Is it safe to give your baby water?
When is it really safe to give your baby anything but his milk? We asked our experts for answers.

Does your young baby need water or tea to keep him hydrated? The bottom line is no, according to dietician Tammy Wolhuter and Netcare Stork’s Nest coordinator Bronwyn Lendrum. “A baby doesn’t need water while he’s being exclusively breastfed,” says Bronwyn.

“There’s sufficient water in the ‘foremilk’ part of the feed to quench a thirst even on the hottest of days.” All three recommend that you hold off giving your baby water until he starts on solids (between four and six months of age).

And bottle fed babies?

“When formula is properly prepared, it too provides adequate amounts of water for a baby up to the point that you introduce solids,” Tammy says. She adds that it’s important that you don’t boil formula as this causes some water
to evaporate, and the formula solution then becomes too concentrated. 

But why wait?

You may think it strange that all your baby needs to feel full and stay hydrated is milk, but it’s true. Remember that his milk contains all the nutrients his growing body needs, and so it contains adequate amounts of water too.

“Drinking water is a very good habit to get your baby into, but at the right time. Water can give a baby a false sense of fullness, so he won’t feed adequately – he may even get niggly and not settle. It also interferes with the body’s ability to absorb all the nutrients from his milk feeds,” adds Bronwyn.

What if it's very hot?

Even in high temperatures, your baby’s milk is all he needs. Bronwyn points out that babies will not dehydrate if they’re taking in the usual volume in formula feeds or are breastfeeding as usual.

However, Tammy says that if you are really worried and it’s quite hot, you may give your formula fed baby a few sips of water once he has finished his feed and has satis fied his hunger. But, she warns, “Your baby should never get more than 60 to 120ml of water a day.

What about rooibos tea?

Tea, as well as fruit juices, also have to wait until after your baby has started on solids. “Remember that tea should never replace a milk feed and should not be used as a rehydration  uid for a baby who has diarrhoea or is vomiting as it does not contain the necessary electrolytes for rehydration,” Tammy adds. You should also be careful of giving too much tea or fruit juice, sticking to about 60ml a day.

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