A certain amount of water is recommended for everyone, particularly during the warmer seasons because the heat can dehydrate someone quickly. However, what most people don’t realize is that infants up to 6 months old can be given too much water. A 1997 Clinicians Reviews survey of new mothers discovered that almost 25 percent gave their babies water at least three times weekly during their first month of life.
Children and adults aren’t prone to water intoxication because they can tell how much water they need by how thirsty they are. Babies can’t do that. In addition, a newborn’s kidneys filter slower than older infants, which cause diluted sodium levels in the blood.
During 1989 to 1991, doctors at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital reported 24 cases of water intoxication. As there were only 10 cases reported from 1985 to 1988, it seems that this is a problem somewhat on the rise. The reported cases involved healthy babies of 4 to 5 months of age who drank three 8 ounce bottles of water during 6 to 12 hours.
Water intoxication symptoms include needing more than eight diapers daily, pale urine, and sleeping more than normal with difficulty in waking up. Mothers need to be aware that these symptoms should never be ignored. They should also be aware that healthy babies don’t need any more water than what they get in formula or breast milk.
Babies can get water intoxication from drinking several bottles of water daily or through drinking overly diluted infant formula. Water makes babies feel full with fewer calories. Therefore, giving a baby extra water can cause weight loss or keep him from gaining sufficient weight.
Pediatricians advise mothers to feed babies 2 to 3 ounces more than their age in months per feeding. For instance, a 4 month old baby would need 6 to 7 ounces three times daily. Over 8 ounces at one feeding is usually not necessary. Typically, the proportions of milk to water are two thirds milk and one third water. This gives the baby about 8 ounces of water spread out over 24 hours. If you dilute the formula, milk shouldn’t be less than 50 percent.
When baby is eating solid food, usually around 7 months old, small amounts of water can be introduced by using a cup. Follow your pediatrician’s instructions and your baby will be protected from ever suffering from water intoxication.