Q: Does a little baby need water? Our pediatrician says no, but my mother says yes. I am breast feeding him.
A: We're with your pediatrician on this one. Both human milk and formula contain lots of water, in fact all the water most babies need. We rarely recommend supplementary water, because we are worried it will fill the stomach and prevent small babies from taking enough breast milk or formula to get the calories required for growth.
Breast-feeding mothers should avoid offering anything from a bottle until the baby has been breast feeding well for several weeks at least. When your baby has established a good pattern of feeding and growth, 1 or 2 ounces of water a day won't hurt him, but it is not a requirement.
If you decide to offer a little water, it will provide a nice opportunity for others to "feed" the baby; and, if your water has fluoride in it, it will begin to help to build strong teeth.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.