrolytes, and calories. This helps them maintain ideal hydration status and allows them to grow from the calories in their milk.1 Plain water upsets the balance of hydration and nutrition in milk, potentially causing two main issues:

Babies have very small stomachs — about the size of an egg.1 When babies have water, their little bellies can fill up with this calorie-free liquid instead of breast milk or formula. Then, they aren’t hungry for milk, which can potentially cause low blood sugar and poor weight gain.2

In addition to small bellies, babies have very immature kidneys. Kidneys are the organs that filter our blood, maintain proper hydration status, and maintain the balance of our electrolytes. When a baby drinks water, the kidneys may not keep up with its urination. If too much water remains in the blood, it dilutes the salt in the blood. An imbalance of salt in the blood due to excess water can cause seizures and brain damage.1

Other potential negative effects of babies drinking water include:2

  • The bonding is broken
  • Decreased duration of breastfeeding
  • Negative effects on the immune system
  • Increased incidence of physiological jaundice

Babies are very good at responding to their own hunger and thirst. They will eat and drink when they are hungry and stop when they are full.4 It doesn’t hurt to offer your baby more milk if you’re feeling hot and think they could use more fluids than usual. Breast milk contains about 87% water, and formula contains about 85% water, so these milks provide all the hydration and nutrition they need.1

Symptoms of dehydration in babies include:5

  • Does not shed tears when crying
  • Having a sunken soft spot on top of their head
  • Having a dry mouth
  • Decreased number of wet diapers

If you suspect that your baby is slightly dehydrated, offer them their normal breast milk or formula.5 If your baby has signs of severe dehydration, such as irritability, fatigue, or poor feeding, contact your pediatrician right away. Depending on your baby’s age, they may advise continuing breastmilk or formula or using an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte. But they probably want to see your baby or take them to the emergency department to see if they need intravenous fluids.5

Adorable boy sitting on the floor drinking water from his bottle.

Babies can start sucking water at 6 months of age. At this point, water is unlikely to replace most of their hydration. The purpose of introducing water at this age is to familiarize babies with drinking from different types of cups and get them used to the taste.6 From 6-12 months, babies can have up to an 8-ounce cup of water per day. The amount of water they drink should gradually increase as they grow from 1-5 cups per day from age 1-5.6

Once your baby hits the six-month mark and you’re ready to introduce them to some water, here are some considerations:

When offering water to your baby, you can use a straw cup, sippy cup, or open cup:6

Munchkin® Any Angle™ Weighted Straw Trainer Cup with Click Lock™ Lid, 7 Ounce, 2 Count (Pack of 1), Blue/Green

I want Munchkin weighted straw cups because of the soft silicone straw. Others recommend the Honey Bear’s cup of water to teach a baby how to use a straw. However, there’s no need to buy fancy products if they don’t fit your budget! Most grocery stores sell disposable straw cups that you can wash and use again for as little time as your kids need. Straw cups are a good choice because they are healthier for your child’s teeth with long-term use.

Some speech and occupational therapists advise against a regular sippy cup because of tongue positioning, swallowing patterns, and speech and teeth development.7 However, the American Academy of Pediatrics still lists them as a transitional tool until your child can confidently drink from an open cup at age 2.8

PopYum Silicone Training Cup 2-Pack for Baby and Toddler, handles, BPA Free, self feeding training, tumbler (mint green and pastel pink)

Teaching babies how to sip from a open cup is a great experience and lifelong skill.6 You may have to help the baby at first, and there will be some spills, but I was surprised at how quickly my kids learned to use an open cup.

Once you have chosen a cup for your baby, you need to know how much water to put in it. You can offer small amounts of water throughout the day for babies aged 6-12 months.1 The total amount of water for this age range can reach 4-8 ounces per day, but it can be spread throughout the day.6

Although these small amounts of water are unlikely to replace the milk your baby is drinking at this age, it may be best to offer your baby water with food, as they have likely started some solid food at the same time.1 I always used drinking from a straw cup as a fun “activity” when my babies were over 6 months old. If you want to offer the baby a few sips of water or have them practice drinking from a straw at other points throughout the day, the volume is so small that it shouldn’t make a difference.

Photo of a happy little boy holding orange juice in his hands and looking at the camera while sitting outside a coffee shop with his parents

Once you’ve successfully found a cup for your baby and taught them how to drink water, you may be eager to introduce other drinks. However, you should avoid juice before the age of 1 because it provides sugar without any fiber. Once kids get used to drinking sugary juice, getting them to drink plain water can be difficult. Feeding whole fruit is better than serving juice, even if it is 100% fruit juice.6 I know parents who dilute fruit juice with water to make it less sweet.

At age 2, parents may decide to introduce a little juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 ounces a day for children between ages 2 and 3 and no more than 6 ounces per day for children ages 4 and older.6

Parents who feed their babies formula will be happy to know that they can introduce cow’s milk at 12 months of age.6 Talk to your pediatrician about weaning your baby off formula and onto plain cow’s milk.

After your baby only drank breast milk or formula as a newborn, introducing new food and drink to your baby is an exciting activity. Watching them learn a new drinking skill from a cup is fun and sweet! Be sure to wait until 6 months to offer baby water, and wait at least a year before giving them cow’s milk.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button