Patricia Esposito, the manager of the Clinical Nutrition Department at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said hydration is a common concern for new parents.
“One of the most common questions I would have as a NICU dietitian was how much water do I need to feed my baby,” she said.
It’s not that the answer is zero – of course, infants need plenty of water – rather, infants should be getting water simply by being fed, either by formula or breastmilk, which is 85 percent water.
“An infant’s fluid needs is totally met on a regular basis through breastmilk or formula through the first year of life,” he said.
Esposito, and her assistant manager, Jennifer Zarrilli, both said exceptions can be made if you think your baby is getting dehydrated, so it’s important to keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration, like a dry inside of the mouth, overly colorful and stinky urine, and fewer wet diapers. However, even it you determine your baby needs extra water, Esposito said to use plain water sparingly, giving only an extra two to four ounces per day. She said you can also get that much from food.
“Fruits are a great source of free water, certainly watermelon in the summer is just kind of a natural go-to,” Esposito said.
Zarrilli also stressed that excess water should not come at the expense of nutrition.
“I think it becomes more dangerous when people start watering down formula or breastmilk in the bottle or offering just water or just juice in the bottle,” she said.
Zarrilli said parents can start introducing water in the cup at six months, and Esposito said you can start trying natural juice at about a year.
“About four ounces of something like an orange juice for Vitamin C over a year of age once a child reaches that point is fine,” she said, ”we try to discourage things like soda or any type of fruit juice type of a drink.”