Many mothers grapple with when to give their baby water and juice as there are many different views. Parents want to ensure their baby stays hydrated and receives all the nutrients in the correct proportions for healthy development.
Often well-meaning friends and relatives may tell you it’s necessary to give babies water during their first few months. However, while water is regarded as life’s elixir, if your baby is offered water too early or given too much, it can cause more harm than good.
This article will explore when you should start giving your baby water. When it’s safe to introduce juice, how much and how often they should drink these two liquids.
When to Start Giving Your Baby Water
Most pediatric experts and child nutritionists agree that you should only offer your baby water once you’ve introduced solids, which is around the sixth month. Even if you start your baby on solids at four months, the experts are emphatic that you should only give them water at six months (Trusted Source).
Boil tap water and let it cool to room temperature, then use it within 24 hours. Remember, your baby’s primary nutrients will come from breast milk or baby formula until they are at least one year old. The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages continued breastfeeding for the first two years.
The idea is to get them used to drinking water, not necessarily to drink her fill. It's best to offer small amounts in a sippy or an open cup. It may be necessary to experiment with different cups until they are comfortable drinking from at least one.
If your baby refuses a cup and will only drink from a bottle, you will have to monitor that they only take a few sips at a time.
Introducing your baby to solids is already an important milestone. You wouldn't want them to drink too much water and delay the process or suffer serious health problems.
How Much Water Should You Give Your Baby?
From six months onward, babies need four to six ounces of water during the day (about half a cup). However, as babies are unique in their development and transitioning from one milestone to the next, it’s always best to consult with your baby’s paediatrician to ascertain how much water they should have per day.
While discussing your baby’s hydration with your pediatrician, find out by how much to increase their water intake when your baby may need more to quench her thirst, especially when they are running a fever or during hot weather.
The Benefits of Water for Babies
Once your baby has transitioned to solids, they need water in addition to breast milk or formula to stay hydrated. Water also aids in the following processes:
- Helps with digestion of foods
- Transports the nutrients and oxygen to the baby’s cells,
- Eliminates waste and keep your baby’s stool soft,
- Keeps tissues and joints well-lubricated,
- It helps to maintain the blood volume.
- It keeps your baby's system balanced.
Dehydration In Babies –Signs To Observe
Babies’ tiny tummies cannot store a lot of fluid. Their little tummies can only hold approximately seven ounces (Trusted Source) or 207 ml. Understandably, this makes it impossible for their little bodies to hold much fluid in reserve.
If you're taking your baby outside on a hot day, make sure that they stay hydrated by increasing their milk and water intake throughout the day. The same applies when they have a bout of vomiting, diarrhea or fever due to illness.
Dehydration (Trusted Source) can occur relatively rapidly, so you need to recognize the signs and call your doctor.
Watch out for the following tell-tale signs of dehydration:
- Less than six wet diapers in 24 hours
- The baby's urine is dark-yellow in colour
- Fussiness and crying with no tears flowing (tearless crying)
- Your baby’s skin is dry and hot to the touch
- When you press their skin, it doesn't bounce back
- Their lips are starting to crack
- Their eyes are sunken
- They are listless and only want to sleep
- The soft spot on top of their head (fontanel) appears sunken
- Their little hands and feet are cold
Call your doctor or the baby's pediatrician immediately if you notice any of the above signs.
The Risks Of Giving Babies Water Too Early
There are real risks associated with starting your baby too early on water or any other liquids other than breast milk or formula before the age of six months. Your baby gets all the nutrients and hydration their little body needs from the milk until then.
Babies under six months should not be given water for the following reasons
- Immature kidneys: A very young baby’s kidneys are not well-developed and can’t process much water at any given time.
- Lack of nutrients: The child nutrition experts cannot emphasize enough that all the nutrition a baby needs is in breast milk or formula. If your baby starts drinking water too soon, they will miss out on the essential nutrients contained in these two milk sources.
- Inappropriate weight gain: Drinking water too early can rob your baby of the necessary calories they should obtain from feeding exclusively on breast milk or formula. Additional water can lead to insufficient age-appropriate weight gain.
