Do breastfeeding babies need water?
If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may be surprised to learn that you don’t need to offer your baby extra water.
Breast milk provides not only all the nutrition that your baby needs, but also all of the hydration as well.
In the first couple of days after birth, your body is producing colostrum, which is a low-volume milk. It’s packed full of nutrients and provides all the hydration your baby needs, as long as he is feeding well and regularly.
Even in hot weather, your baby doesn’t need any extra water! However, he will feed more frequently and therefore get all the fluids that he needs.
Studies have shown that even in temperatures up to 41 degrees, your baby will not need extra fluids. So you can be confident that if you go abroad for a holiday to a hot climate, your baby still only needs to be feeding at the breast.
It’s encouraging to know that your baby is naturally skilled at regulating his intake at the breast and get all the hydration that he needs.
In the early days and weeks, extra water given to your baby will replace breastmilk, and can actually cause him to feed less at the breast, which in turn can mean that your body won’t make as much milk as your baby needs.
Some babies lose weight because of that, so it’s essential to allow your baby to feed at the breast, getting all the nutrients and hydration he needs.
When do breastfed babies need water?
Once you have started solids, around the six-month mark, you can offer your baby an open lidded cup. You can offer expressed milk or sips of water, but this is not always necessary – as long as you are providing the breast whenever your baby wants, alongside solid food.
For older babies and toddlers, continue to offer breast milk and water in moderation, and remember that your breast milk still provides plenty of fluids, so if your baby is feeding without restriction, then he is still likely to be getting all the hydration he needs without any extra fluids.
Summing up, if you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you do not need to be offering extra fluids, and as the year goes on, there is some flexibility.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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