If your baby is under 6 months old, they only need to drink breastmilk or infant formula. From 6 months of age, you can give your baby small amounts of water, if needed, in addition to their breastmilk or formula feeds.
Why is water not suitable for babies younger than 6 months?
Before 6 months, breastmilk or formula is both food and drink for your baby. It is all they need, even in hot weather. Giving your baby water may mean they drink less breastmilk or formula. This can put them at risk of not getting enough milk or formula to grow properly. Giving your baby a lot of water or excessively diluted formula over a short time can also make them very unwell.
When can I give water to my baby?
If your baby is around 6 months old, you can offer small amounts of cooled boiled tap water but you should not replace their breastmilk or formula feeds. Breastmilk or formula should still be their main drink up to 12 months of age.
After 12 months, their main drink should be water and cow's milk or breastmilk. You can offer water or milk in a cup. There's no need to boil tap water once your baby has reached 12 months.
If your baby has just started on solids, start with a few sips of water from a cup when they are eating. This is so they can learn about drinking from a cup and it can also help prevent constipation due to the increased bulk of their poo. The aim is to get them used to drinking from a cup as this will be their main way of drinking from 12 months on.
What about in hot weather?
In hot weather, it is important to offer more frequent breastfeeds or bottle-feeds if your baby is under 6 months. Do not offer water unless recommended by a doctor.
Your baby may want to drink more than usual but for shorter periods. If you breastfeed, you should also make sure you drink enough water.
To make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and your baby in hot weather:
- place a towel, sheet or pillowcase between yourself and your baby
- lie down to breastfeed to reduce skin contact
Your baby is properly hydrated (getting enough fluids) if they have 6 to 8 pale wet nappies over 24 hours.
What if my baby has a fever?
If your baby has a fever, is under 6 months and is breastfed, you may need to offer extra breastfeeds. If they are under 6 months and formula-fed, you can offer smaller amounts of formula more frequently. Do not offer water unless advised by a doctor.
If your baby is older than 6 months, continue to breastfeed or bottle feed. You can offer water in between feeds. The most important thing to check is whether your child is getting enough fluids.
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support.
What about other drinks?
Fruit juice, soft drinks and cordial are not suitable for babies under 12 months old.
Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and energy drinks — and, of course, alcohol — are not suitable for children of any age.