- 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.
- In hot weather, it is important to offer more frequent breastfeeds or bottle-feeds if your baby is under 6 months.
- If your baby has a fever, is under 6 months and is breastfed, you may need to offer extra breastfeeds.
- Fruit juice, soft drinks and cordial are not suitable for babies under 12 months old.
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. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients and factors your baby needs at this age. 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 can also make them very unwell. This is because large amounts of water can affect the concentration of certain nutrients in your baby's blood, which can be very dangerous and even fatal.
From what age can I give water to my baby?
If your baby is around 6 months old, you can offer small amounts of boiled and then cooled 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 started solids, offer them water in a cup during mealtimes. This can help them learn about drinking from a cup as well as help prevent constipation. Aim to get them comfortable with drinking from a cup, as this will be the main way they drink from 12 months on.
What should my baby drink in hot weather?
In hot weather, it is important to offer breastfeeds or bottle-feeds more often 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 that 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.
You will know that your baby is properly hydrated (getting enough fluids) if they have 6 to 8 pale, wet nappies over 24 hours.
What should my baby drink if they have 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 your doctor.
If your baby is older than 6 months, continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed. You can offer water in between feeds. Many children don't want to eat when they have a fever. This is not a problem, as long as they stay hydrated. The most important thing to check is whether your child is getting enough fluids.
If your baby is under three months and has a fever above 38°C, then you should see a doctor, even if they have no other symptoms.
Can my baby drink other drinks?
Fruit juice, soft drinks and cordial are not recommended for babies under 12 months old.
Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and energy drinks — and, of course, alcohol — are not recommended for children of any age.
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Last reviewed: October 2022