Giving sugar or sweet water to babies is something that has been passed down through generations.
Some grand or great grandparents may even testify to the power of sweet water when babies are suffering from the common cold and as a way to cleanse the stomach. Truth is, sweet water offers no nutritional value to a baby’s diet and it does more harm and no good. Sugar should not be given to children younger than the age of 2. You should also avoid adding sugar to their formula or tea.
Here’s why you should avoid giving sugar water to babies.
- It could suppress their appetite and reduce milk intake in exclusively breastfeed babies. The same can be expected in formula-fed infants, as the frequency and duration of the feed could decrease.
- Feeding sweet water to babies can cause electrolyte imbalance in the body. This may cause water intoxication, which can cause seizures.
- Your baby might develop a preference for sweet foods, which can lead to long term unhealthy eating habits. Excess sugar in the diet increases your risk for chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
- Consumption of excess sugar water can put a baby at an increased risk of excess weight gain, dental cavities, heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver disease.
- Babies who are feed sweet water in place of breast milk, formula or food may have excess weight loss.
Sweet water should not be used to pacify your baby. If your baby is in constant pain or is colicky, consult a doctor or health care provider who can recommend safe alternatives to sugar water.
The bottom line is that giving your baby sugar water at home, whether in an effort to pacify her or quench her thirst, is not a good idea. Babies under 6 months don’t need water, and sugar is not good for children younger than age 2.
Water not suitable for newborns
Dear mommies and daddies, your newborn baby’s body isn’t suited for water until 6 months after birth. This is because tiny tummies and developing kidneys put them at risk for nutrient loss and water intoxication.
Infants under 6 months will get the necessary hydration from breast milk or formula. There is no need to add water to the equation. Even when a mother’s milk supply is just coming in during the first few days after delivery, the colostrum produced by breastfeeding mothers is enough to keep baby hydrated.
Water can interfere with a baby’s ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula. Their stomachs are extremely tiny. At birth, a baby’s belly only holds about 1 to 2 teaspoons, so even a small amount of water can make them feel full. Filling up baby’s tummy with water means there will be no space for breast milk, which is needed at this stage to provide all the necessary nutrients for proper growth and development. During the first 6 months, your baby’s tummy will grow gradually.
Another risk of giving water to babies under 6 moths is water intoxication. This happens when too much water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the body, which can upset the electrolyte balance and cause tissues to swell. Your baby’s kidneys are small and just starting to develop, so they can’t process large amounts of water at a time. If your baby has gastro and you are worried about them becoming dehydrated, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. The bottom line is that babies younger than 6 months should not be given water because they have tiny tummies and immature kidneys.
Grenada Food and Nutrition Council