How H2O can harm your baby

How H2O can harm your baby

Some of us love it, some of us don’t…but we all need it: Water.

Well, almost all of us.

It’s a foundation for life, but according to some experts, babies younger than six-months-old should never be given water to drink. Why? Because too much H2O can potentially be life-threatening, says Dr. Harivadan Gandhi, a pediatrician with Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago.

“Babies’ kidneys aren’t mature enough to process large amounts of water properly. Each time your baby urinates, they lose not only water, but sodium and other electrolytes,” Dr. Ghandi says. “Lose too much water and baby loses too much sodium – which can affect brain activity.”

Excess water puts babies at risk for water intoxication, he says. Symptoms of water intoxication can include irritability, brain swelling, unresponsiveness and seizures.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), supplements like water, glucose water and other fluids should not be given to breastfeeding newborns unless ordered by a physician when a medical indication exists.

The risk is especially high if baby is losing water and electrolytes from diarrhea. Dr. Gandhi says fluid loss should be replaced with breast milk or formula, never water. He says that babies generally get all the water they need through breast milk and formula.

Even in hot weather Dr. Gandhi says most babies will do just fine without extra water.

“You can give baby a little extra formula if they seem thirsty, but breast-fed babies are even less likely to need extra water.”

So, when does water become a good thing?

The AAP says that water can be introduced after the immune system has matured and solid foods have started—roughly around six months of age. Breast milk or formula should still be the primary beverages, but if your baby still seems thirsty between feedings, two to four ounces of water between feedings is best.

Dr. Ghandi says that parents should always check with their pediatrician before they start their baby on water.

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  1. With my 1st baby, I breast-fed. My baby developed severe jaundice and had to be hospitalized. They told me I should have given him water, even though no one told me to give him water with breast-feeding. With my 2nd child, I made sure I gave her water as well and there was no problem.

  2. I always thought that the baby’s stomache could only take a little bit of liquid at a time and if you feed them water there won’t be any room left for milk. I didn’t know it could be toxic for them. Thanks for the advice!


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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.