As summer approaches and the weather gets warmer moms and their babies begin to spend more time outdoors. Breastfeeding mothers often wonder whether or not their babies need to be supplemented with water at this time. The answer to this question is, no! Breast milk contains 88% water and is perfectly formulated to satisfy a baby’s needs no matter what the weather is. Giving water to a breastfeeding baby six months and younger is actually more dangerous than helpful. A breastfeeding mother who herself is well-hydrated and is allowing her baby to breastfeed as often as the baby desires will ensure a well-hydrated baby no matter how hot the weather becomes.
A number of studies have been done in various locations (both humid and dry climates) at temperatures ranging from 22-41°C (71.6-105.8°F) and 9-96% relative humidity, questioning whether or not breastfed babies need extra hydration. These studies have determined that an exclusively breastfed baby absolutely does not need water in addition to breast milk. Giving supplemental water to a newborn (under 5 weeks old) can actually be dangerous. Too much water can dilute the sodium in the baby’s bloodstream to the point where “oral water intoxication” develops. Oral water intoxication can lead to symptoms like low body temp, bloating, and seizures. Breastfeeding babies who have reached the six-month mark also do not need water, but it is not harmful if they occasionally sip water from a cup.
Although breastfed babies do not need any supplemental water, it is interesting to note that formula-fed babies sometimes do. Formula has a higher salt level that can be harder on their kidneys and therefore some babies may need extra water to help them excrete it. Formula fed babies also have less efficient metabolisms than breastfed babies, so they use up water faster. (Ask your doctor for recommended amounts of water in this case.)
So, go outside with your beautiful baby, and enjoy the much-anticipated sunshine. Be stress free and happy and know the only thing your baby may need in the sun is a hat J (and perhaps an extra diaper!).
By Sara Chana Silverstein, IBCLC, BA, Herbalist and Student of Homeopathy. She is a licensed Lactation Consultant helping women and babies with breastfeeding problems. She also works with children and adults with chronic ear and strep infections, stomach problems and emotional issues. She can be reached at 718-467-1455.