On days like today, when the sun is blaring and temperatures soar (it’s 26ºC in Bristol right now), you might be wondering about whether your baby needs anything other than milk to drink to help keep them cool and hydrated.
Babies don’t need water in the same way that we do as adults. Breastmilk and formula provide the water they need for hydration in normal circumstances, but what about when it’s really hot? Should we be giving babies water to drink?
0 - 6 months
Babies under 6 months old don’t need to have anything other than their usual milk. If it’s really hot, they might feed more often than usual, and that’s ok - if you’re breast-feeding remember to drink more water yourself to avoid becoming hydrated. Offering water can interfere with the normal frequency of feeding and amount of milk that babies take, which can affect milk supply in the longer term.
Some sources do suggest that formula fed infants may be offered very small amounts of water in very hot conditions, but it is always best to check this with a health professional first. If water is given to a baby under 6 months of age, it should be boiled first and then cooled - water direct from the tap is not suitable.
6 - 12 months
For babies over 6 months old, water should be offered with meals and snacks - you might find that baby only takes small sips, and it takes some practice until they do even this, but keep going. If your baby is eating 3-5 small meals / snacks per day, and has the opportunity to have water with each of these, as well as their regular milk feeds, they should be getting plenty of water to stay hydrated, even in warm weather. When temperatures get very high, you might want to offer small amounts of water outside regular mealtimes, but this doesn’t need to be much, just a few sips. From 6 months offer water from an open top cup or beaker as much as possible.
Carbonated and flavoured waters should be avoided for babies as they have limited nutritional value and can reduce babies appetite.
What about if you are visiting a country where you aren’t meant to drink the tap water? It’s not likely at the minute given the current situation, but in the future, if you are travelling and need avoid the local tap water (check https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries to see where this might apply) then you might need to use bottled water. Not all bottled water is created equal, and some aren’t suitable for babies because of the mineral content. Look for bottled waters that less than 200mg/litre of sodium (Na) and less than 250mg/litre of sulphate (SO4).Sometimes these waters have a stamp saying that they are suitable for babies.
References and extra reading