Water makes up about 60 percent of human bodies. We constantly lose water through urine, sweat and breathing. So how do we replace all the water we lose and stay well-hydrated? Most people know that adults need to drink about eight glasses of water per day, but keeping babies hydrated has some special considerations.

Does my baby need water?

Healthy newborns get all the water they need from breast milk and/or formula, even when it’s hot outside. They do not need extra water. Giving a young baby water can decrease his/her appetite and prevent the baby from getting the nutrients needed from breast milk or formula. Also, babies under 6 months of age who get too much water can develop a rare but serious condition called “water intoxication.” This condition can cause seizures. The safest thing to do is to give your baby only breast milk/formula. Please check with your child’s primary care provider before giving your baby any water, and remember, always mix formula according to the package instructions! Making formula “last longer” by adding more water than recommended can lead to water intoxication or poor weight gain. 

So, when can I give my baby water?

After 6 months of age, it is safe to give babies water. Introducing sippy cups with water at this age is a great idea. It will get them used to cups and drinking water at the same time.

How much water does my baby need?

A 6-12 month old baby needs two to eight ounces of water per day on top of the water they get from breast milk/formula. Taking sips from their cups throughout the day will usually get them the water they need. In general, babies 6 months and older can drink as much water as they want and will slowly increase their water intake as they rely more on solid foods for their caloric needs. Remember to make sure they are still drinking breast milk/formula and eating a varied, nutritious diet. Once babies turn 1 year old, they need about four cups of water per day (32 oz.). At this age, they rely on more solid foods than breast milk/formula for nutrition. 

What kind of water can I give my baby?

Tap water generally works well for mixing formula or for drinking from a sippy cup. Be sure that your local health department says the water supply is safe for drinking. Water does not need to be boiled unless there’s a concern for unsafe water. It is ok to use bottled water, but babies do need some tap water when they start getting teeth. Fluoride, a mineral that helps build strong enamel and keeps cavities from forming, is added to the public water supply, and filtering tap water does not remove fluoride . . . so turn on the tap!


Jamie Hedman Jamie Hedman, MD, was a pediatrician with Children’s Pediatricians and Associates Foggy Bottom/Capitol Hill.

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