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water to a babyPin

My three month old wants to suck on a bottle about every hour. I know he is not hungry, so I was wondering if he can have a small amount of water? Can it be harmful in any way to give water to a baby?



Baby Helpline:

Water To A Baby – Yes Or No?

Yes, you can give some water to your 3-month-old baby as long as it doesn’t make him eat too little and it is just a little bit of water.

Giving him a small amount of water instead of breast milk or formula if he wants to suck very often might be an efficient way to teach him to settle without the sucking (doesn’t taste as good). You may also want to try a pacifier.

However, if the frequent feeding is something he has been doing only for a short while, it might be that he is in a growth spurt and is working hard to increase your supply of milk (or formula). In such a case, offering him water instead of the breast will be counterproductive. Your supply will not increase and he will continue to want to suck often, simply because he is hungry.

So if you do think it can be a growth spurt, wait for a few days with the water if you do breastfeed and maybe combine with giving him some more formula if he is only bottle-fed.

Also, remember to give him clean water and only in small amounts (like a tablespoon). Depending on the quality of your tap water, if you plan to use it, ask a health care provider in your area if you should boil it.

The reason you should not give your baby large amounts of water is that it can result in water intoxication – i.e. that the sodium balance of your baby becomes affected. This happens more easily before a baby starts with solid foods since the only sodium available to the baby is through the breast milk or formula.

Signs of water intoxication in babies are:

  • changes in mental status, i.e., unusual irritability or drowsiness
  • low body temperature, usually 97 F (36.1 C) or less
  • facial swelling or puffiness
  • seizures

What may happen is that when the baby pees, the urine contains some salt in addition to the water. If the baby then drinks water instead of breast milk or formula, no sodium is added back into the infant’s body. This can then lead to intoxication with some nasty effects, such as seizures amongst others.

You can find a detailed article on why not to give water to babies in the New York Times here. (Opens in a new window).

Some doctors actually recommend NO water to children younger than one year unless the baby really is eating solid foods. Others say small amounts of water are fine for healthy, not dehydrated babies. All doctors agree, though, that breastmilk and formula are the main sources of hydration for babies.

So I guess my answer is yes, you can probably offer your baby small amounts of water without it being a problem, but you should ask yourself why you prefer water to breastmilk, formula or even a pacifier. At 3 months, babies both grow very quickly and still have a very strong suckling reflex, so wanting to eat very often and wanting to suckle a whole lot is normal. Water might not be the preferred solution to this.

So long story short, do not offer more than very small amounts of water (if any at all) to your baby before starting with solid foods. The components of breast milk are perfect for hydrating your baby and formula is a good substitute.

I don’t mean to scare you, but in just a couple of months, your baby’s body and diet will be much more suited for water. It is great in the long run, of course, that he likes water, and you can always give him a teaspoon now and then to make sure he continues to like it.

Hope this helps and good luck!

Find more tips and discussions on bottle-feeding here.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Worried


    Is it possible to give a 9 week old baby too
    much water… I started with just a lil an then realized he really likes
    water and he drinks like 5 or 6 ounces a day… There are no signs of any
    harm but I just wanted to ask if that was too much water.. Side note: I
    live in Arizona and I’m always scared of dehydration, which is why I
    started water.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Well, at 9 weeks, your baby should be drinking breastmilk or formula. These will help his thirst just as much as water and of course, help him grow too. He is growing very quickly right now, so his “water cravings” can actually by hunger… I would switch to breast milk or formula as much as possible!

      Good luck and congrats on your baby!

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