As the weather warms up it is important to know that water is NOT recommended for young babies and could actually be life threatening to them.
According to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, breastfed babies don’t require any additional fluids before six months of age.
If the weather is hot and parents or carers are worried about dehydration, the baby should be offered additional breast or formula feeds.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association says a mother’s milk has the perfect ratio of food to water to meet their baby’s needs.
“It is a living fluid, ever-changing to suit your baby and even in response to the weather,” a statement on the ABA website reads. “The first milk your baby gets from a full breast has a low fat content and naturally quenches baby’s thirst. [The] later milk has a creamier appearance and satisfies baby’s hunger.”
Babies older than six months may be given some water, for example to help with constipation or in hot weather, but it should only be a small amount of water at a time and should not replace milk feeds.
Similarly, older babies who have started eating solids can be offered small amounts of water to help them learn how to use a cup.
Water intoxication can occur when a person, adult or child, consumes too much water with too few nutrients. The sodium in the blood drops to a dangerously low level as the kidneys cannot excrete enough fluid.
Early symptoms of water intoxication which parents and carers should be aware of are a low body temperature (about 36°C or less) and puffiness or swelling in the face.
Prompt medical attention should be sought if it’s suspected a baby or child is suffering from water intoxication in order to reduce the risk of any permanent damage or death.
ABA also shares, “in very hot weather, skin contact can be quite uncomfortable for both you and your baby. A towel, pillowcase, or cloth nappy placed between your baby and your arm and body can be helpful. A cool, damp face-washer in the crook of your arm is refreshing too. Lying down to feed may be more comfortable for both of you, as only baby’s mouth and your breast need be in contact.”
“If your baby’s skin feels hot to touch, sponge him with lukewarm (body heat) water at frequent intervals. An alternative is bathing often. You only need to use plain water as soap can remove the natural oils from his skin.”
It is also important to remember “having a glass of water at each breastfeed is one way of making sure your own fluid intake is adequate in these hot conditions. Some mothers find that water bottles placed through the house remind them to drink enough so that they are not thirsty.”
The key is to stay out of the heat and keep bub in the shade, as cool as possible.
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