Wednesday, 1 May 2013


       Water used to be given to newly born children all the time. Not only water was given but sugar was added so that they could sleep through the night. As early as 2-4 months old cereal was often added to bottles as well. This was the norm. No one thought this was strange, or bad, or pondered whether this was any good for the child, I mean it had to be. We have ALL heard anectodal evidence about how someone gave their child cereal in a bottle and they MIRACULOUSLY slept through the night. Well not every old advice is bad but some isn't so great and has been proven to be useless, unhelpful or at times even detrimental to children. Have we all heard about how moms used to rub some brandy or rum into a teething babies gums to sooth the gums? I think you get what I mean so I'll stop rambling.

       In the hospital or even before you all will or did get a sheet and explanations regarding stomach size and its comparison to various food/items. A baby needs nutrition to grow. I feel nvery passionate about this topic so will try not to ramble and explain things adequately. When a newborn is up it PROBABLY means they are hungry. Look for cues: are they rooting? Are they smacking their lips? Are their fingers in their mouths?Are they stirring and making sucking movements with their lips? Etc. If this is occuring they are signalling to you they want to eat. Crying is the next step when they feel their signal was not understood. Preferabbly you feed them before this because they get really upset and may have a hard time latching. Or if your child is anything like mine the signals will be non existent or last all of 5 seconds before the wailing cry meaning FEED ME begins. I mean my little man would pitch a fit in the time it takes me to unlatch my bra and pull up my top for him.

     Back to the topic at hand, your child needs nutrition to grow and develop. They grow and develop imensly right before your eyes in the first year. I mean you see the changes from one day to the next.  I mentioned the food/item comparison above. A babies stomach is the size of a thimble/marble on days 1 and 2, then a ping pong ball on day 3...finally by day 10 it has grown immendly and become equivalent to a large egg. They may want to feed all the time and it makes sense because it takes very little to fill that small stomach and that energy from the milk goes fast because they grow so quickly. Now if you give them water, you know a TINY bit, a spoonful or even 1/2 a spoon, there stomach is full. Wait a spoon isnt a lot though, but their stomach is so small at this point that it either fills up the stomach completely or the majority of it. Now since the stomach is full of water (which does not have the nutrition that a baby needs) the child is not getting nutrients at this time. Yes it is only for a little while then you will give them food, but that is a little while how many times a day that your child is missing nutrients that they were asking you for and instead you gave water. Water is just an empty space filler. Your childs body knows how much nutrients it needs and how fast it needs to grow. By adding water you are messing with their ability to do this, you trick them to think they ate when they did not. Their bodies are not ready and do not know how to take into account water or cereal. Also not only do they not get the nutrients needed this is less fat and calories, hence even a minimal amount less weight gained then would have been (though the amount is beyond tiny but still). I wont even start on how bad giving sugar water is, yes breast milk is sweet but it is natural your child should not get sugar for a LONG time still, there is nothing good about giving a baby sugar.

     Next issue is that there is a possibility of water intoxication. Too much water can cause water intoxication. What does water intoxication cause? Seizures and possibly coma or even death. This happens because the water causes an imbalance in the blood, it dilutes the blood which makes the electrolytes in the blood go out of balance. This argument is countered often with "I only gave small amounts." Well lets go back to the size of a babies stomach. How much is to much when the stomach is the size of a marble? What about a ping pong ball? What about an egg? What is the point of risking anything if your breast milk first releases fore milk which is like a drink it is pretty much all water, then comes the hind milk which is fatty and is the "food". Also keep in mind that both fore and hind milk have nutrients and water does not. A newborns body is not equipped or able to work the water over well! No nothing bad probably will happen if you give a little but personally I did not want to risk anything nor fill my son's tummy up with something nutritionally void.
      But all beings need water. Our bodies are over 80% water. Yes but breast milk is also mainly water. Your child gets enough water and will not be thirsty after breast milk!

      Lets look at animals. No animal drinks water whilst feeding on milk. Also think about tribal communities, our historical ancestors. They had no bottles or things with which to give their babies water and hence their babies fed on breast milk. It is nature to feed milk and not give water to babies.

     I once heard the arguement that breastmilk is sweet. After sweet stuff you need water. This may aply to you after you eat candy it does not to a newborn. Number one breast milk is liquid unlike candy. Number two they only know breast milk and have no idea preconception that you must drink water after. Also it is naturally sweet and MADE for them. This argument just makes no sense to me it just leaves me opening my mouth like a fish and being unable to collect my thoughts to explain just how nonsensical this argument is.

    There is something called gripe water said to help with colic. My mother in law kept pushing it and I heard great things and did give a tiny bit when he was crying from gasses.  I gave minimal amounts less then required for his weight and only when he was crying uncontrollably and not even every day and from my experience it never really helped that I noticed. I wouldn't use it again. My doctor later told me that gripe water is more psychologically soothing it does not actually do anything, its more that you feel you DID something to help. Whether that is true or not I cannot say but I know it never actually helped in our case.

  What if they have a fever. This is slightly different. If your child is constipated or has a fever a doctor may recommend giving water but they will say how much. It is not normally necessary even in these cases though.

     When is it recommended that I give water? After your child starts eating solids or even later. They will drink water after solids and by a year they can drink water freely. Some say giving water from birth teaches them the good habit of choosing water. YOU are the one who teaches the good habits. If when they begin solids you offer water or milk and don't give sugary drinks they will learn to choose water and will like it.

So what do you think, should a newborn get water? Did you or would you give water?


  1. It is all about when a baby is ready. Each baby is so different. We are just starting to give our daughter water. We waited a long time for cereal. We tried she wasn't really taking to it, so we stopped. Then a few weeks later we tried again and she was ready.
    And gripe water was a LIFE SAVER for us. She was very colicky and the gripe water definitely made her feel better. She still cried but it definitely helped. Great post! Her from the Friday blog hop :)

  2. I definitely agree that newborns only need breastmilk, which is made up of water. I can see the recommendation for water and formula. I didn't use gripe water, usually nursing did the trick if my son had a gassy tummy (coupled with burping and baby bicycles).

    I think there is a lot of misinformation so it is great you are educating people and are so passionate about it!