As your baby grows, you might wonder when it's alright to give them water to drink—or if breast milk and/or formula is enough to prevent them from being thirsty. You may have heard that babies under 6 months shouldn't have water, but you might be curious if there's exceptions. With all the different transitions in a baby's first year of life, it can be hard to know when to move onto the next one, especially when the guidance on feeding babies changes so often.
We spoke with experts to learn more about when babies can drink water, how much water you should give them, and what to do if you have a picky baby who just doesn't like water at all.
Babies under 6 months of age should not consume water. They meet their fluids needs in other ways, such as consuming breast milk or formula. Giving a baby under 6 months water could deter them from accessing all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need. When introducing water after 6 months of age, be sure to progress in small amounts, and follow your child's lead.
It's normal for babies to appear very hungry when they're young, especially when they're cluster feeding. Before they have the means to tell you, it's understandable that you might wonder if your child is also thirsty. However, experts say you should not give any water to your child before they turn 6 months old.
Christina Johns, M.D., pediatric emergency doctor and senior medical advisor at PM Pediatric Care, explains that babies can start drinking water at the same time you begin introducing solid food, at roughly 6 months of age. "This should be introduced gradually and carefully, starting out with small sips between meals," she explains.
While water is necessary for adults, it's not so with infants. They get meet their fluids needs in other ways.
David Berger, M.D. founder and owner of Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care, and founder of Wholistic ReLeaf, says that drinking water even at 6 months of age, is not entirely necessary. "Babies get all of the fluid they need through breast milk or formula," he continues.
So if your 6-month-old only has a sip of water at first, rest assured that breast milk and/or formula will be enough to stave off any thirst.
Giving infants water before 6 months can pose some risks. Most notably, if a baby "fills up" on water, it might impede their ability to receive adequate nutrients. "Giving water to them at this stage puts them at risk of consuming less breast milk or formula, thereby not receiving all the nutrients they provide," explains Dr. Johns.
It's important to keep up with regular feedings of formula or breast milk so that babies can grow up healthily, with all the vitamins their body craves. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidelines for feeding your child: at 6 months, babies may be eating up to eight ounces of formula and/or breast milk every four to five hours.