The deadly reason you should never give your baby extra water
Never dilute breast milk, formula with water
Desperation or neglect, whatever the reason the story is devastating.
In the wake a baby is dead and her mom has been charged with her murder. In addition, the baby’s dad has been charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to a child for diluting their baby’s breast milk with water, then refusing to take the child for medical care.
By the time they did take her to the hospital, she was already dead.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. I remember a similar case from years ago in which a child’s family was desperate for money and thought they could use extra water to make their formula last longer. In a study from Clinical Pediatrics, up to 25 percent of families considered “food-insecure” admitted to using various methods to make their formula last longer.
The problem is that extra water is not safe for babies. It causes the sodium level in their blood to drop. Low sodium will lead to brain swelling which can cause poor feeding, lethargy, seizure and eventually death.
Giving free water to babies is not just an issue of formula stretching. Families commonly ask during the summer months if their babies need extra water due to the heat. The answer is NO!
Some reasons babies don’t need water:
- Breast milk and formula is mostly water (80-90 percent). Babies don’t get thirsty. Their diet is primarily liquid.
- Water does not have nutrition or electrolytes babies need. If a baby is going to be drinking something, why not make it be something that can help them grow?
Babies can safely start to drink some water after six months but they still don’t need a lot. They can get one to three ounces during their meals if parents want to introduce and practice with a sippy cup.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician. View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page.He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.