Having a few sips of water will NOT kill your baby – despite what the scary headlines say

In case you've read the shocking headlines about how you should never give your baby water, MFM sets the record straight

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Here at MFM HQ, we’re well used to seeing scary headlines that we know will freak mums out – and are often only half the truth.

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There was the story about how taking paracetamol when pregnant could make your kids hyperactive. Oh, and remember the one that linked folic acid with autism?

And it’s happened again. This is a story from 2016 which has resurfaced – about how you should NEVER give your baby water. It’s been picked up by several newspapers, and figured we really needed to set the record straight.

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So what’s all the fuss about?

A dietician from Mayo Clinic in Arizona, USA, has been quoted by Buzzfeed as saying that “babies don’t need water… at all”, that they shouldn’t drink water before 6 months and that it “is possible for a baby to die drinking too much water” under the scary headline “This Is Why You Should Never Give Your Baby Water”.

Buzzfeed originally ran the story in 2016, along with the pic above (these quotes are from forum users, NOT experts btw) and then the Mirror picked it up, heading their story (even more frighteningly): “Why you should NEVER feed your baby water – and how it could be fatal if you do”. For some reason, the story has resurfaced – and probably not for the only time. 

So, wait: water can KILL your baby?

The team here were a bit alarmed when we saw this story – mainly because of the way it’s been packaged rather than what it’s saying.

We reckon it makes it sound as though water in itself can kill your baby – which it can’t (unless you do something completely crazy like force your baby to drink pints of it).

What is potentially dangerous here is giving your small baby water INSTEAD of a regular milk feed – because then you’re filling your baby up with fluid but not giving them anything nutritious. 

And by small baby, we’re talking a baby under 6 months – not just any child under a year old.

What do our experts say?

We got in touch with midwife Anne Richley, one of our regular experts, who brought some much-needed calm and assurance to the situation.

She agreed that babies under the age of 6 months shouldn’t need additional water (unless advised by a healthcare professional) because “giving babies water can fill them up when they still need the nutritional benefits of milk”.

But then she put the whole thing into non-fear mode quite beautifully.

“Mums shouldn’t panic if they’ve given their baby a few sips of water. This needs to be kept in perspective.

“We’re really only talking about water being life-threatening when given in excess. And an excess of anything can be dangerous for adults, children or babies.”

That said, says Anne, it’s worth remembering that a baby under 6 months only needs milk.

If you’re breastfeeding, your milk will automatically adjust itself – become more or less watery – to stop your baby getting thirsty, even in very hot weather. If you’re formula-feeding, though, and your baby seems thirsty, Anne says, “it’s fine to give them an additional bottle of milk. If they don’t want it, they won’t take it.”

Professional Policy Advisor Janet Fyle from the Royal College of Midwives agrees that healthy babies under 6 months shouldn’t need water – and in an instance of dehydration, she says, you should see your doctor.

Which we totally get.

So, in essence – while the original  advice wasn’t wrong – Buzzfeed, tabloids et al: any chance you could be a bit more responsible with how you head up your parenting wisdom next time?

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