Something that can be a topic of conflict between new parents and grandparents is when it is okay to give your baby water or juice. Grandparents may be telling you to give your baby extra water or juice to fill them up more or to help cool them down; this is now outdated information and should definitely be avoided in babies under 6 months.
Babies under 6 months should only be drinking breastmilk or formula. Do not give your baby juice or water until they are 6 months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding any juice until your baby turns one year old.
Juice doesn’t have much health benefits and simply adds extra calories and sugars. Too much juice can cause diarrhea, cavities or gum decay, and can cause your baby to gain too much weight. When you do decide it is time to introduce juice only buy 100% juice. Other juices, such as mixes or powders, have added sugar. Only give your baby 2-4 ounces a day in a cup as bottles can lead to pooling and increase tooth decay. Give them the juice only at meals and consider watering it down at least to 25% juice and 75% water. A better alternative to juice is fresh fruit or fruit purees which have better nutrients than juice.
But what about if your baby is constipated? If your baby is showing signs of constipation or pain when passing a bowel movement and you have consulted your doctor it may be okay to give your baby some juice even if they are not yet 6 months old. Before offering juice try massaging your baby’s belly, or helping them exercise (do bicycle legs or convince them to crawl). If your baby is still struggling with constipation you can offer a small amount of prune juice, not more than 1 ounce per month of life each day, and not before they are at least 4 weeks old. This can be added to their formula or breastmilk or given in a syringe. But make sure you consult with your doctor before resulting to juice. If your baby does not like prune juice, apple or pear juice will work as well. It can take a few hours for the juice to take effect.
Okay, so you aren’t going to give your baby juice, but what about water, its healthy right? You should not give water to your baby until they are at least 6 months old. If you are formula feeding, make sure you mix the formula as directed and do not add extra water to the mixture. Water before 6 months will simply fill your baby’s tummy and can also disrupt their ability to absorb the nutrients from milk. If your baby drinks too much water it can even dilute the natural sodium balance in their body causing water intoxication. If you are wanting to give them cool water to help in the summer months it is better to simply offer extra nursing sessions or a cool bottle of formula rather than water. After 6 months it is okay to offer a small amount of water, but until they turn one year old breastmilk or formula should still be their main drink. If they fill up on water they will not want to drink as much milk and will miss out on those important nutrients. After a year, they can have as much water as they would like!
Did your baby want lots of water? Both of my kids always wanted water!
Next I will be blogging on the letter K… K is for Kangaroo Care.