Given that I spend my life around other Mums, it’s not surprising that as soon as people find out what I do for a job, they inevitably have a question for me.
Today’s question was one that I have answered time and time again, and given our soaring temperatures here at the moment, I suspect it’s something on a lot of parent’s minds. So I thought I’d share my answer with you all and extend the offer for you to ask us anything! If you’ve got a burning question, pop it in the comments section below, send us a message on Instagram or FaceBook or just drop us a line over email.
Anyway, onto today’s question which was “ My baby is 10 months old, she’s only ever been breastfed and isn’t taking much water. I’m worried she’s not getting enough fluids, especially in the heat”.
On Further questioning Mum said she had introduced water around 6 months of age but noticed that her baby drank very little of it. Mum had also tried (multiple times!) to get her baby to take either expressed breast milk or formula from a bottle but she had always outright refused. The baby was still breastfeeding 3 times a day and taking about 1/2 a sippy cup of water throughout the day.
It’s perfectly normal for babies to take very little extra fluid beyond what is offered via either breastmilk or formula. Baby’s first foods (be they pureed or mashed) have a high fluid content and this combined with the fluid they are naturally getting from breastmilk or formula will be enough for most babies. I always recommend introducing water from around 6 months (or the time that you introduce solids), but I wouldn’t expect a baby to get through more than about 1/4 of a sippy cup a day until they are 9 – 10 months old. As they start moving onto more solid food (and the fluid content of their meals drops and they also start reducing their breast or formula feeds), their intake of water will naturally increase. Most 12 months old babies will be taking close to a sippy cup (ie around 250ml) of water across the whole day. If your baby is taking less and you’re concerned, check their nappies. If they’re wet enough that you need to change them several times per day and they are also passing regular bowel motions, then that’s generally a sign that your baby is getting enough fluid. Their lips should also appear moist, not dry and cracked.
My top tips for encouraging babies to drink water include: persistence – don’t give up just because you think they aren’t drinking much. Many parents panic and start to introduce dilute juice as a way of tempting babies to drink. This only leads to the expectation that beverages should be sweet, and usually in my experience, further exacerbates the problem. Your baby will most likely to be thirsty immediately after eating, so always have water available at the end (or during) every meal or snack that is offered. Many babies are also thirsty when they wake from sleep. If you’re not going to be offering them a breastfed or formula, it’s a good time to try some water.
It’s worth remembering that breastfed babies under 6 months of age don’t need any extra fluid, just feed them on demand. Formula fed babies may be offered some cooled boiled tap water if they seem thirstier than usual (eg on a hot day). All babies can be offered tap water from 6 months of age. You may like to first offer water in a baby bottle, but I would suggest moving him or her onto a sippy cup after a few months (we like the Tommy Tippee range of adapters for baby bottles here: https://www.tommeetippee.com.au/product/weaning/cups). These are good all rounder cups/bottles if your baby is breastfed.
There are a large variety of sippy style cups on the market and the drinking style needed will vary from brand to brand. For example, some sippy cups require more of a “bite” to get water out style, others require sucking from a straw (generally babies won’t be ready for this until closer to 9 months) and others will require a suck somewhat similar to breastfeeding. Some come with valves to regulate the flow and others the water will simply pour straight out. If you’re really confused about cups and have a baby who’s really reluctant to take one, I would suggest consulting a paediatric speech pathologist who specialises in infant feeding. Another option would be to try an open cup but this will obviously be messy!
So my advice to this Mum today? Her baby was getting enough fluid and she just needed to hang in there offering water regularly as per my recommendations above. I had a feeling he was probably about to take off on the water as Mum was actively reducing breastfeeds, and his diet was expanding considerably. The other thing that’s worth remembering is that babies do have the ability to regulate their own thirst so long as the water is being offered regularly. It’s only in rare circumstances that babies won’t do this, usually as the result of a medical condition, or infants with extreme feeding disorders and food refusal. These babies are special cases that warrant individual assessment and advice.
Julia @ Bloom
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