Water: Dangerous for newborns?

I am breastfeeding my newborn baby. My mother recommended that I offer her water each day but I thought I remember reading that water could be dangerous to newborns. Should I offer water to my nursing baby?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Feeding of water to newborns is not recommended. Water fills a baby up with absolutely no nutrition. Rapid brain growth is taking place at this time in a baby's life, so it really isn't wise to be feeding a baby empty calories. It also takes away from important time spent at the breast, and frequent supplementation in a newborn may permanently decrease a mother's milk supply. Exclusive breastfeeding -- where all of a baby's sucking and nutritional needs are met at the breast -- is recommended for babies until the age of four to six months.

A recent study involving 1677 mothers and babies found that although 25 percent of the mothers surveyed offered their babies water, this type of supplementation is unnecessary, and may be dangerous to an infant, especially one under four weeks of age. Water supplementation in an infant can lead to oral water intoxication. When this happens, the sodium in his bloodstream becomes so diluted that the baby's body is unable to function properly. This can result in an altered mental state, abnormally low body temperature, bloating, and even seizures (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 1997;151:830-32).

Isn't it wonderful to know that you can fulfill all of your baby's nutritional needs at your breast? My best wishes in mothering!

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