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  • Please Wait Until Your Baby Is 6 Months Old Before Giving Him Water

    Wait until your baby is six months old or he has started to eat solid foods.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Please Wait Until Your Baby Is 6 Months Old Before Giving Him Water
PHOTO BY iStock
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • One of the questions that we get a lot on our Facebook Messenger is, “When can I give my baby water?” Most of the time, moms are asking for the following reasons: their baby is constipated, they want to make sure the baby is hydrated when it's hot, and they’re mixed feeding.

    Pediatricians will tell you that babies shouldn’t drink water until they are 6 months old. They can get the hydration they need from breast milk or formula, even in hot weather.

    “Breast milk has water already,” explains Dr. Iris Buenaventura-Muñoz, a pediatrician at the Metro Antipolo Hospital and Medical Center. It is more than 80% water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “[The first milk that comes with each feed] is more water, and then the latter part is more ‘fat.’ ‘Yung first part ay mas nakatatanggal ng uhaw ni baby. Kaya sinasabi nila na [there’s] no need to drink water.”

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    There's another important reason why pediatricians don’t recommend giving a newborn water: you’re missing out on the opportunity to fill your baby with nutrients.

    “A baby’s tummy is very small and its capacity is small, as well,” says Dr. Buenaventura-Muñoz. “If you put in water, magkaka-caloric gap ka.”

    What does that mean? “Water has no calories. Zero calories mean zero nutrients,” adds Dr. Faith Buenaventura-Alcazaren, a pediatrician at the Marikina Doctors Hospital and Medical Center. Meanwhile, “breast milk has calories, vitamins, proteins, and fat,” says Dr. Buenaventura-Muñoz.

    Since a baby’s tummy is small, giving him water may cause his tummy to feel full, which will limit his desire to feed, according to BabyCenter. If done regularly, it can cause weight loss, and in the case of breast-fed babies, it can decrease a mother’s breast milk supply, according to What To ExpectIt can even lead to malnutrition, according to the WHO, because it reduces the nutrients a baby receives from milk, leading to slow growth and development.

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    Giving water to a newborn can cause serious harm

    Giving a newborn water can lead to a rare but life-threatening condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication. Because the kidneys of small infants have yet to mature, they are especially at risk, Dr. Jennifer Anders, a pediatric emergency physician, told Reuters Health.

    “Babies don’t regulate their fluid balance as well as adults and too much water can lead to this condition,” says Dr. Rosanne Sugay, a Filipino internist and pediatrician based in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Water intoxication may lead to seizures, brain damage, and death.”

    Though formula milk is expensive, parents should avoid adding extra water to stretch the baby milk formula, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Apart from reducing the nutrient intake of the baby, this can also lead to water intoxication. Rule of thumb for formula feeding: follow the instructions on the can.

    There are some cases when the baby will be prescribed water by a pediatrician, for example, to help with constipation, says Dr. Anders. But the doctor will say how much to give exactly, and it is usually a small amount.

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    Wait until baby is six months old before giving him water

    Most experts suggest that you wait until you’ve started feeding solids to your baby before introducing water to his system. Here are some guidelines from Dr. Sugay:

    • Boiled tap water (boiled for at least one minute) or sterile water is the better option as mineral water may sometimes lack fluoride. Read the label.
    • Only give 2 to 4 ounces of water when you introduce it and ask your doctor for the appropriate amount for your child.
    • Never give water as fluid replacement if your baby has vomiting or diarrhea. Use proper oral rehydration solutions.

    Your baby's health and safety is your top priority, so be patient and stick to breast or formula milk for now. And when in doubt, remember that the best thing to do is to always consult with your doctor.

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