Experts warn feeding newborn babies water can be fatal.

When you have a baby you are flooded with information, feeding, sleeping, transport, keeping your baby happy, entertained, safe.

It’s overwhelming. So it’s not unusual that new parents use Google at twice the rate of before they had a baby.

One of the most common searches for new mums – after “Will I ever get this baby to sleep, and “Will I ever sleep again” – is about baby feeding, and at this time of year it’s whether or not you can give your baby water.

And the simple, yet frightening answer is no. You can’t.

Experts warn that giving babies water can lead to serious complications such as malnutrition, diarrhoea and can even be fatal.

You should never give your baby water. Via IStock.

A frightening report in The Mirror with the headline “Why you should NEVER feed your baby water - and how it could be fatal if you do” is making new mums seek Google's advice even more, terrified that they might be inadvertently putting their babies at risk.

So, what’s the real story?

Well, it is true that water intoxication can happen, but it’s pretty rare and difficult for a baby.

Registered dietitian Katie Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic told BuzzFeed: “In terms of a baby, in most cases they would get too full to do this, so it would be more challenging to create this situation in an infant. It’s not impossible, though."

Last year a couple from the US state of Georgia were arrested after their 10-week old baby died from watered down breast milk which caused her brain to swell.

Herbert George Landell, 26 and Lauren Heather Fristed, 25 gave their baby watered down great milk. Via USA TODAY/ YouTube.

Nevaeh Marie Landell died in late March of water intoxication according to CBS NEWS. Her parents were arrested after police investigated her death.

Prosecutors claimed that her parents, 26-year old Herbert George Landell and 25-year old Lauren Heather Fristed added water to their baby daughter's breast milk, robbing it of nutrients.

When Nevaeh got sick, the couple didn't seek medical treatment due to their religious beliefs. When they finally took the desperately ill little girl to hospital, it was too late.

We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale that in summer time babies should be given cool boiled water, but this simply isn’t true, according to the experts.


It should be milk first.

Always milk first. Via IStock.

Midwife Cath, who has delivered over 10,000 babies throughout her 40-year career, told Mamamia that her top tips regarding water are to stick to milk first.

“My practice regarding giving babies water is to stick to breast milk and/or formula for the baby in the first 12 months as it has calories and nutrients that water doesn't have plus a balanced water content.”

Midwife Cath says that breast milk and/or formula contain adequate water for hydration, especially during summer. She also says that even though grandparents tend to encourage the parents to give their babies water, as it was common practice (along with glucose water) in the 1970s and 80s, it's outdated.

“For babies to gain weight they need calories and water has no calories.”

Breast milk is more than 80% water. Via IStock.
The Stir

"The water will occupy the space in the stomach that the milk or infant formula should be occupying. When there is too much water, it can cause a dilution of the body chemistry and electrolytes. The brain actually needs everything in really perfect balance. Too much water can cause seizures that can result in death.”

The World Health organisation, who recommend exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months, say that giving babies water puts them at risk of “diarrhoea and malnutrition.”

“Giving water may also cause the baby to drink less breastmilk or to stop breastfeeding early and therefore cause malnutrition. If mothers give water instead of breastfeeding it will also cause the mother to have less milk in the future.”

“Breast milk is more than 80 per cent water, especially the first milk that comes with each feed. Therefore, whenever the mother feels her baby is thirsty she can breastfeed him or her”

If you have given your baby water, or your mother-in-law has given your baby a bottle of cooled boiled water, don’t panic. If it's just a one off in a 24-hour period, your baby will be fine. If you have any concerns talk to your doctor or baby health nurse.

For more from Midwife Cath visit her website here.