Is it ok to give babies water to cool them down in a heatwave?

Parents are confused about whether to give their baby water in hot weather. (Getty Images)
Parents are confused about whether to give their baby water in hot weather. (Getty Images)

This week has seen temperatures soar to record levels in the UK, having us scrambling to stay cool and keep hydrated.

While it is recommended that adults up their water intake during a heatwave, the advice for babies is less clear, with some experts advising against giving their infants water, no matter how warm the weather.

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Though it might seem like common sense that if grown-ups need to up the H2O in the heat, babies should too, some experts believe giving babies under six months poses some risks.

A video from Tech Insider explains the risks of newborn babies consuming even small amounts of water.

While adults are made up of 55-60% water, the average baby is roughly 75% water.

This means even the smallest amount of H2O could affect the balance of water in a baby’s body.

And this carries a risk in that it could overload the kidneys, leading to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia.

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Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click, told Yahoo UK: “Kidneys are also too immature in infants under six months and water can cause intoxication as a result of an imbalance in electrolytes such as sodium.

“This can cause hyponatraemia, which is where too much water has diluted the sodium levels of the body. 

This could could complications such as swelling of the brain, seizures and in some cases can be fatal.

Kanani adds that giving babies water can also affect their nutrition.

“Giving water to an infant can affect the baby’s ability to receive adequate nourishment.

“Their stomachs are so tiny and can fill up easily with water, making it difficult for them to get the nourishment they require.”

Should babies drink water in a heatwave? (Getty Images)
Should babies drink water in a heatwave? (Getty Images)

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But parents who have decided to give their babies a few sips of water shouldn’t panic too much.

According to the NHS while fully breastfed babies don’t need any water until they’ve started eating solid foods, if you bottle-feed a little bit of water is actually recommended in hot weather.

“Fully breastfed babies don't need any water until they've started eating solid foods,” the site explains. “Formula-fed babies may need some extra water in hot weather.”

So while it is true that under most circumstances babies under six months do not need water, as they will get all the hydration and nutrients they need from formula or breast milk, in certain cases a few sips should be ok.

“During hot weather babies may need extra water,” explains Dr Tim Ubhi, consultant paediatrician and founder of The Children’s e-Hospital.

“A good indicator of adequate fluid intake in a baby is to see if the amount of urine produced is of a good volume and if it is concentrated or not.

“If the baby is not receiving enough fluid you may need to top them up with additional water,” he adds.

“Breast fed babies generally self-regulate their intake but bottle fed babies may need additional water given by bottle.”

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Dr Ubhi has some advice for those who are going to give their baby a few sips of water.

“Do not use water direct from a tap in a baby under 6 months of age, boil the water and cool it before giving it to your baby.

“In babies over 6 months who have started to take solids you can use tap water but be careful not to give too much. Watch how thirsty they are and look at urine output.”

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