While getting enough water is important, the rules for babies are different. As one mom learned, when it comes to babies under the age of one-year, drinking too much water can even be life-threatening.
Mom Katie Gorter wrote on Facebook that she is usually very careful about how much water her 11-month-old daughter consumes. She never offers more than two ounces of water a day, and that’s usually more than her baby will drink.
However, when her daughter swallowed the water in her bath, Gorter had to take her to the hospital. She wrote:
Yesterday she discovered she could drink the bath water. I didn’t think much of it at the time and later ended up rushing her to the ER. She became lethargic, started vomiting, and then was struggling to breath! She had so much water in her it was compressing her lungs!
Gorter’s baby was suffering from water intoxication. After treatment, the baby’s breathing became easier, but she still continued to vomit for some time.
⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️I just wanted to make a Public Service Announcement!! Water intoxication is very real and can happen so…
As Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, a pediatric dietitian told Insider, infants don’t need water to hydrate. They get all the water they need through breast milk and formula, so additional water can be bad for their health:
“Water is not recommended for infants under six months old because even small amounts will fill up their tiny bellies and can interfere with their body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula.”
According to Children’s Hospital St. Louis, for children under 1 year of age, drinking too much water can dilute their sodium levels. This can lead to seizures, brain damage, coma, and even death.
That’s why children under 6 months shouldn’t be offered any water at all. In older babies, water should be limited to no more than two to three ounces, and only after the baby has finished eating breast milk or formula.
As Gorter discovered, there are multiple ways for babies to suffer from water intoxication. Doctors warn against diluting formula, giving babies pediatric drinks with electrolytes, or even getting infants swimming lessons because of the risks of water intoxication.
Dr. Jennifer Anders, a pediatric emergency doctor, told Reuters Health that water intoxication is “a sneaky kind of a condition” because early symptoms are so subtle.
The first symptoms of water intoxication may be behavioral changes, such as irritability, confusion, drowsiness, or inattention. Other symptoms include blurred vision, muscle cramps, poor coordination, twitching, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, and seizures. If you see any of the symptoms, contact your doctor, or get medical help immediately.
The day after Gorter’s daughter fell ill, she was already feeling better, had stopped vomiting, and was playing again. The mom shared her story as a warning to other parents who might not be aware of the dangers of giving their baby water. She wrote:
“Water intoxication is very real and can happen so easily!! Please only offer babies 6-12 months no more than [two ounces] of water in a 24 hour period!! Babies younger than 6 months cannot have any at all! […] I just wanted to put this out there for those who don’t believe it matters and give their baby as much as they want. Breastmilk/formula is plenty!!”