Infant Water Intoxication

Babies under 6 months should not drink water.

If you've heard about the possibility of infant water intoxication, you're probably searching for information on how much water your baby should drink each day. Many people don't realize that even the water used to mix baby formula counts toward your baby's water intake.

When to Give Your Baby Water

As a general rule, babies should not be given water until they reach the 6 months mark. Until that time, your baby gets all her hydration through breast milk and formula. When a baby drinks water, it can actually hamper her ability to absorb nutrients found in breast milk or formula. Drinking water may also trigger a full feeling and cause the baby to eat less than she should to meet her nutritional needs.

Even when your baby reaches 6 months of age, he will still get most of his water through breast milk and formula. Letting him have a sip of water is fine, but it is best to wait until he is around a year old and is eating solid food and drinking milk before adding water to his diet.

Causes of Infant Water Intoxication

Infant water intoxication is rare, but when it does occur, it is the result of the baby drinking too much water. Water seems like such a harmless liquid, and in fact is necessary for life, so it's hard to believe it can cause harm. The real question is how can infants take in enough water to make them sick?

Diluted Baby Formula

The most common way an infant can get too much water is in the mixing of baby formula. Baby formula is not cheap, and sometimes parents may be tempted to stretch a dollar by diluting the formula with too much water. When the baby drinks a diluted bottle, it in turn dilutes the sodium levels in the blood. The result is an electrolyte imbalance that leads tissues to swell. It's important to follow package instructions carefully when mixing a powdered or concentration formula that requires dilution with water. Don't vary from the recommended amount of water.

Mommy's Water

Daily intake of 64 ounces of water is recommended for most adults. When your baby sees you drinking from a water bottle, she often wants some, too. If your baby is under 6 months old, refrain from offering her a drink. Even when she reaches 6 months, keep water to small sips.

Symptoms of Water Intoxication in Infants

How do you know if your baby is suffering from infant water intoxication? If your baby exhibits any of the following symptoms, it is important to contact your pediatrician immediately:

  • Swollen face
  • Body temp below 97 degrees
  • Unusual irritability
  • Unusual drowsiness

As was mentioned above, too much water in the baby's diet will cause an electrolyte imbalance because the excess water dilutes sodium in the baby's system and actually causes it to be flushed. This imbalance can lead to altered brain activity and may even result in the baby experiencing a seizure. In serious cases, water intoxication in infants may even lead to a coma.

Recommended Water Consumption

As a rule of thumb, the following guidelines are recommended for water consumption in infants and toddlers:

  • Infants 0-6 months: Should only be given breast milk or formula. No plain water is to be given.
  • Babies 6-12 months: Should be given breast milk or formula and 4-6 ounces of juice and no more than 8 ounces of water in a day.
  • Toddlers: Include a mix of low-sugar beverages in the toddler's diet along with water. Also include fresh fruits and vegetables which are high in water content.

If you feel it is important that your baby drinks water, before giving a baby under 6-months-old water to drink, check with your pediatrician. Babies get all the hydration they need through nursing or drinking a bottle of formula.

Infant Water Intoxication