While drinking more water is a good idea for everyone, especially during hot summer months, too much water can be harmful to infants 6 months old and younger. According to a study in Clinicians Reviews a 1997 survey of new mothers found that nearly 25 percent give their babies water at least 3 times per week in the first month of life.
Water intoxication is rare in children and adults who are able to judge their own water needs by thirst and activity. But babies are not able to do this. Also, the kidneys of newborns filter more slowly than those of older infants, causing sodium levels in the blood to be diluted.
According to doctors, 24 cases of water intoxication were reported at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the years 1989 to 1991. The problem seems to be increasing since only 10 cases were reported from 1985 to 1988. In the cases reported the otherwise healthy babies were 4 to 5 months old and drank three 8-oz. bottles of water within 6 to 12 hours.
Symptoms of water intoxication include pale urine, using more than 8 diapers a day, and babies sleeping more than usual and being difficult to wake up.
Mothers should be advised that healthy infants get all the water they need in breast milk or formula.
A baby can get water intoxication as a result of drinking several bottles of water a day or from drinking infant formula that has been diluted too much.
Water fills the baby without adding calories, so water supplementation can result in weight loss or insufficient weight gain for the baby.
Pediatricians advise feeding babies 2 to 3 oz. more than their age in months at each feeding. For example, babies 4 months old would be fed 6 to 7 oz. three times a day. More than 8 oz. at any one feeding is rarely necessary. The usual proportions of milk to water should be about two-thirds milk to one-third water. With these proportions, the baby receives about 8 oz of water equally spaced over a 24 hour period. If the formula is diluted, mild should not be less than 50 percent.
Only around seven months of age, when the baby has started eating solid foods, should a little water be introduced in a cup.
Water intoxication can be prevented by following your physician’s instructions.
For more information on water and it’s healthy benefits for old and young alike: