When can babies drink water and how to offer it

Updated May 17, 2022
when can babies drink water

Drinking enough water is essential for optimal health and well-being. In fact, roughly 60% of the human body is made up of water. But what does this mean for babies? Should they be drinking water throughout the day like the rest of us? The answer is -- it depends! Keep reading to find out when it is appropriate to start offering baby water and how much they need. 


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Drinking water is important for everyone, including babies, since it has so many vital functions in the body. Water helps to carry nutrients through the body, lubricate joints as well as helps to regulate digestion and body temperature. As adults, we usually think of meeting our water needs by checking in on the water we drink each day. However, babies meet their needs a little bit differently. More on that below!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends water for babies as a best-choice beverage alongside breastmilk, formula, and plain milk (for babies older than 12 months). 

Babies can begin to have small amounts of water when they start solids around 6 months of age. Offer a few sips of water from an open cup or straw cup at mealtimes. Any water baby drinks at this age is meant to get them used to the taste of plain water and to introduce the skills needed for cup drinking. It is not intended to replace breastmilk or formula which still provide all the fluid your baby needs. 

Babies younger than 6 months should not be offered water or any other fluids besides breastmilk or formula. These provide all the fluid they need, even on hot days. Introducing water too early or diluting formula or breastmilk with water can be dangerous for your baby. 

Water needs may vary quite a bit from baby to baby as well as from day to day. Factors such as the weather and activity level can impact needs. Additionally, high-water containing foods such as fruit, vegetables, and soup can contribute to water intake as well. 

The best way to know if your baby is adequately hydrated is to watch their diapers. Babies should have about 6 wet diapers a day to indicate they are adequately hydrated. If you aren’t seeing that, watch for other signs of dehydration and talk to your pediatrician. 

Use the table below as a general guide and visit Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids for more expert information from leading health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Heart Association.

0 - 6 months6 - 12 months12 - 24 months
None4 - 8 oz.8 - 32 oz
Breastmilk and/or formula provide enough fluids.Serve a small amount at mealtimes once solids are introduced.Serve at meals and snacks, as well as throughout the day.

Start by offering your baby small amounts of water at meals and snacks. This allows your baby to get used to the taste of plain water and start developing cup drinking skills. It’s best to keep water to about 1-2oz at a time so it doesn’t displace breastmilk or formula. 

Offering water in a cup helps babies build lifelong skills such as drinking from a cup or straw. Make sure to choose appropriately-sized cups -- they need to fit in their small hands -- and don’t be afraid to help them! Start with small amounts of water and work your way up as baby masters drinking from a cup.

Fruits, vegetables, and anything that is liquid at room temperature, like soup or popsicles, may contribute to your baby’s overall water intake. Sometimes it may feel like your baby isn’t consuming a lot of liquid, but when you take a look at their food intake it may even out a bit. 

Making smoothies or popsicles at home is a fun way to offer water as well as to try new fruits and vegetables. They can be especially useful for babies who need extra calories or nutrients because you can pack a lot in a small amount of volume. 

When your baby turns 1 year old, you can begin to have water available more frequently throughout the day. Place a cup out in the kitchen or playroom and let them know they can drink as needed. 

Dehydration can be dangerous for a baby and severe cases may require hospitalization. If you suspect your baby might be showing signs of dehydration, it’s best to call your pediatrician right away so they can guide you on what’s best to do. 

Note: conditions such as vomiting and diarrhea put your baby at increased risk for dehydration. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the following are signs of dehydration: 

  • Plays less than usual

  • Less than six wet diapers a day 

  • Dry mouth or cracked lips

  • Fewer or no tears when crying

  • Sunken soft spot on head

  • Very fussy

  • Excessively sleepy

  • Sunken eyes

  • Cool, discolored hands and feet

  • Wrinkled skin 

  • Only 1 or 2 wet diapers a day 

toddler drinking water from a straw cup

Babies can use a cup at about 6 months when they start to eat solids. Most feeding experts recommend starting with an open cup or a straw cup as these cups help to strengthen muscles that are used for eating and chewing. Babies will continue to develop their cup drinking skills through to toddlerhood.

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Water for babies FAQ

Q: Can babies have too much water?

A:

Yes, but it is rare. You can avoid water intoxication in babies by following proper guidelines for introducing water as well as only giving them an age-appropriate amount. Additionally, do not dilute formula or breastmilk with water.

Q: When can you start giving water?

A:

Babies can begin to drink small amounts of water with meals when they start solids around 6 months.

Q: Do breastfed babies need more water than formula-fed babies?

A:

No, there is no research to support breastfed babies needing more water than formula-fed babies. After 6 months, all babies should follow the same water guidelines regardless of whether they are receiving breastmilk or formula.

Q: Is tap water bad for babies?

A:

Generally, tap water is safe for babies. However, it is best to verify the safety of the water source before consuming it.

Q: Can babies have sparkling water or flavored water?

A:

It’s best to stick with plain water for babies. This helps them learn to like the taste of plain water before other beverages are introduced while avoiding any additives or dissolved minerals that may not be suitable for babies.

Q: How do I know if a baby is drinking enough water?

A:

If your baby has at least 6 wet diapers a day, they are adequately hydrated. This means they are getting enough fluid (including water) from all sources: breastmilk, formula, water, and food.

Q: Is it ok if I serve water in a baby bottle?

A:

It’s best to offer baby water from a cup if possible. This allows your baby to build important cup drinking skills and helps avoid your baby from consuming too much water. It’s easier to drink from a bottle which may cause them to displace breastmilk, formula, or food with water unintentionally.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.