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It’s not safe for babies to drink water before they’re 6 months old

Babies should drink only breast milk or formula until they reach 6 months old because too much water can cause water intoxication.
Credit: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - stock.adobe

Adults are often encouraged to drink several glasses of water a day to stay hydrated — but what about newborn babies?

Multiple posts on Twitter recently went viral claiming that giving water to babies before they are 6 months old is potentially dangerous.


Is it unsafe for babies to drink water before they’re 6 months old?



This is true.

Yes, it’s unsafe for babies to drink water before they’re 6 months old. 

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Babies should drink only breast milk or formula — not water— until they reach 6 months of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOC). This is because babies in the first six months after birth do not need water in addition to formula or breast milk, which provides all of the hydration and nutrients babies need, unless specifically advised by a pediatrician.

“Breast milk is made up of 80-90% water, which is why you don’t need to add water when breastfeeding,” Jasmine Pendergrass, M.D., pediatric chief resident at the Baylor College of Medicine, told VERIFY.

At the six-month mark, babies can be introduced to water in an open, sippy, or strawed cup, the AAP says on its website. Babies only need about 4-8 ounces of water per day until they reach 1 year old because the rest of their liquid intake is still coming from breast milk or formula.

Giving babies under 1 more than the recommended daily amount of water can lead to a dangerous condition called water intoxication (also called hyponatremia), especially if they’re less than 9 months old. According to St. Louis Children's Hospital, drinking too much water can dilute a baby's normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death. 

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“Breast milk or formula provides all the fluid healthy babies need. If a mother feels her baby needs to take additional water, it should be limited to two to three ounces at a time and should be offered only after the baby has satisfied his hunger with breastfeeding or formula,” the hospital said on its website.

Diluting, or adding extra water, to formula can also lead to water intoxication by reducing the nutrients a baby needs, which can slow growth and development, and lead to serious health problems. The AAP recommends always mixing formula as directed by the manufacturer unless specifically guided to change these instructions for infants with special health needs.

“Formula is packed with great nutrients but is in powder form, thus, your baby can’t drink it. The amount of water to add to formula is regulated in a way that babies get just enough water (not too much where their sodium is diluted) and not too little (where they become dehydrated),” Pendergrass said.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s hydration or readiness for water, you should talk to your pediatrician or healthcare provider.

More from VERIFY: No, parents shouldn’t feed babies age 6-12 months cow’s milk except in an emergency

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