Category: Information|June 7, 2012 6:00 am

Preventing Hyponatremia or Water Intoxication: Never Give a Baby Extra Water

Glass of WaterAs the weather grows warmer, have you considered giving your baby a little extra water to prevent dehydration? If your baby is less than a year old, stop! Giving a baby under twelve months old water can lead to serious health problems and even death.

Babies who are younger than a year old should drink only breast milk or formula. (Juice is not really recommended because juice is basically just flavored sugar water devoid of the nutrients of the whole fruits and vegetables and has been linked to tooth decay and obesity.) Babies who are less than a year old should never be given water. Water, although healthy for older children and adults to drink, lacks the nutrients found in breast milk and formula. And, even though breast milk is best, formula is better than water.

Why is water so dangerous for young babies? Drinking too much plain water can lead to hyponatremia, or water intoxication. Giving a baby too much water can dilute the level of sodium in the blood. When sodium levels get too low, the cells in the body take in extra water and swell. Although most cells can safely swell, the cells in the brain are restricted by the bones of the skull. Swelling in the brain can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, and even death.

Young babies are at an increased risk for hyponatremia because the limited number of foods in their diets makes replenishing lost sodium more difficult. Formula-fed babies whose parents partake in formula stretching as a way to save money are also at risk for water intoxication. If you are going to feed your baby infant formula, never water down the mixture; always follow the water-to-formula directions on the packaging. According to Dr. Angela McGovern, M.D. from The Washington Hospital Center, Washington D.C.:

“There is no safe amount of free water for infants. Too much water can not only dilute the salts in the body putting infants at risk for seizures, it can make babies feel full without providing them any nutrition. For best health and nutrition in the first year of life, the only fluid an infant needs is breast milk or properly prepared formula.”

Symptoms of hyponatremia in babies include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Low body temperature
  • Facial swelling
  • Seizures

Babies who are already dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea are at an even greater risk for water intoxication when given extra water to help combat the dehydration. Even a sick baby should be given only breast milk or formula.

The message is clear: Never give a baby under the age of one extra water. Even a little bit of extra water can lead to seizures, brain damage, or death.

References

Extra water can be harmful for babies: http://babygooroo.com/2012/03/extra-water-can-be-harmful-for-babies/

Image Credits

Glass of Water: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2006-02-13_Drop-impact.jpg


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