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Accidentally Gave Water to My Newborn: What Parents Need to Know

Nutrition & Food / Last Updated on Aug 14, 2023 / Vetted by Priyanka Sonkushre
Accidentally Gave Water To My Newborn

I accidentally gave my newborn water! Now what? We assume this one question is occupying your mind right now, and that’s what has brought you to this blog post. If yes, the first thing you need to do is relax! If just a teaspoon of water is what you gave to your newborn, you don't need to contact your pediatrician immediately, but if it is anything more than that, you better call them right away to see what they have to say. Ideally, water is a strict ‘no’ for babies less than six months old. Beyond that, you may start with a few teaspoons and increase it to 4-8 ounces per day, giving 2-3 ounces at a time until your baby turns 1. This can make you wonder why you cannot give water to your newborn when it is so essential for our bodies. After all, older kids and adults are expected to drink several glasses of water every day! Well, the reason why water is not recommended is that it can lead to a very serious condition known as water intoxication in infants.

What is water intoxication in babies?

It’s hard to fathom that something like water can also cause intoxication. But the fact is, yes! Drinking too much water can be toxic for our bodies. Adults with healthy kidneys rarely face this problem, but newborns and older babies are quite susceptible to water intoxication.

Unlike adults, babies don’t need to drink additional water because their hydration levels are adequately maintained by breastmilk and the water used to make formula. Anything you give in excess circulates in the bloodstream because the underdeveloped kidneys cannot efficiently remove excess water from the body. This dilutes fluids and decreases sodium levels in the body, leading to what is known as “hyponatremia.”

This causes cells to swell in the body. When brain cells swell, the intracranial pressure begins to increase, which, if left uncontrolled, can have severe health repercussions, including death. Hence, it is very important for parents to remember not to feed plain water to their infants or add excess water to their formula until their paediatrician says so.

What happens if a newborn accidentally drinks water?

There’s very less chance of a newborn or an older baby accidentally drinking water unless they are in the bath or pool. If your baby has swallowed very small amounts of water, they will probably be okay. But if they’ve swallowed too much, it can lead to water intoxication. Your baby may show some of its signs, which every parent must be aware of so that they can take action if they spot anything unusual.

What to do if you accidentally give water to a newborn?

If your newborn baby accidentally swallowed bath water or you accidentally fed your newborn water, it won't hurt to give a call to your baby’s paediatrician and set up an appointment. Because in such cases, it may be hard to determine how much water your baby has ingested. So it’s best to leave the examination to the experts to decide the next course of action.

Symptoms of water intoxication in newborns

When there’s water intoxication in babies, symptoms may appear sooner or later. As these warrant immediate medical attention, you must be aware of the signs. These include:

  • Crying and fussiness
  • Behavior changes
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Facial swelling
  • Seizures and tremors
  • Too many wet diapers (more than 8 per day)
  • Extremely clear urine
  • Body temperature less than 97 degrees


When to see a doctor

Pay a visit to your child’s pediatrician if:

  • Your baby shows any signs of water intoxication.
  • You were unaware of water intoxication, and you accidentally gave your baby water.
  • You suspect your baby has swallowed a lot of bathwater.

Share your concerns, and your provider will guide you appropriately. If it’s just a mild case of intoxication, you may be asked to completely stop giving water to your baby as you wait for the kidneys to get rid of excess water. But, in cases of severe toxicity, your baby may be put on diuretics to eliminate excess water from their body and/or given a saline solution to revive electrolyte balance and raise sodium levels in the body.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can babies drink distilled water?

Yes. Babies (less than 6 months) can drink distilled water, but only when it is used to mix formula powder to prepare a bottle. Once your baby is over six months old, you may introduce them to plain distilled water in quantities as suggested by your pediatrician.

2. How much water can cause water intoxication in a newborn?

A small sip of water may not cause intoxication in a newborn, but anything more than that can be dangerous for the baby. So, never try to feed your newborn plain water. Always remember that newborns do not need additional water. Their thirst is taken care of by breastmilk and formula.

3. Can we give gripe water to newborns?

Giving gripe water to a colicky baby is not advisable as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve of it, and there is no substantial proof that it helps ease tummy discomfort.

4. How fast does water intoxication happen in babies?

While there’s no specific timeline as to how soon water intoxication happens in babies, it often depends on the baby’s age and weight, the quantity of water ingested, and the rate at which the baby’s kidneys eliminate the water as urine.

5. What happens if you give a newborn tap water?

Water coming out of your tap is never sterile. If not treated properly, it may have traces of harmful bacteria, which can cause unnecessary sickness for your baby. So, it's better if you avoid tap water altogether. Or you can boil and cool it down before using it to prepare your baby’s bottle.

6. Is it ok to give newborns water for constipation?

If your little one is constipated, try other ways to get things moving. A gentle tummy massage, bicycle kicks, or a warm bath can do the trick to relieve your baby. But if this does not help, check in with your doctor for suggestions rather than giving water to your newborn for constipation.

Priyanka Sonkushre

Education: B.Pharm, PG Diploma in Pharmaceutical management
Priyanka is a versatile content writer with a wide range of interests and expertise, but her true passion lies in writing about all things related to pregnancy, parenting, family, kids, and education. As a mom herself, she has a personal connection to these topics and is deeply invested in providing valuable and informative content to other parents.Priyanka's love for writing... more

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