When Can Babies Have Water?

Milk was a good choice. It always is.

Originally Published: 

Unless your baby is some kind of bubble guppy, they don’t need to drink water yet. Frankly, even if they are a bubble guppy, they still probably don’t need water, because aren’t they, like, mermaids or something? But you didn’t come here for cartoon recommendations. You came for the answer to a question: when can babies have water?

Just as everyone agrees Bubble Guppies makes no sense (Are they floating? Walking? Swimming? What’s going on?), physicians are pretty much in lockstep on keeping kids agua-free until at least 6 months. First, because breast milk or formula has everything tiny bodies need, including water. So even when it’s so damn hot, milk is a good choice.

More importantly, feeding a baby younger than 6 months water can actually cause “water intoxication,” which sounds like an amazing new way to save money at happy hour but is actually a possibly lethal condition. It occurs when babies consume even small amounts of water before their kidneys are mature. Additional water causes their bodies to release sodium along with excess water, which can affect brain activity and trigger intoxication and seizures.

One of the biggest problems with water intoxication is that the symptoms, like extra sleepiness or crankiness, are also symptoms of, you know, being a baby. So your kid could have water intoxication without you identifying it right away. Other signs include low body temperature (below 97 degrees) and swelling in the face, but unfortunately seizures are the most identifiable symptom. Fortunately, if caught and treated early, they’re unlikely to cause permanent damage.

Watery electrolyte drinks and overly diluted formula can be equally harmful, and you already know you’re waiting until that same 6-month mark before dabbling in juice. If you’re concerned about hydration, or Junior is constipated or vomiting, call your pediatrician; they might recommend a small amount of water if your infant is older. Maybe. Odds are, as with seemingly everything at this age, formula or breastmilk is the answer.

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