Nighttime Feeding: Milk vs. Water for Your Baby (Will It Help Settle Them When Trying To Wean?)

Yes, you can give water instead of milk to your baby at night after they’re six months old. Babies do not necessarily need night feeding. They wake up and feed out of habit and use the breast or bottle to soothe themselves to sleep. Giving them water is one way of leading them to night wean out of the bottle. It is also healthier as water prevents upper teeth cavities. 

Milk before bedtime encourages the child to want it every time he wakes up. But, if you give him water or nothing at all, he will eventually resettle and get used to the habit.

A few sips before bedtime keeps him hydrated and full which could prevent sleep disruption to feeding. 

Importance of hydration for babies

Infants have higher water content than adults, accounting for almost 78% of body mass. The percentage drops as the child gets older so that the adult body only has 55 to 60% water in it.

The decrease is due to the accumulation of fatty tissues in the cell, which contain less water. 

Since babies’ bodies are basically made up of water, they tend to dehydrate more quickly. They lose water through sweating, breathing, and urination.

During hot weather, or when they are active, they also lose more. That water loss needs to be replenished immediately. Dehydration is one of the common causes of hospitalization in babies when they are sick or have diarrhea. 

Proper hydration is important in blood circulation for the transport of nutrients and oxygen. It also facilitates waste removal and prevents constipation.

Water keeps their tissues and joints lubricated to promote healthier bones and teeth.

Well-hydrated babies also tend to have better moods, memory, and attention. 

Signs of infant dehydration

Dad is bottle feeding water to his infant baby girl

When your baby is not getting enough fluid, he will manifest signs of dehydration such as:

  • Cracked lips
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Fewer than six diaper wetting in 24 hours
  • Tearless crying
  • Dry tongue and mouth
  • Extreme dehydration has signs like:
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot in the baby’s head)
  • Fussiness
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dry and wrinkled skin

Dehydration ranges from mild to severe and both need immediate medical intervention. It is very dangerous and fatal when left untreated.

A severely dehydrated child cannot replace his body fluids through drinking and eating alone. He would need fluid given intravenously, and the doctor will monitor his electrolyte balance. 

Milk vs. water

Milk and water are equally important to babies for their growth and development. However, breastfed babies younger than six months do not need water just yet.

They take nourishment and hydration primarily from breast milk. Formula-fed babies may need water at the discretion of the pediatrician.

So, how do milk and water help in a baby’s development? 

From birth to their first birthday, milk provides the sole nutrition for babies.

Both breast milk and formula milk have nutritional content tailored for the growing infant. They have a full range of vitamins and minerals that varies according to the baby’s developmental needs.

Water, on the other hand, has small traces of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and zinc.

Although it contains a minute amount of minerals, water is still essential for older babies. It is what keeps them hydrated as they begin to get more active.

Water is ideal for babies once they have started with their solid foods. 

How much water do babies need?

Babies do not need as much water as adults do. Excessive water intake may risk water intoxication which can cause difficulty breathing, weakness, and vomiting. 

📌 According to AAP, six-month-old babies only need 4 to 8 ounces of water a day. By 1 to 3 years old, they should get about 4 cups of beverage, from both water and milk. You can increase the amount to 5 cups for 4 to 8 years old and up to 7 to 8 cups when they are older. 

Some babies may refuse water at first, and that is okay. You can encourage them to keep hydrated by incorporating it into their diets.

Mix water with fruits into popsicles and fruit-flavored ice cubes or flavor their water with fresh fruits.

An infant boy is sitting up eating watermelon at the dining table

You can also give babies fruits and vegetables with high water content such as cucumbers, watermelon, and berries.

Giving your infant water at night

Water is safe to be given to infant babies at night. But it should not, in any way, be given as a mean to replace a bottle of feeding.

Remember that they do not need a lot and excessive intake can cause water intoxication.

Feed your child to content an hour before bedtime. Then, give him water just before sending him to bed. But, do not put your baby to bed with a bottle.

Once the baby has teeth, night-sucking can cause it to shift and become misaligned. They also tend to chew on the rubber teat of the bottle’s nipple and may swallow it. 

The healthy routine of giving water at night is letting your child take a few sips from a cup. Keep a sippy cup by his bedside. This trick may also discourage him to wake into the night for feedings.

Babies are smart in their own ways. When they realize it is not worth getting up for a tasteless drink, they may not strain an effort for it. The practice may or may not work, depending on how your baby rationalizes the idea. 

Dad is helping his infant son drink water from a cup

Sometimes, babies wake up and cry at night not because they are hungry but needing something else. They may need a diaper change or hugs and reassurances you can satisfy but not with a bottle.

Don’t worry, you just need time, and eventually, your baby would catch up. Water before bedtime could be something he would develop as a healthy habit until later in life. 

Here are a few tips for safely sending your little one to bed with water:

  1. Use cooled previously boiled tap water from a safe source (with a filtration system and tested for contaminants).
  2. Use distilled water if possible.
  3. Give 4 to 8 ounces of water to babies younger than one year.
  4. Offer a little at a time from a fancy sippy cup that your baby loves.
  5. If your baby would only drink from a bottle, limit his water intake.


Can I give my baby fruit juice?

Fruit juices are not recommended for children under one year of age. Toddlers 1 to 3 years old should not have 4 oz a day.

Fruit juices are high in sugar and low in fiber which fills their tummy faster and leaves little room for water and milk.

Should I dilute milk with water?

No, diluting milk can cause water intoxication and hamper his nutrient intake.

When introducing water to a baby for the first time, try with a few little sips in a spoon. Increase the amount daily until he could get used to it in a cup.

Can I give water to my baby in a bottle?

You may, in a limited amount. But the goal of giving water to babies is to ease and wean them out of the bottle.

They should learn how to drink from a cup which also ensures they are not drinking too much.


As a parent, you want to make sure that you always offer the best for your baby.

Too often you will hear other people saying you need to give your infant water to keep them from getting thirsty. But, only your pediatrician has the say in what you can or cannot give your fragile little one.

If you are breastfeeding, your baby will likely go thirsty as breast milk is basically 88% water.

Water is essential for a baby’s growth. However, keep in mind that it should be given at the appropriate age and amount, often around the time he is ready for weaning. 

When it comes to successful weaning, patience and consistency are important. You need to be firm in imposing the rule.

Learn more about weaning:

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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