Can babies drink water? How young is too young?
Typically speaking, you don't have to worry about your baby drinking water until he's about 6 months old - some doctors might even say as late as 12 months of age. Babies will stay well hydrated from breastfeeding or formula - even in warm weather.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, until a baby starts eating solids, all the water she needs comes from breast milk or formula. And she needs very little, if any, additional water until after she is 12 months old.
Giving your baby a few sips of water is not harmful but is not necessary either. What you definitely don't want to do is to give her too much water because it will make her feel full and then she won't eat as much. This can disrupt her body's natural function, which is to absorb the important nutrients in your breast milk or formula. You definitely don't want your baby to take in less nutrients than she needs!
Even more worrisome is the fact that babies that drink too much water can experience water intoxication. Since their kidneys are not yet fully developed, too much water causes their bodies to release sodium into the excess water and the balance of electrolytes in their little bodies is disrupted, causing tissue to swell. This is potentially life threatening. In the worst-case scenario, a baby that drinks too much water can experience seizures or go into a coma. Early symptoms of water intoxication: irritability, drowsiness, low body temperature, a puffy or swollen face and seizures.
So it's always a good idea to ask your pediatrician how much water you can give your baby other than what is mixed with her formula (or occurs naturally in your breast milk).
The first six months of your baby's development are important. If you're not breastfeeding, be sure to follow the instructions provided on your formula about the recommended amount of water to mix in. Never try to stretch your formula by diluting it with additional water. There are ready-to-drink formulas that can eliminate this worry so be aware that this option is available to you.
Babies with special conditions such as gastroenteritis may need to drink water with electrolytes (like Pedialyte) to prevent dehydration but, again, your pediatrician always knows best. He or she will let you know if your baby needs it and how much to give him.
Once your baby turns 1 year old, is eating solid foods and drinking whole milk, rest assured that you can give him as much water as he would like. It's a good thing to get that healthy water habit started early! But not TOO early...