Why Can’t Newborn Babies Drink Water? What Are The Risks?

Why Can’t Newborn Babies Drink Water? What Are The Risks?

Posted on May 22nd, 2024

Newborn babies require special care and attention, especially when it comes to their hydration and nutritional needs. Parents often wonder when it is safe to start introducing water to their babies,

It’s a common misconception that giving water to infants is beneficial, but this can actually lead to serious health risks. The primary sources of hydration for newborns should be breast milk or formula, which provide all the necessary nutrients and fluids. 

Knowing the reasons why babies don’t drink water in their early months is crucial for every parent.

Generally, introducing water too early can disrupt this balance, leading to potential health issues.

As a professional newborn care specialist, I emphasize the importance of understanding and following these guidelines to ensure the health and well-being of your baby. 

If you have any concerns or need guidance, you can always consult with a newborn care specialist to help navigate these early stages of parenthood. 

Is It True That Newborn Babies Can’t Have Water?

It is indeed true that newborn babies should not be given water. This might come as a surprise to many parents, especially those who are new to parenthood. Understanding the reasons behind this guideline is essential for the safety and health of your infant. 

Newborns have specific nutritional and hydration needs that are met entirely through breast milk or formula. These sources provide the right balance of nutrients, calories, and fluids necessary for the baby’s growth and development.

Common Misconceptions About Newborns and Water

One of the most common misconceptions is that water is a necessary supplement to a baby’s diet. Many people believe that giving water to a newborn can help with hydration, especially during hot weather. However, this is not the case. 

Babies get all the hydration they need from breast milk or formula. Introducing water can actually interfere with their ability to absorb the nutrients they need from these primary sources.

Clarifying the Facts with Medical Advice

Medical professionals consistently advise against giving water to newborns. The primary reason is that newborns have very small stomachs, and filling them with water instead of nutrient-rich breast milk or formula can lead to undernourishment. 

Additionally, water can dilute the sodium levels in a baby’s bloodstream, leading to a dangerous condition known as water intoxication. This can result in symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and, in severe cases, brain damage or death.

Learning about these risks underscores the importance of following expert guidelines and ensuring that your newborn’s diet consists solely of breast milk or formula until they are ready for solid foods and water, typically around six months of age. 

This approach ensures that your baby receives the essential nutrients and hydration needed for healthy development.

Why Can’t Newborn Babies Have Any Water?

Newborn babies should not be given water for several critical reasons. Their small stomachs, developing kidneys, and the risk of water intoxication all play a role in why babies must only consume breast milk or formula during their early months. 

Learning about these reasons can help parents make informed decisions about their baby's health and well-being.

1. Tiny Stomachs and Nutritional Needs

Newborns have tiny stomachs that can only hold a small amount of liquid at a time. Because of this, every feeding needs to be packed with nutrients and calories. Breast milk and formula are specifically designed to meet these needs, providing the perfect balance of fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals essential for growth and development. 

Water, on the other hand, fills the stomach without offering any nutritional value, which can lead to undernourishment. This is particularly concerning during the first few months of life when babies are rapidly growing and require consistent, nutrient-dense feedings to support their development.

2. Risk of Water Intoxication

Water intoxication is a severe risk for newborns if they consume water. This condition occurs when the sodium levels in a baby’s bloodstream become too diluted due to excessive water intake. Sodium is crucial for maintaining the balance of fluids in the body's cells, and an imbalance can lead to swelling, particularly in the brain. 

Symptoms of water intoxication include drowsiness, irritability, confusion, and in extreme cases, seizures, coma, or even death. Given the severity of these potential outcomes, it is imperative to avoid giving water to newborns to prevent such risks.

3. Developing Kidneys

Another reason why newborns should not consume water is that their kidneys are not fully developed. In the early stages of life, a baby’s kidneys are still maturing and are not equipped to handle large amounts of water. 

The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and balancing fluids in the body. Introducing excess water can overwhelm these underdeveloped organs, leading to water toxicity. This can cause the kidneys to struggle with regulating electrolyte balance, potentially resulting in dangerous levels of sodium and other minerals in the body.

What Happens If a Baby Drinks Water?

When a baby drinks water, it can lead to several adverse scenarios due to their delicate and still-developing systems. Understanding the potential consequences can help parents avoid making this common mistake and ensure their baby remains healthy and safe.

Cellular Water and Salt Imbalance

Babies' bodies are designed to store water and salts together in a delicate balance. If a baby drinks too much water, this balance can be disrupted. The cells in the baby's body will attempt to absorb more water to maintain equilibrium, which in turn can cause a significant decrease in the body's salt levels. 

This imbalance can affect various cellular functions, leading to symptoms such as swelling, weakness, and in severe cases, seizures. Maintaining proper electrolyte balance is crucial for the healthy functioning of a baby’s body.

