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.
This is because breast milk provides not only all the nutrition that your baby needs, but also all of the hydration as well.
Even in the first couple of days after birth, when your body is producing colostrum, which is a low-volume milk.
It is packed full of nutrients and also provides all of the hydration that your baby needs, as long as he is feeding well and regularly.
Even in hot weather, your baby doesn’t need to be given 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 also encouraging to know that your baby is really skilled at being able to regulate 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 have actually lost weight because of that, so it’s important just to allow your baby to feed at the breast and get all the nutrients and all the hydration that he needs.
When do breastfed babies need water?
Once you have started solids, around the six-month mark, your baby can be offered an open lidded cup and you can offer expressed milk or sips of water, but this is not always necessary – as long as you are offering 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.
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Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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