- Mother’s milk supply could diminish: For a breastfeeding mum, her milk supply could decrease or dry up if their baby is filling their tiny tummy with water as they would feed much less at the breast.
- A chemical imbalance: Giving your baby ‘large' amounts of water, especially in a bottle, can cause electrolytes (sodium) to become diluted in the bloodstream leading to water intoxication.
Too much dilution can result in a severe condition called hyponatremia (Trusted Source). This is when the baby's normal bodily functions become impaired. Resulting in lowered body temperature, possible seizures, coma, brain damage, and even death.
What Are The Symptoms Of Water Intoxication?
You need to know the symptoms and changes in your baby's behaviour indicative of water intoxication or hyponatremia:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Looking around wide-eyed and confused
- Muscle cramps, twitching and squirming
- Nausea and vomiting
- Your baby has difficulty breathing
- General weakness and slumping
If you spot any of these symptoms in your baby, get medical help immediately!
When Can You Introduce Juice To Your Baby
If you have a six-month-old baby who refuses to drink water, you can give them unsweetened fruit juice. Dilute one part of juice with 10 – parts water and give it to your baby with meals.
Once babies are introduced to solids, the liquid content of fruit and veg should suffice alongside small sips of water. However, seeing that you are introducing and experimenting with flavours and textures. Fruit juice is one way of exposing a picky eater to new tastes while also providing some extra vitamin C to aid iron absorption.
The biggest gripe the pediatric experts have, even with 100% natural fruit juice, is the naturally high sugar content. This can cause excess weight gain, tooth decay and lead to various ailments, including diarrhea.
For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting with juice only when your baby is one year old, and their bodily system (and kidneys) is more developed.
Choosing The Best Juice For Your Baby
Your grocery store aisles will be stacked with a large variety of brands, all claiming to offer the best juice. Be vigilant when reading product information sheets, even if the label says 100%, the product may contain other added ingredients.
Watch out for those ingredients you cannot pronounce, keep it simple. Rather err on the side of caution.
What to look for on the product information sheet when buying juice for your baby
- 100 percent pure juice (fruit or a blend of fruit and veg)
- 100 percent pasteurized (sterilization through heat treatment)
- Look for mild flavours to start, such as apple or pear
- Zero added sugar.
You should avoid any juices labelled
- Or anything ending in – ade.
Fruit And Veg Juice You Can Make For Your Baby
As with all cooked and boiled fruit and vegetables, some nutrients are destroyed in the process. But it should not deter you from making your baby's juice to give it a personal touch.
Wash and rinse fruit and vegetables with the skin. Sterilize the blender, utensils, cutting boards, etc., to minimize bacterial contamination. After putting the fruit through a blender, strain the pulp through a clean cheesecloth to separate the juice.
These are our top rated baby food processors:
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have warned high-risk individuals, including pregnant women, babies, the elderly and the frail, to boil unpasteurized juice to destroy harmful bacteria (Trusted Source) contained in raw and cold-pressed juices.
Below are some nutritious fruit and veg that can be processed for your baby
- Stewed or boiled juice:
Apples, pears, peaches, carrots, tomatoes,
- Raw Juices:
Mangoes, Bananas, Oranges, Watermelon, Grapes, Tender coconut, Lychees, Muskmelon, Papaya (avoid during summer months)
(skinless, pips and seeds removed, or flesh scooped out and cut into small chunks)
Vegetables should be boiled before juicing while your baby is still getting used to the different tastes. Blend combinations of fruits and veg once your baby is more comfortable with the taste of the various juices. Varieties can include carrot and apple, orange with apple or peach, apple and banana, etc. (Trusted Source).
Although fruit is high in natural sugar, it still offers a better alternative to sweetened beverages. It is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
A General Guide To Introducing Your Baby To Fruit Juice
- Avoid canned fruit juices as they are high in sugars and have very low nutritional value.
- Give juice in an open cup or spoon instead of a bottle. Start with small sips at mealtimes, in total about two tablespoons (30ml)
- Initially dilute juice at 1 part pure fruit juice to 3 parts boiled and cooled water.
- Start by introducing one fruit or vegetable at a time so that your baby’s digestive system can adapt.
