What happens when adding water to breast milk?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “what happens when adding water to breastmilk” with an in-depth analysis of the effects of adding water to breast milk among which the main issue is the dilution of nutrients present in the breast milk.

Moreover, we are going to highlight what breast milk is, what are the risks of diluting breast milk with water and how can these adverse outcomes be avoided by introducing the appropriate amount of water at an appropriate time in the diet of babies.

What happens when adding water to breast milk?

The addition of water results in the dilution of the nutritional components present in the breast milk as well as the supply of excessive amounts of fluids than requirements. The dilution of breastmilk can pose several risks to the normal health and development of the babies through different complications and conditions, among which the most common is water intoxication.

Therefore, the water should be introduced at an appropriate time as breast milk can fulfill all the requirements of a newborn infant without the aid of an external source.

Diluting breast milk:

Water does not contain any nutritional components and can dilute the product in which it is added. Breast milk is thought to be a source of a complete meal for babies especially up to the age of 6 months as it contains an adequate amount of macro as well as micronutrients required for the optimum growth and development of the babies.

When the water is added into the breast milk, it causes the dilution of components present in the breast milk and interferes with the overall digestion and absorption of those components inside the babies’ bodies. It will also enable the babies to uptake water in greater amounts than needed.

Water intoxication:

Excessive intake of water can result in a condition known as water intoxication, having many complications, including grogginess, confusion, drowsiness, twitching, and seizures.

Higher amounts of water dilute the concentration of sodium in the body, disturb the electrolyte balance, and cause the swelling of tissues that can cause seizures, coma, brain damage, and eventually death in babies.

It may also cause excessive weight loss or gain, jaundice (increased levels of bilirubin), and persistent infections.

Offering water to babies:

Breastmilk contains a sufficient quantity of water and the babies who are exclusively fed on breast milk do not require any additional water to satisfy their thirst or maintain their hydration status. For the first six months, no matter what the temperature is outside, babies do not need any water.

For about 4-6 months old babies, introduce a small quantity of water in between breastfeeding. Too much water intake is still harmful. For toddlers, water according to the need or desire can be given to them but too much water should not be given as the babies do not need what exactly their desire or requirement is.

Breast milk:

Breast milk consists of 80% water and a proper quantity of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Breast Milk is the simplest food that can be offered to newborns as it is easy to digest and a naturally sanitized food product.

Besides the basic macro and micronutrients, breast milk is also enriched with a lot of beneficial components, such as antibodies and white blood cells, probiotics, hormones, growth factors, antibacterial components, cytokines, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and special carbohydrates (oligosaccharides), that are required for the proper development of babies as well the maintenance of different functions of the body.

Benefits of breastmilk:

Breastmilk is not only known to provide thousands of health benefits but is also available every time and everywhere without any cost and effort.

Breastmilk can provide almost all the nutrients needed and lowers the sudden infant death syndrome during the early stage of life. Several conditions, such as eczema, asthma, and food allergies are also known to be reduced in babies who are breastfeeding.

Several infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infection, respiratory tract illness bacterial meningitis, urinary tract infection, bacteremia, necrotizing enterocolitis, and late-onset sepsis, can mainly be caused due to the contamination by consumption of outside foods can also be prevented or reduced through breastmilk.

Moreover, the risk of obesity, diabetes mellitus, lymphoma, and leukemia in older age can be reduced by giving breastmilk during the period of infancy. The flavors can also be introduced to the newborns through the mother of milk as everything that the mother eats comes into her milk too and can be transferred to babies with the benefit of avoiding complications caused by exposure to new foods.

You can read more about breast milk here.

Conclusion:

In this brief guide, we answered the question “what happens when adding water to breastmilk” with an in-depth analysis of the consequences of adding water into the breastmilk that is the dilution of nutritional contents of the breast milk.

Moreover, we discussed how we can avoid several adverse outcomes by introducing the appropriate amount of water at an appropriate time.

Citations:

https://www.bounty.com/a-z-family-illness/baby-illnesses/the-dangers-of-diluting-formula-milk
https://www.happyfamilyorganics.com/learning-center/mama/breast-milk-benefits/

Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.