Water is considered to be the healthiest drink in the world. Since our body contains 61% water, the need for it is unavoidable. Of course, there are so many benefits of drinking water and we are told to drink enough water every day to keep our body hydrated. However, when it comes to babies, it turns out that water is not so healthy at all.
Why is water not healthy for infants?
The answer is quite simple. Babies below 6 months old don’t have kidneys that are fully working. The only thing that their kidneys are used to is breast milk. Water is still considered as a strange substance and their body cannot yet handle it well.
If you give your baby water to help her hydrated, she will not be able to absorb the nutrition contained in breast milk fully. Also, if you give her too much water, her stomach can get full easily, which causes your baby not wanting to consume much breast milk.
You also have to be aware of the composition if you are feeding your baby formula. Follow the instruction on how much you should mix water with the formula. If you add too much water, she won’t be able to absorb the necessary nutrient from the formula.
That is why it is safer to give your baby water when she is 6 months old. At that age, your baby already has enough nutrition that helps her organs grow. At least, her stomach is ready to process water. Also at the age of 6 months, usually your baby is ready to start on solids.
Before that, your baby only source of nutrition can only be either from breast milk or formula. Until that, water is an enemy for your baby. Keep that in mind.
Is it okay to give babies water to keep them hydrated?
One reason to give your baby is that she looks thirsty. Your baby is sweating because the day is so hot and you don’t want her to be dehydrated.
Dehydration happens your baby’s body doesn’t get enough fluid so that it can function properly. Her body requires water to help preserve body temperature and daily activities.
What you have to do is recognize if your baby is really dehydrated or not. The bad news is that she cannot talk to you like we do when we are thirsty. Below are some indications that can tell if your baby is dehydrated.
- Dry mouth and lips
- Not playful
- Darker urine color with an unpleasant smell
- Diapers are not as wet as usual
- Cold arms and legs
- Limp and sleepy
- Have a fast heart rate
- Absent of tears when crying
The only best way to treat your dehydrated baby is to keep feeding her breast milk. That is the only effective remedy.
Some will suggest that it is okay to give your baby water when the temperature is too hot to handle. However, it is still dangerous to give her water before the right time.
If you already feed her and she still shows signs of dehydration, it is better to take her to a doctor as soon as possible.
What happens if you still give your baby water?
If you insist on giving your baby water, you may want to deal with the consequences. The reason why your baby is not allowed to drink water until the right age is because of her health.
Babies below 6 months old are still vulnerable. Therefore, they have a higher risk to be exposed to diseases.
Below are some diseases that are commonly found in babies who drink water.
Drinking too much water can cause your baby to have water intoxication. And it is a serious condition.
Intoxication can happen because your baby’s stomach has not developed well yet. When too much water is entering her body, her body will produce a lot of sodium along with the water that she drinks. This liquid imbalance will interfere with her brain activities.
An early symptom of water intoxication is your baby feels sleepy and limp. Other symptoms are low body temperature, swollen face, or even seizure.
Water intoxication itself can lead to a more dangerous disease namely hyponatremic seizures. It is basically electrolyte abnormalities.
As mentioned previously, when you give your baby water, her body will produce sodium to maintain balance in her body. However, when it becomes too much, the sodium will be diluted in the water, causing a level drop of sodium.
This sudden drop of sodium level in the body is called hyponatremia. In infants it is often that as a result, the condition will lead to seizure. If this happens, take your little one to a doctor immediately.
Drinking water when your baby is breastfed exclusively can lead to malnutrition. And you don’t want this to happen. You want your little one grows healthy and consumes enough nutrition.
The nutrition that she needs comes from breast milk. Believe it or not but when your baby drinks too much water, your production of breast milk will decrease accordingly. Thus, the nutrition that goes into her body also becomes less.
Breast milk itself contains 80 percent water. That is why giving your baby breast milk is the best thing you can do until she is old enough to eat solid food.
Whenever your baby looks thirsty, breastfeed her immediately. Besides relieving her thirst, breast milk also helps to protect your baby from infection and grows normally.
Drinking water not at the right age can also cause infection due to unsterile water. This infection then can lead to diarrhea.
If your baby consumes formula, you are suggested to use water that has been boiled previously in a minimum 70 Celsius degree. After that, cool the water down before mixing it with the formula. Even though you are using bottled water, it is still better to boil the water first.
In addition, if you are using bottled water, look at the mineral that the water contains. If there is too much sodium or sulfate in the water, try a different product.
The sodium, usually written as Na, shouldn’t be more than 200 milligrams per liter and the sulfate, usually written SO or SO4, should be less than 250 milligrams per liter.