- Check for allergic reactions and discontinue the offending juice immediately (discuss allergic reactions with your baby’s paediatrician).
- Try, as much as possible, to boil fruit or vegetables. Raw juice should be pasteurized.
- Introduce known local fruit and veg such as apples, pears, carrots, beets or radish.
- Always check the product information sheets on store-bought juices to ensure it's pasteurized.
- While your baby may prefer the juice, you need to ensure that they get two to three meals of stage 1 or 2 foods, snacks, and sips of water in between.
- From 6 to 7 months, fruits and vegetables should be steamed or boiled before diluting it with boiled water and blending. Amount: 1 ounce (2 tablespoons -30ml per day).
- Giving sips of juice with solid foods allow extra nutrition to be absorbed into the body.
It’s essential to monitor and limit juice to between 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) to 4 ounces (½ cup – 30 to120 ml per day) starting at six months and gradually increasing the amount as your baby develops.
Introducing water to your baby could ideally start at six months once your baby is introduced to solids. But it's not necessary to introduce pure juice at the same time. Your baby will already receive all the essential nutrients they need from the pureed foods, and it should include food from the five food groups.
Adding juice to your baby's diet too soon may interfere with them being a willing partner in exploring new textures and exercising the chewing action. When your baby seems to enjoy new tastes and readily accepts sips of water, introducing juice from 7 months onwards could assist their body to absorb iron and other minerals from the food.
You can start with 1 ounce (30ml – 2 tablespoons) per day and gradually increase it to 4 ounces (½ cup) when your baby reaches the one-year milestone.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions that excessive juice consumption in babies may lead to nutritional deficiencies and interfere with their overall healthy development.
They recommend giving your baby juice in an open cup and not a sippy cup or bottle. Only offer juice at mealtimes, this will limit excessive consumption of juice for hydration instead of drinking water.
Tap or bottled water, which is baby-safe?
- Tap water in most developed countries is safe to drink, although it may contain fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Before using tap water to mix your baby's formula or giving it to your baby to drink, it's advisable to have it tested. Sometimes tap water may also contain lead which is harmful to babies.
It's advisable to install a water filtration system to remove harmful chemicals from your tap water.
- Bottled mineral water has a growing global market in the younger generations who are ‘hung up’ on walking around with bottled water in hand. Bottled mineral water, though regarded as healthy and safe for adults, contains various minerals, unsafe and harmful to babies.
- Distilled water (Trusted Source) is another option, and people view it as the purest form of drinking water. Distilled Water is the steam collected from boiling water. It only consists of hydrogen and oxygen hence its bland taste.
The distillation process strips it of all valuable electrolytes (Trusted Source) contained in tap water, such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium and other micronutrients that incidentally give tap water its taste.
In summary, while mineral water and distilled water may be viewed as safe for adults, it is not the healthiest for a baby, and tap water may be your best option. If you cannot invest in a filtration system, boil tap water and let it cool to room temperature before using it for your baby's formula or drinking water.
Can I give juice to treat constipation in a baby under six months?
According to pediatric experts, constipation is not uncommon in babies. If a baby seems to experience pain or lots of straining when passing stools, they requires immediate treatment.
If your baby is over one month old, you can give them tiny amounts of apple or pear juice. This can be changed to prune juice once your baby turns three months old.
Amounts: The medical experts recommend you give your baby 1 ounce (30 ml – 2 tablespoons) per day for each month of the baby's age. For instance, 2 ounces (60ml) apple or pear juice per day if your baby is two months old. Suppose they are three months old, 3 ounces (90 ml) prune/apple/pear juice per day.
Once your baby is four months old, high-fibre pureed foods will help with constipation. Foods recommended as beans, peas, prunes, apricots, pears, peaches, or fresh plums.
If your baby is on stage 3 finger foods, you can add cereals and pieces of cut-up fresh fruit.
Give your baby sufficient fluids (½ cup water and ½ cup juice) per day in addition to high-fibre solid foods to stay hydrated and to keep the stool soft and easy to pass.
The only time you should give juice to your baby under six months old is when your doctor or your baby's pediatrician recommends this to treat specific symptoms.