Each baby has different needs for water, and these needs vary with his level of activity, the weather, seasons, foods, and drinks. Your baby needs enough to prevent dehydration, but not too much that it fills him up and decreases his desire for milk.
If your baby is very thirsty, check his salt intake. The amount of sodium used in cooking and in processed foods can determine your baby’s needs for fluids. Excess water can lead to a rare condition known as water intoxication, which can interfere with digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
As little as 3 ounces a day could be too much water for a child under a year old, says Allen J. Walker, MD, head of the Emergency Department at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. If your baby goes swimming, make sure he is not swallowing too much water. Some symptoms of water intoxication in an infant include: low body temperature, facial swelling, drowsiness, irritability, and seizures.
Spring water is bottled water that comes from an underground formation where water bubbles up or flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Commercial spring water can also be extracted from a spring below ground.
Purified water has been treated with a cleansing or filtering process, such as charcoal, distillation, or reverse osmosis, to remove bacteria and to dissolve solids. Many bottled waters are purified drinking water.
Mineral water contains minerals and trace elements that occur naturally at its source.
Municipal or tap water
Municipal or tap water is water piped into your home. This water supply is legally required to meet the primary standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the Environmental Working Group, many chemical pollutants can be found in tap water supplies, including trace levels of aluminum, arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
Understanding where your local water supply comes from, and what potential exposure the water may be subject to, is vital to ensuring your baby’s water is of the highest quality. If there is any concern or question about the quality of your local water, have the water tested for metals, inorganics, disinfectant by-products, and volatile organic compounds.
Boiling and filtering water
Boil or filter tap water for drinking and cooking, especially for infants and small children, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. You can boil tap water for one minute to ensure it is safe from bacteria or viruses, and then store it in the refrigerator for up to two days. You can warm the water (make sure that it is not too hot), or leave it outside the refrigerator until it is at room temperature, before giving it to your baby.
If you use filtered water, boiling is not necessary, unless a pipe has broken. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is a nonprofit organization that facilitates the development of safety standards and conducts testing to certify drinking water systems for a variety of standards. Some of the standards are for the safety of the material used in a product, and others relate to the performance of a product.
When purchasing water filters and water filter systems, look for products that meet NSF material safety certifications, and explore performance certifications for a product. There are two basic locations for a water filter system: point of use, which is at the kitchen sink, and the point of entry, which is a filter for the water used throughout the whole building.
Point-of-use filters are used above or below the kitchen sink for drinking and cooking. Most point-of-use systems use carbon filters to adsorb impurities. The filters need to be changed periodically, but these are easy to change because they are easy to access. This is the least expensive and most practical system for most households.
Reverse osmosis filters are a point-of-use system that works by filtering the water through a carbon pre-filter that removes sediment, volatile organic compounds, and chlorine. Water is then forced through a semipermeable membrane, which traps minerals in a housing. These minerals are then flushed out of the housing and down the drain with a large amount of water used for this purpose, and the filtered water is then sent to a storage tank.
Storing the water is necessary in order to provide enough water flow to meet the demand when the faucet is turned on. Once the water leaves the tank, the water is filtered again by a post-carbon filter to remove any bad taste left from non-harmful bacteria growth in the tank. The filter removes pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, chlorine, iron, lead, fluoride, and other toxic ingredients. It also removes the good minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, but there is no waste in this system.
Point-of-entry filters are whole-house systems located at the point where the main water line enters the building. They are designed to remove a larger quantity of contaminants to provide better water quality at every fixture and water-using appliance within the home. Whole-house systems remove anything from sediment to uranium, but they are commonly used for everything that affects health. You can filter the water used in baths, showers, and bathroom sinks to ensure a final barrier between you and the source.
If you know there are health-threatening contaminants in your water, consult a certified water specialist in your area. After testing your water, you can match your particular needs to a system. You can improve most city water with a simple water filter at the kitchen sink. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for changing the filter for optimal contaminant reduction.
Concerns about tap water
Water is one of the most natural and plentiful resources in the world, and yet, modern tap water can have chemicals that were added deliberately, like chlorine and fluoride, or unintentionally, like pesticides and herbicides from agricultural runoff, personal care products, or pharmaceuticals.
Tap water, or municipal water, can vary by location. In developed countries, tap water is typically “safe,” although using a water filter system provides a final barrier against known and unknown contaminants. If you live in an area with intensive commercial farming, mining, or industrial manufacturing, you may wish to investigate your local water situation more thoroughly.
Fluoride is commonly added to tap water to protect tooth enamel, and it is also in many toothpastes. Most people do not use a filtration system and do not know whether their water is fluoridated. However, municipalities are required to inform the public in their annual water report if they fluoridate the water supply. You can also have your water tested at a local laboratory at a low cost to find out the levels of fluoride in your water.
In 2006, the American Dental Association (ADA) advised parents against using fluoridated water in their infant formula, because of the risk of fluorosis, or mottled tooth enamel, due to overexposure to fluoride. Babies are vulnerable to fluoride toxicity, due to their small size, and because their kidneys cannot excrete fluoride. All water filters do not remove fluoride; the two types of filters that reliably remove fluoride are reverse osmosis and activated alumina filters.
Chlorine and chloramine are also routinely added to municipal tap water to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases. Although they prevent mass outbreaks of waterborne diseases, they are not healthy for your baby to drink every day. Most water filter systems can easily remove chlorine.
Because private well water may not have been treated, and is not regulated by authorities, it should be tested periodically. Check with your country extension service or with your regional EPA office, or call your state’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline for information. The EPA offers information about possible contaminates in tap water.
Concerns about bottled water
There are very few benefits to choosing bottled water over filtered or public water, and there are many drawbacks associated with bottled water. Although some bottled water is pure and healthy, many tests have found contaminates in bottled water.
Also, the plastic bottle, itself, has its own undesirable qualities: higher risk of chemicals that can leach into the water, greater pollution of the environment from plastic bottles, and higher transportation costs. One toxin in plastic, bisphenol A (BPA), can leach directly into drinking water. Plastic water bottles may also contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polystyrene (PS).
Plastics that are known to be safer are polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), which is for one-time use, but not for refilling, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polypropylene (PP). Even though a certain plastic has been called safe, it still may present health concerns. Plastics all increase in molecular activity under high heat or exposure to light, fats, and acids, and can release petroleum-based toxins, in the form of liquids or gases, into their immediate surroundings.