Quenching Curiosity Around When Babies Can Drink Water

Last Updated: 
July 18, 2024
 | 
8
 minutes read
Written by
Amanda Kule
Parent Contributor
Medically reviewed by
Arik Alper, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Aerodigestive Specialist

Babies drink a lot of fluids in the beginning of their life – in fact, nearly all of their nutrients and hydration throughout their first year comes from formula or breast milk!

However, once your baby starts eating solids, they can start to drink small amounts of plain water.

If you’re wondering more about when your baby can drink water, what types of water your baby should drink, and what other beverages your baby can drink aside from water, read on!2

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When Can Babies Drink Water?

When your baby begins to eat solid foods, which usually happens around six months depending on if they are ready to start solids, you can offer small sips of water with their meals out of a sippy cup, or straw cup.

Even when they reach six months old and can start drinking a little water, formula or breast milk will continue to be their main beverage until their first birthday. Just like solids, water is complementary to breast milk or formula.

Once they turn one year old and start eating enough solids, which is around the same time they stop drinking formula, and start weaning from the bottle, you can introduce more water as well as cow’s milk to their diet. By this age they likely are drinking less breast milk or formula, so water becomes another big source of hydration – they also will get hydration from solids and cow’s milk.

Some babies may be ready to start solids as early as four months. Ask your pediatrician if they are also ready to drink water. If your baby is nursing, experts recommend you continue for as long as you and your baby want, even two years or more.

Why Can’t Babies Drink Water Before 6 Months?

Babies younger than six months old should not drink water.

Reasons why babies under six months old can’t drink water include:

  • Babies have small stomachs yet consume a ton of nutrients to grow as rapidly as they do. Water would fill their stomachs without providing the nutrition they need at this age.
  • Water may dilute the level of electrolytes or minerals such as sodium in a baby under six month’s blood, which may cause water intoxication. Water intoxication can cause seizures and other dangerous effects. Since babies have a large hunger drive, offering them plan water will throw off their balance.
  • Babies get the hydration they need from breast milk or formula, which is made mostly of water. In fact, breast milk is generally made from 87% water. Formula is also made with water.

Before 12 months old their main beverage should continue to be breast milk or formula, however they can have small sips with meals.

If your worried your baby is dehydrated or not getting enough fluids, speak to your pediatrician. Signs your baby may be dehydrated include fewer wet diapers or bright yellow urine.

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How Much Water Can My Baby Drink?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends how much water babies can drink as the following:

Babies 6-12 months old

  • 1/2 to 1 cup, or 4-8 ounces per day of plain, fluoridated drinking water in a cup with meals
  • Most of their fluids should come from breast milk or formula – too much plain water in young babies can cause medical problems

Babies 12-24 months old

  • 1 to 4 cups, or 8 to 32 ounces, of drinking water per day
  • This age needs approximately 4 cups of beverages a day, which can include cow’s milk, water, or a non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk

Keep in mind: the amount of fluids your baby needs can vary depending on a bunch of factors, including if it’s a super-hot day or if your baby’s been very active.

Expert tip for adding water to your daily schedule
Unsure where plain water should fit into your baby’s feeding schedule? If you’re using the Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app to track your baby’s feedings and sleep times, simply offer a few sips of water whenever they are having their meals of solids. The app shows the best time to put them to sleep according to their circadian rhythm so they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer – if you notice any sleep disruptions, you can tweak their feeding schedule to give their bodies a little more time to digest!

What Other Types of Drinks Can a Baby Have?

Breast milk or formula, or a combination of the two, are the number one drinks for babies 12 months old and under.

Once your baby turns one and stops drinking formula, water and cow’s milk, or non-dairy alternatives such as unsweetened oat milk, unsweetened fortified soy milk, and pea-based milk, become the most important beverages for hydration and nutrition.

As your child ages, you can start building healthy drinking and eating habits in your child by offering water as the first drink of choice. Water becomes even more important for hydration as well as healthy bones, teeth, maintaining a healthy weight, regular bowel movements, and lots more.

When can babies drink juice or coconut water?

Most beverages, even 100% juice, often have too much sugar and not enough health benefits, especially for toddlers under two years old. Juice should never be given to babies before they turn one, unless your pediatrician recommends it. Whole fruits are a better alternative to fruit juice.

Pediatricians say water and milk are the only beverages that your child needs. Often offering juice, which includes coconut water, can lead to unhealthy drinking habits and a preference over sweet drinks over water. Since coconut water is considered a juice, it’s not recommended for babies. Offering your baby unpasteurized juice to young children is also not recommended.

If you're struggling to get your baby to drink water, you can try squeezing fresh citrus or adding other fruits to improve the taste.

When can babies drink tap water?

In many places in the world, tap water is safe to drink. You can check with your local health authority to determine if the tap water in your area is safe. If it is, starting at a young age, formula can be prepared according to the instructions using filtered or unfiltered tap water.

Oftentimes fluoride is added to tap water, which can be good for teeth. However, the Center for Disease Control says if your baby is only drinking formula mixed with water with fluoride, there is an increase chance for mild dental fluorosis, which are light, barely noticeable white marks on their teeth. If you choose, you can occasionally use bottled water without added fluoride to help minimize the risk.

