Everyone knows you’re supposed to drink eight glasses of water a day. But have you ever wondered why this rule doesn’t apply to babies, too? How old do they need to be before they can start chugging H2O? We have the answers.
But before we get into it, know that—first and foremost—babies shouldn’t drink water until they’re at least 6 months old.
According to Dr. Stephen R. Samuels, a pediatrician, a baby gets all the hydration it needs from breast milk or formula, even if it’s hot out.
“Once your baby is 6 months old, it’s okay to give him sips of water when he’s thirsty,” Samuels writes on Baby Center. “Don’t overdo it, though, or you might give him a tummy ache or make him too full to eat well.”
Why Can’t Babies Drink Water?
Giving your baby water before their bodies are ready for it can lead to water intoxication, a health issue that can be quite serious. To be clear, if a 5-month-old takes two sips of juice, you don’t have to worry. But if a baby drinks too much water, it can overload its fragile system and lead to serious issues.
Water intoxication happens when the levels of sodium within the body are upset, wreaking havoc on the balance of electrolytes in your system. This causes tissues to swell and can result in vomiting, seizures or even a coma. (And FYI, this can happen to adults, too, although it’s rare.)
If your baby has had water and you’re noticing some of the symptoms of water intoxication—including irritability, drowsiness or excessive urination—do call your doctor. Treatment should occur in the hospital.
Once your baby has started eating solid foods, you can begin to introduce water or juice into their diet, although there’s really no need. You don’t want to fill them up on empty calories when breast milk or formula is available.
Talk to your pediatrician about when and how to introduce liquids besides breast milk and formula into your baby’s diet. Chances are, they don’t need it and you can save yourself the trouble.