Among the many reasons to persist with breastfeeding despite initial challenges, is how complete fluid breastmilk is, and the extent to which it can keep your baby perfectly hydrated. Infants actually need more hydration than adults, because their body has a much higher percentage of water, and they have faster metabolic and breathing rates - which is one reason why they grow so quickly! Babies also have an immature renal system, meaning they do not get thirsty as much as adults do. Finally, babies are less efficient at cooling themselves down independently, because they sweat less, are not as able at adapting to heat, and can, therefore, become more dehydrated on a hot or active day.
If you want to ensure your baby is fully hydrated, there can be no better way to do so that through breastfeeding. As your baby grows older and starts to wean, they can be gently introduced to water, but the latter should not be overdone. The key is to aim for a state of ‘homeostasis’ - the perfect balance in which a baby is neither under- nor over-hydrated.
Your breast milk contains the perfect ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, other nutrients, and of course - water, which makes up 90% of its composition. Doctors generally recommend that babies obtain all their nutritional needs (including their hydration needs) exclusively from milk for the first six months. It is essential for you to stay hydrated while breastfeeding, aiming to ‘drink to thirst,’ keeping a big glass of water by your side to quench your thirst.
Opt for quality water, which is contaminant-free, mineral-rich, and the right pH level (between 6 and 9). So-called ‘micro-clustered water’ contains smaller groupings of water molecules, which facilitates hydration. Finally, make sure you love the taste of the water you drink, so you are more likely to remember to drink throughout the day. Your body will efficiently supply your baby with all she needs, so just try to ensure you are comfortable and be aware that you may need a little more hydration on hot or active days. A general sign that you are drinking enough water is urine color; if it is light, you are probably on the right track.
Doctors recommend that water should only be given to babies in a little beaker from the time they start weaning (at around the age of six months). When a baby is still breastfeeding, he is consuming plenty of water in the milk, itself, so adding on plain water can result in water intoxication (also known as sodium dilation or over-hydration). This is a serious condition that can affect a baby’s brain activity, and potentially cause seizures. Once your baby is weaning and expresses interest in his little beaker of water, feed him still, quality water and avoid juice and any other sugary beverages. Hopefully, water will continue to be your baby’s beverage of choice when he grows into a child. This will help keep cavities and sugar-related conditions at bay.
Mother Nature has a wonderful way to keep baby hydrated all day, and it’s called breastmilk! While your baby is breastfeeding, don’t worry about extra hydration. When weaning starts, water can start coming in handy, but your baby will still receive the majority of their hydration needs from breastmilk while you keep up this healthy practice. Stay hydrated yourself and opt for quality, delicious water that will make drinking pleasurable and natural throughout the day.