Breastfeeding A to Z

Source Of Water

Know where your water is coming from.

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby gets all their fluid (water) from breastmilk.  But if you are offering your baby a supplemental bottle that is not breastmilk or ready-to-feed formula (requires no water to prepare), then you will need a source of water to prepare it.  Always read the directions on how to prepare.  Formula contents and directions can change.

You want the water you use for you and your baby to be clean and low in lead, nitrate, sodium and pesticides.  After babies are 6 months old you want their water to contain fluoride also.  (1)(2)

Most city water supplies are safe and sanitary, but occasionally there are breakdowns in water treatment procedures and standards.  If you have well water, have it tested to make sure it is safe before using it with your baby.  If you have questions or concerns about your water source, check with your healthcare provider before baby has any.

You may have seen “Nursery ® Water” on your grocery store shelves.  This is water that comes with or without added fluoride.  Discuss with your heathcare provider when you want to use water with fluoride in it.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a source of fluoride needs to be part of a baby’s diet at 6 months of age. (2)

If you are traveling, you may want to consider bringing your usual water source with you or use distilled/bottle water during your trip.  Sometimes a change in water can cause flu-like symptoms in your baby.

Lead  If you live in an older home, you may have lead in your pipes, from the solder that was used to connect the water pipes.  Lead can interfere with normal growth and development for infants/children and cause issues with blood pressure for adults. (3)  Lead cannot be removed by boiling the water.  This will actually concentrate it. (1)  If this is your situation, you want to consider a different source of water for your baby/children.

Nitrate  If you have well water, be careful to test your well after heavy rains, flooding, irrigation or fertilizer application near your well.  Nitrate contamination of water is a problem if you baby is less than 6 months of age.  Until your baby is 6 months old they convert nitrate to nitrite and this displaces oxygen in red blood cells.  This can make your baby very ill and can even cause death.  Boiling the water only concentrates the nitrates.  If this is a concern where you live, use a different source of drinking water. (1)

Sodium in water may occur naturally or it may be added if you have a water softener in your home.  Have your water tested if you suspect it is salty.  There is concern regarding the long-term effects of extra sodium in the diet and high blood pressure.  Use only unsoftened water for your baby. (1)

References:

  1. Satter, E, Child of Mine: Feeding with Love & Good Sense, Palo Alto, CA, Bull Publishing, 2000, pp 230-33.
  2. Kleinman, RE, Greer, FR, Pediatric Nutrition, 7th edition, Elk Grove Village, IL, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014, pp 72, 1173.
  3. Environmental Protection Agency, Lead in drinking water, Available at http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/index.cfm  Accessed Sept 18, 2015.