Physiological Challenges

The physiological challenges of excess water intake in babies are significant. Because their kidneys are not fully developed, they are unable to efficiently process and excrete large volumes of water. 

This can lead to water retention and dilution of essential electrolytes in the blood. The result is a condition known as hyponatremia, where the sodium levels in the blood become dangerously low. 

Symptoms of hyponatremia include lethargy, irritability, muscle weakness, and, in extreme cases, seizures and coma. This condition can be life-threatening if not promptly addressed, highlighting the importance of adhering to recommended feeding practices for newborns.

When Can Parents Start Introducing Water According to Newborn Care Specialists?

Parents often wonder when it is safe to start giving their babies water. According to newborn care specialists and pediatric experts, there is a recommended timeline and approach for introducing water to ensure the safety and health of the baby.

Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that parents should not give water to babies until they are around six months old. Until this age, a baby's hydration needs are fully met through breast milk or formula, which provide not only fluids but also essential nutrients required for growth and development. 

Introducing water before six months can interfere with the baby’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients from breast milk or formula, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies and health risks.

Appropriate Age to Introduce Water

Once a baby reaches around six months of age, parents can begin to introduce water gradually. This is typically the age when babies start eating solid foods, and their nutritional and hydration needs change. 

Even at this stage, water should be given in small amounts to ensure it does not replace breast milk or formula, which should still be the primary sources of nutrition. Introducing water too early can disrupt the delicate balance of electrolytes in the baby's body, leading to potential health issues like seizures.

Guidelines for Gradual Introduction and Appropriate Amounts

When introducing water to a baby, it is essential to do so gradually and in moderation. Parents can start by offering a few sips of water in a cup with meals, ensuring that it does not exceed two to four ounces per day. 

Monitoring the baby’s response to water and ensuring that it does not interfere with their regular feedings of breast milk or formula is crucial. This careful approach helps in meeting the baby’s hydration needs without compromising their nutritional intake. If there are any concerns or questions, consulting with a newborn care specialist can provide additional guidance and reassurance.

As a professional newborn care specialist, I emphasize the importance of following these guidelines and ensuring that parents are well-informed about the appropriate practices for introducing water to their babies. 

For more detailed advice and personalized support, you can always reach out to a newborn care specialist or consider hiring one to assist with your baby’s early developmental needs.

Newborn Care Specialist’s Professional Opinion

As a newborn care specialist, I have seen firsthand the importance of adhering to recommended guidelines regarding infant hydration. Understanding why newborns should not consume water and knowing the appropriate time to introduce it are critical for ensuring your baby's health and development. 

Next, I will share my professional insights and recommendations based on years of experience in newborn care.

Expert Advice from Carol Snelson

In my professional experience, it is vital to recognize the risks associated with giving water to newborns. The primary sources of nutrition and hydration for infants should be breast milk or formula. 

These provide the essential nutrients required for a baby's growth and help maintain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes. Giving water to a newborn can disrupt this balance, leading to potentially severe health issues such as water intoxication and electrolyte imbalances.

I have worked with many families who have had concerns about their baby's hydration, especially during hot weather or when the baby seems fussy. It's important to understand that breast milk and formula are sufficient to meet all of a newborn's hydration needs. If you are ever in doubt, consulting with a healthcare professional or a newborn care specialist can provide the guidance you need.

Personal Experiences and Recommendations

Through my work, I have encountered various situations where parents inadvertently gave water to their infants, not realizing the potential dangers. 

Education is key in these cases. Parents often believe that water is a harmless way to quench their baby's thirst or soothe them, but this can lead to serious complications. My role as a newborn care specialist involves educating parents about safe practices and helping them understand why certain guidelines exist.

For example, a family I worked with once gave their two-month-old water during a particularly hot summer, thinking it would help with hydration. 

The baby developed symptoms of water intoxication, including lethargy and irritability. Fortunately, we caught it early, and with proper medical intervention, the baby recovered. This experience highlighted the importance of awareness and adherence to pediatric guidelines.

As a newborn care specialist, I recommend that parents stick to breast milk or formula for the first six months. Once the baby is around six months old and starts eating solid foods, you can begin to introduce small amounts of water. Always monitor your baby’s response and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

For more detailed services and personalized support, you can visit my Newborn Care Specialist Services page. I offer comprehensive care plans tailored to meet the unique needs of each family, ensuring a smooth transition to parenthood.


If you have any questions or need further assistance with newborn care, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at Carol's Newborn Care. I am here to provide the support and guidance you need to ensure the health and well-being of your baby. You can contact me at (214) 287-2335 or via email at [email protected]

For more information about my services, including how to consult with a newborn care specialist or hire a newborn care specialist in Texas, please visit Carol's Newborn Care Services. I look forward to helping you and your family thrive during this special time.