I frequently get asked if there is a need for breastfed babies to be given water during the heat of the summer.

Breastfed babies do not need water – keep in mind that breastmilk is 88% water. Even in the first few days after birth, before mom’s milk has “come in”, colostrum is all that is needed to keep baby well hydrated (assuming baby is nursing effectively). Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Supplements (water, glucose water, formula, and other fluids) should not be given to breastfeeding newborn infants unless ordered by a physician when a medical indication exists… During the first 6 months of age, even in hot climates, water and juice are unnecessary for breastfed infants and may introduce contaminants or allergens.”

In addition, breastfed babies do not require water when it is very hot outside, assuming baby is allowed to nurse as needed. Baby can get all the liquids needed via breastmilk. A number of studies have determined that an exclusively breastfed baby does not need extra water – these studies have been done in various locations (both humid and dry) at temperatures ranging from 22-41°C (71.6-105.8°F) and 9-96% relative humidity

Giving babies water is not be good for them. If you replace nourishing milk with water, your baby will miss out on nutrients he needs and it may upset his feeding habits.

Breastmilk has antibodies which protect your baby against infection, so missing out on milk may make him more likely to become unwell.

Breastfed babies do not need extra water, even in hot weather. Studies in hot climates have shown that babies who are allowed to breastfeed whenever they want do not become dehydrated.

When it’s hot, babies tend feed more often, for short periods of time. This way they get extra foremilk, which is thinner and more refreshing than the fat-rich hindmilk, which comes at the end of a feed. Letting your baby have as many extra feeds as he wishes when it is hot means that he will get plenty of water.

Here is a list of common risk factors associated with water supplementation of newborns und 6 weeks of age:

•Water supplements are associated with increased bilirubin levels in jaundiced newborns.
•Too much water can lead to a serious condition called oral water intoxication.
•Water supplements fill baby up without adding calories, so water supplements can result in weight loss (or insufficient weight gain) for the baby.
•Babies who get water supplements are less interested in nursing. If baby is not nursing as often as he should, it will take longer for mom’s milk to come in and can delay or prevent mom from establishing an optimum milk supply.

For babies past the newborn stage

•Too much water can interfere with breastfeeding because it fills baby up so that he nurses less. Babies need the nutrition and calories in breastmilk to grow – water has none of these.
•Breastmilk has all the water your baby needs, even in very hot weather.
•When your 4-6 month old baby is learning to use a cup, giving him a few sips of water a couple of times a day (no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours) is fine and fun.
•Once baby starts solids, you might want to give him a few sips of expressed milk or water with his solids – some babies need this to prevent constipation.

Please feel free to share this post with anyone who has questions or concerns about water supplements for the breastfed baby.