the only water source young infants need
The misconception that exclusively breastfed infants need additional water, especially during hot weather, continues despite scientific evidence to the contrary. In many parts of the world other liquids such as teas, sugar-water, juices and gruels are routinely given to infants as early as the first month of life. Studies in Peru showed that 83 per cent of infants were fed water and teas during the first month of life. Surveys in the Gambia, the Philippines, Egypt and Guatemala report over 60 per cent of newborns receiving supplementary fluids to breastmilk.
Although cultural and spiritual practices account for some of these practices, the advice of health workers also influences the use of supplementary fluids. Midwives in Ghana advised the giving of water to all infants immediately after birth; nurses in Egypt advised mothers to give sugar-water after delivery; about 50 per cent of hospitals in Canada reported the practice of supplementation with water, glucose or infant formula (1).
In order to address this "myth," Linkages, the U.S.-based Academy for Educational Development has issued a FAQ fact sheet entitled, Exclusive Breastfeeding: The Only Water Source Young Infants Need.
The publication recommends communicating the message:
Donít Give Water
Make clear the meaning of exclusive breastfeeding.
Take ideas often associated with water and apply them to colostrums.
Explain why exclusively breastfed babies do not need water.
Point out the risks of giving water.
Link good breastfeeding practices to adequate liquid intake for the mother.
The full document is available on the Linkages website at: www.linkagesproject.org
Healthy newborns enter the world well hydrated and remain so if breastfed exclusively, day and night, even in the hottest, driest climates. Nevertheless, the practice of giving infants water during the first six months ó the recommended period for exclusive breastfeeding ó persists with dire nutritional and health consequences. This FAQ discusses these consequences and the role of breastfeeding in meeting an infantís water requirements.
1. Hanvey L. Levitt C.Survey of Routine Maternity Care and Practices in Canadian Hospitals.
CICH and Health Canada. 1995 (back)
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