When to give water to babies

Water is not a suitable drink for babies before six months of age, even in warmer weather. Breastmilk and formula provides both their necessary food and liquids. Giving your baby water may mean they drink less milk, which can put them at risk of not getting the nutrients they need to grow. Diluting expressed breastmilk or formula can also make babies very unwell. So, read on to find out when (and how) you can give your baby water.

When to give water to babies

Breastmilk or formula should still be your baby’s main drink up to 12 months of age. As babies grow, they can drink small volumes of cooled boiled water from a sippy cup or open cup after about 6 months of age.

If your baby has just started on solids, you can offer a few sips of water with their food. This will teach them to drink from a cup, help to prevent constipation, and rinse food from their gums and teeth.

Remember milk before solids or water until around 9 months of age. Read more on How to balance introducing solids with milk feeds.

From 12 months, your baby’s main drink will be water and breastmilk or cow’s milk (or a dairy-free alternative for those with allergies).

What about in hot weather, or if your baby has a fever?

For babies under 6 months, you can offer more breast or bottle feeds. Do not offer water.

During warmer weather, it is important to keep hydration in mind for both mother and baby.

Breastfeeding babies over 6 months don’t need extra water in hot weather or if they have a fever, BUT their mothers do and they need to offer their baby more frequent feeds. Nature will do the rest.

Bottle-fed babies over 6 months MAY need a little extra water in hot weather or if they have a fever – but it only needs to be a small volume of 20mls and up to 50mls.

Always offer water after a feed, or before sleep time but definitely not before the milk feed.

Resist the urge to dilute formula in hot weather. Instead give the correct formula and follow it by a little water.

Fruit juice, soft drinks, and cordial is not suitable for babies under 12 months.

Your baby is properly hydrated if they have between 6 to 8 pale wet nappies over 24 hours. Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal and child health nurse if you have any concerns at all.

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