A healthy adult requires approximately 2 litres of water per day. How about newborns and babies? Does your baby require water? Is your breastmilk or formula milk sufficient to keep them hydrated in this hot and humid weather?
The answer is NO!
Breastmilk itself contains more than 80% of water and it is JUST what a newborn needs. If you have been following the instruction on the formula tin accurately, your formula-fed baby will be receiving sufficient water intake too. In any cases that you suspect that your baby is thirsty or dehydrated such as a decrease in wet nappies, dry mouth, no tears when crying, you can breastfeed your baby to ensure they are kept hydrated and full. Giving water to your newborn can actually harm them!
Over-diluted formula milk can also lead to water intoxication in babies.
Providing water to newborns under 5 weeks old can be dangerous! In fact, babies under 6 months old does not require additional water supplements beside their frequent milk supply. This is one of the reasons why the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends babies to be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their life.
According to Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, “Giving a baby younger than 6 months old too much water can interfere with his body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula. It can also cause his tummy to feel full, which curbs his desire to feed.” Too much water in a newborn’s body can dilute the concentration of sodium in their body. Their underdeveloped kidneys may not be able to flush out the excess water in time, causing a build-up of water in the body. Too much water can result in water intoxication. In severe cases, it may also lead to a seizure or even a coma.
The risks of feeding water to newborns include vomiting, diarrhoea, malnutrition, bacterial infections and even water intoxication. Too much water intake increases the likelihood of seizure risk in newborns!
What are the common misconceptions of feeding water to newborns?
Cures jaundice – Some old wives’ tale believes in feeding sugar water to newborn. This might actually worsen jaundice and make your newborn more susceptible to infections.
Prevents dehydration – As mentioned throughout the article, newborns do not require additional water intake even when the weather is hot and humid. Supplementing them with water may interfere with his body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in their milk supply.
Helps constipation – Constipation may be common among newborns. Give your baby a warm bath and a tummy rub will aid in their bowel movements.
Brings down a temperature – Breastmilk has all the nutrients and antibodies to fight different illnesses and viruses, thus it is definitely more efficient than water. Alternative, sponging your baby with room temperature or lukewarm water will help to bring down the temperature. It is better to bring your baby to the doctor to find out more about the reason/s behind this fever.
Stops hiccups – Hiccups are very common among newborns and they DO NOT need to be stopped! Neither do you need to provide water or google for cures to stop the hiccups. Should you need to stop the hiccups, you can provide them an empty bottle for them to latch or burp them.
When can babies start drinking water?
Now we know that our newborns do not require additional liquid besides the milk that was supplied to them. The question now is when can they start drinking water?
You can provide your baby sips of water when they turned 6 months old. To be on the safe side, try to provide water to them only after their feeds, till they are approximately 9 months old.
If unsure, always consult your paediatrician!