You may wonder if boiled tap water safe for babies. In certain cases, even in tap water that’s considered safe, it’s recommended that you boil tap water before mixing it with formula – just make sure it’s cooled before serving it. If your baby is less than 2 months old, born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system, speak with your pediatrician to see if you should boil your tap water for formula or, if your baby is over six months, offer it to them in a cup.

If there is a situation such as a hurricane, flood, or water main break, tap water may become temporarily unsafe for drinking. In this case, experts recommend using bottled water for both formula or when offering water out of a cup, and checking with local health authorities to see if boiling your water and letting it cool before offering it to your baby is okay.

When can babies drink bottled water

Babies can drink distilled or purified bottled water starting from six months of age either mixed with formula or in small quantities from a cup. Before six months, some minerals or additives in bottled water may not be safe in excess if mixed with formula.

Benefits of Babies Drinking Water

  • Hydration: In your baby’s first year of life, most of their hydration comes from breast milk or formula. Once they start consuming mostly solids and drinking cow’s milk at age one, water becomes more important for hydration. Being hydrated helps with mood, memory, and focus, and is part of building healthy teeth, bones, and joints. It also can help keep prevent overheating and constipation.
  • Weaning: Offering water in a cup to your baby over six months old helps with the weaning process. Babies should stop drinking out of a bottle by their first birthday – offering water in a cup can helps them practice their new drinking skills and can make the transition easier.
  • Healthy habits: As your baby gets older, water (as well as cow’s milk) should be your toddler’s beverage of choice. Getting used to drinking water over other beverages, such as juice, is important for establishing and maintaining healthy eating and drinking habits.
Expert tip: baby peeing more since starting to offer water? Try a PampersTM Swaddlers Overnight diaper to see if the extra absorbent diaper helps – maybe the extra hydration is causing them to become a little more wet during sleeps!

Drinking Water Safety and Risks

Water is essential to being alive! In fact, between 55-60% of our bodies are made up of water. However, for babies, there are situations where offering water may not be safe.

Ways to minimize the risk of drinking water and ensure safety include:

  • Not offering plain water to a baby under six months old – only offer breast milk or formula
  • Mixing formula according to the instructions, ensuring the right balance of formula and water
  • Not over-serving your baby plain water
  • Talking with your doctor about what water to use for formula in babies under 2 months of age, born premature, or with a weak immune system
  • Ensuring your tap water is safe before serving it to your baby (contact local health department if you’re unsure)
  • If boiling your water, make sure it’s cooled before serving it to your baby
  • Discarding formula made with water after one hour if not finished
  • Watching your baby closely in the bath, pool, or near any body of water

Signs of dehydration in babies

Signs that your baby is dehydrated, which happens when your baby doesn’t drink enough or loses more fluid than they drink, include:

  • Less than 6 wet diapers a day
  • Fewer tears when crying
  • Dry mouth

Severe signs include extra fussy, sleepy, sunken eyes, cool discolored hands and feet, or wrinkly skin.

Signs of too much water in babies

Signs of water intoxication, which is when your baby drinks too much water and it dilutes important electrolytes or minerals in their body, may include:

  • Seizure
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle twitching

The Bottom Line

Starting to drink water is a big milestone in your baby’s life! Water prevents dehydration, flushes waste, keeps you at the right temperature, helps with mood and focus, lubricates your joints, and more.

Once they turn one, water will become one of the main beverages for your baby, along with cow’s milk, and breast milk if they’re still nursing. Until then, plain water should be offered in small quantities with meals – and not at all before six months old!

If you have any questions about the safety of your water or want to know more on how and when to introduce it to your little one, speak to your pediatrician for more personalized guidance.

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FAQs:

If your baby is under three months old and has a fever, or has a high fever and other concerning symptoms, contact your pediatrician. Fluids are very important if your baby has a fever. If they are under one year old, keep offering them formula or breast milk. If they are older one, you can offer cow’s milk, breast milk, or water. Your pediatrician may have other advice personalized to your baby.

Babies under six months old should not drink water. If your baby drinks formula, you can use water to make the formula according to the package. If you accidentally give your newborn water, speak to your pediatrician if your baby exhibits any signs of water intoxication such as seizures.

When your baby turns one, they should start drinking cow’s milk and water. If your baby isn’t drinking water, but is getting 4 cups of liquid from cow’s milk or breast milk, don’t stress – try offering water flavored with fresh fruit or herbs to see if you can encourage them to drink more.

Babies between one year old and two year old need about 4 cups total of liquids every day. This should be made up of water and cow’s milk. If your baby has a dairy allergy you can offer unsweetened oat milk, fortified soy milk, or pea-based milk.

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How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Sources

American Academy of Pediatrics, “Healthy Beverage Quick Reference Guide”

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “Recommended Drinks for Children Age 5 & Younger”

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “Signs of Dehydration in Infants & Children”

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “Water Fluoridation”

Annals of Emergency Medicine, “Water intoxication with seizures”

Center for Disease Control, ”Hyponatremic Seizures Among Infants Fed with Commercial Bottled Drinking Water -- Wisconsin, 1993”

Center for Disease Control, “Infant Formula”

Center for Disease Control, “Infant Formula Preparation and Storage”

Center for Disease Control, “Water and Healthier Drinks”

Nutrients, ”Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula”

United States Geological Survey, “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body"

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