The Department of Health recommends that babies should be given only milk for the first 6 months. Breast milk is approximately 88% water. Both breast milk and infant formula contain enough nutrients to satiate your baby and enough water to quench his thirst – even in hot and dry climates.
Giving a young baby too much water can interfere with his body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula. Water can also cause the tummy to feel full and thus hamper a baby’s desire to feed. For children under 1 year of age – and especially during the first nine months of life – drinking too much water can even be dangerous. According to paediatrician James P. Keating, MD, medical director of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Diagnostic Centre, “too much water dilutes a baby’s normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death.” This condition is more commonly known as water intoxication, which occurs when too much water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the body, upsetting the electrolyte balance and causing tissues to swell.
There, assuredly, are mums out there who have given their very young babies water and nothing has happened. I have been giving my nine-month old baby girl sips of water for a few months and she really does enjoy it. I am, however, aware of the effects of water-overload. Breast milk or formula provides all the fluid that healthy babies need. If a mother feels her baby needs to take additional water, it should be limited to two to three ounces at a time (or as prescribed by a paediatrician) and should be offered only after the baby has satisfied his hunger with breastfeeding or formula. After a baby turns 1, there is no such thing as too much water.