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Why Giving Water To A Baby Could Potentially Kill Them

Why Giving Water To A Baby Could Potentially Kill Them

A baby’s kidneys are not as developed as an adult and therefore cannot process as much water at a time.

Maya Suraya

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There are a thousand things on the mind of new parents. But sometimes the purest of intentions may prove detrimental to your bundle of joy.

With Malaysia’s hot weather, we’re naturally inclined to revive ourselves with water. While that may be the best way for us, it could potentially be fatal to our babies.

Yes, too much water given to your baby could kill them.

Before going off on a tirade of comments like “I’ve given water to my baby before and they are fine” here is some science to set you straight.

Reasons you should never give your babies water

(Credit: Hello Doctor PH)

For the first six months of their lives, babies should receive both nutrition and hydration from breastmilk or formula as made exactly instructed on the tin. 

That may be obvious and you may be thinking that water is a safe liquid so why not? Well here’s why not:

Nutrient loss

A baby’s tummy is small and can only hold about 1 to 2 teaspoons (5 – 10 millilitres). Giving your baby water will fill their belly up with essentially a useless substance to them.

This then leaves no room for vitamins, minerals, fat, and calories that are so crucial for their growth and development.  

Water intoxication

As pure a substance as water is, it can be toxic to anyone if drunk in large quantities. And with babies, filling up is quite easy given how tiny they are by default. 

In short, when the kidneys are given more water than they can handle, the excess water ends up in your bloodstream. 

The excess fluid then dilutes the bloodstream and lowers the concentration of important electrolytes, like sodium.  

Too much dilution and you’re at risk for hyponatremia which literally translates to too little (hypo) salt in the blood (natremia). This can then cause brain swelling, coma, or even death.

Symptoms to be aware of

If you suspect you’ve given your baby too much water, take note of the following signs:

  • Unusual fussiness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Low body temperature
  • Pale colour urine
  • Swelling
  • Seizures

You would know your child best so if you suspect something amiss, seek help immediately. 

Take caution

When leaving your baby in the care of a babysitter, relative or day-care, make sure to let them know to NOT give them any water. 

To be safe, since all babies grow at their own rate, they should stay clear of water until the age of 1

In addition, make sure to not mix too much water with formula, or dilute breast milk. A couple in the US were charged 20 years jail time for killing their 10-week old for diluting breast milk with water before feeding her! 

Also, be careful in the pool or bathtub. Your child could easily swallow an unassuming amount of water there too. 


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