Softened water for babies?

I live in a small town near a river and our water is very hard. We installed a water softener that uses salt pellets. In one of the books I read they said not to use softened water because the salt could harm the baby. My question is how safe is it? I can get some water that doesn't go through the softener, should I boil it and use that?

Leann

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Leann,

There are some important health distinctions between hard and soft water. It is based on the minerals that they contain. Hard water generally comes more from surface waters and is rich in calcium and magnesium. Soft water more often comes from deep in the ground (or from artificial means as in an added water softener like yours) and its principal mineral is sodium. Soft water is preferable to many homeowners because it doesn't have the effect of leaving a residue of rocklike crystals on pipes and tea kettles. However, hard water is more healthful for consumption. It is best, if you have a water softener, to have a bypass that will also allow you to tap your water supply for the hard water for drinking and cooking. Some people put the water softener on the hot water line, using that only for washing and bathing, and use the cold water for cooking and drinking.

Soft water can add appreciable amounts of sodium to your diet, and it appears to contribute to a higher incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease where it is used. The American Heart Association has recommended that water contain no more than 20mg. sodium per liter. Check your water softener to see how much sodium it is adding to your water, and make your decision based on that.

Soft water also dissolves certain metals, such as lead from pipes. Lead seems to be more readily absorbed from soft water than from hard. Soft water also dissolves cadmium from pipes. Cadmium can harm the body by adversely affecting some enzymes and displacing zinc from its normal site of action.

In light of the dangers from too much sodium, and possible dissolved toxic metals in the soft water, I recommend that you use water that has not gone through the softener for your baby as well as for the rest of your family, or check to make sure the sodium levels are within the recommended amount advised by the AHA, and that the water not pass through metal pipes.

Thank you for writing,

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