Should Babies Drink Water?

Q:I asked the doctor if I could give my baby water and he told me to give them breast milk or formula in the place of water. Is something wrong with giving my child water at three months? I’m having a hard time trying to follow the doctor’s advice. It seems counterintuitive to think of water as harmful, and I don’t want my twins to get dehydrated.

A:This is a question that comes up a lot in general pediatrics, and one where the advice has changed over the past generation.

Although this is a bit oversimplified, think of water for very young infants as “empty food.” The energy your twins spend drinking formula or breast milk gets them calories, vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and a surprising amount of water. The energy they spend drinking just water gets them just that, water! Plus too much water for such young babies can lead to water intoxication (a serious condition most common in babies younger than six months). Breast milk and formula are just as effective a water in preventing dehydration, plus it fills your baby up longer as well.

Having said that, is it really a crime to offer three-month-olds on a hot day an extra three or four ounces of water, above and beyond their usual formula amount? Nope, as long as it is in moderation and it doesn’t replace the more nutritious stuff.

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