Can My Baby Drink Water?   

Can My Baby Drink Water?

A front-view shot of a young boy drinking water from a reusable water bottle at home, he is wearing casual clothing and sitting in a high chair.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Alyssa Rios, M.D.
Water is widely considered to be the healthiest beverage available for adults. However, it’s inappropriate and unsafe to give water to young babies.

Adults benefit from drinking water for many reasons: Water helps to keep organs hydrated, regulates body temperature and limits calorie intake.

But adults and babies have very different dietary needs. Newborns and babies up to 6 months old should never drink water.

“Breast milk and baby formula are designed to meet babies’ nutritional needs,” says pediatrician, Alyssa Rios, M.D. “Babies under 6 months old don’t need more than that.”

Why Water is Off-limits for Young Babies

There are several reasons why you shouldn’t give water to young babies:

  • Water would fill them up. Babies have tiny stomachs, so everything that they consume needs to be nourishing. Water would fill their stomach without calories or nutrients, crowding out essential nutrition.

  • Babies may be at risk of water intoxication. When young babies drink water, it dilutes the levels of sodium in their blood. This dip in sodium may cause drowsiness, confusion or seizures.

  • Babies already get enough water. They don’t drink plain water, but breast milk and baby formula are mostly water. These beverages contain the nutrients that growing babies need to develop properly.

“Some parents add extra water to baby formula so that the powder lasts longer. But this dilutes the nutrients they receive which can leave them undernourished, and if babies experience water intoxication, it may cause brain damage or death,” warns Dr. Rios.

How to Keep Young Babies Hydrated in Hot Weather

To keep your baby well hydrated on hot days, don’t reach for water. Instead, give more breast milk or baby formula, which hydrates while nourishing.

On hot days, how can you tell that your baby is getting staying hydrated? Look inside your baby’s diaper for clues. 

A well-hydrated baby:

  • Has 6 to 8 wet diapers every day, even in hot weather
  • Has pale-colored urine

When and How to Introduce Water to Older Babies

Once your baby is six months old, it’s okay for them to have some water. But it’s important to limit how much water they drink.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ daily water recommendations are:

  • For babies six to 12 months: ½ to 1 cup (4 to 8 ounces)
  • For babies 12 to 24 months: 1 to 4 cups (8 to 32 ounces)

These recommendations are for total daily intake, not for intake at one sitting. Start by giving 6-month-old babies 2 ounces of water at a sitting.

It’s okay if your baby doesn’t drink 2 ounces of water at a time. Some babies prefer a few sips of water here and there throughout the day.

“Breast milk or baby formula should still be the primary beverage until 12 months,” says Dr. Rios.

Consider giving your baby water in a sippy cup instead of a bottle. This should:

  • Help your baby develop new drinking skills
  • Prompt your baby to drink water more slowly than if it were in a bottle
  • Minimize messes, if the transition to a sippy cup involves spills or dribbling

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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