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Is there evidence that introducing liquids (tea, boiled water) to infants earlier than 6-months' old damages their health?

At Circle of Moms, I read an answer to a question about feeding a 1-month old boiled water and herbal tea:

This is extremely dangerous. A breastfed baby under 6 months should not be given any water, tea, juice, etc. because it will fill them up and prevent them from taking in adequate calories. And this mom is giving 5 oz of water at least 4 times a day!! This baby is being deprived of calories and will begin to exhibit signs of failure to thrive very soon, if s/he has not already. Very scary. Please intervene and if necessary call the authorities.

Paediatrician, Dr. Stephen R. Daniels also warns against it, at BabyCenter:

In rare cases, a baby who drinks too much water can develop a condition known as water intoxication, which can cause seizures and even a coma. Water intoxication happens when too much water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the body, upsetting the electrolyte balance and causing tissues to swell.

Some people say that giving them water is good for them, some say it's bad... What is the scientific truth?

  • The ScienceInsider YouTube Channel repeats this claim (Sep 2018), saying that Their bodies aren't developed enough to consume even a few ounces of water, which in extreme cases could be fatal. Full transcript beneath the video, no sources though. – Jan Doggen Sep 30 '18 at 11:00
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Water's LD50 toxicity is 90 mL/kg. For average adult weighting 75kg, that would mean 6.75L. However, for an infant with 4kg body weight, that would mean just 360ml, with is about two small glasses of water.

Also, healthy adult kidneys at rest can excrete 0.8L to 1L of water per hour. Obviously it's much less for infant.

  • Since milk is mostly water, I doubt that it's toxicity is significantly different. The question seems to be more "is water more dangerous than milk for babies", not "is it dangerous to force-feed my baby water". – Brendan Long Feb 10 '12 at 17:34
  • Yes, sort of. Some relatives insist that we give our baby water or tea besides milk, saying that he must be "thirsty". We know that he doesn't need anything other than milk until he's 6 months old. Just wanted to check the science behind this. – Alex Feb 11 '12 at 11:21
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    So it is culturally acceptable/expected, amongst your relatives, to give babies tea? I have to admit, when I first saw this idea, I thought "Who would think it is appropriate? Is this just one or two people with no sense? Or is it something that other cultures accept as normal, even though it is foreign to me?" At least for tea. Water, I could understand. – Oddthinking Feb 11 '12 at 14:09
  • @vartec: Love that link. I'm imagining a chemist coming home after a long day in front of the computer. "What did you do today at work, dear?" "Documented the chronic effects of water on humans, and its flammability and carcinogenic risks." – Oddthinking Feb 11 '12 at 14:15
  • Yes it's something many people I know accept and practice. Water and tea for 4 month olds. I live in Eastern Europe. it's a great place to live in, I'm just providing some context. I imagine that in different parts of the world people have different culture. – Alex Feb 13 '12 at 3:12

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