It is so simple to turn on the tap to fill a glass with water. Water is cool and refreshing, and known to be fantastic for your health as an adult. But how good is it for our children? Is it safe for them to drink? Let’s really see, is tap water safe for your child?
Tap Water is water that is delivered to your home through a tap from a city supply. Calling it ‘tap water’ will usually distinguish it as water that has been through a treatment plant, as opposed to other fresh water supplies like water tanks, rain-water collecting cisterns and streams.
Water that goes through a treatment plant is processed to ensure that it is safe for human consumption. It is often filtered to remove bacteria, fungi, parasites, algae and viruses. Chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride are added at safe levels to help the purification process.
You should not give your baby water as a standalone drink until they are at least 6 months old. Even during hotter months, breast milk or formula will be sufficient to quench their thirst. Do be aware that your baby might be thirstier in summertime, so be prepared to give your baby more feeds. When your child reaches the 6 month mark, you can begin to offer them a drink of water in addition to their regular feeds.
If you are formula feeding your baby, then you will obviously need to use water to mix up the formula. Regardless of the type of water you use, you will need to boil and cool the water until your baby is at least 3 months old. After 3 months old, you should be able to use tap water to mix formula. If you have any concerns, continue to boil and cool the water for your baby’s formula.
Do not be tempted to substitute a formula feed with a bottle of water to quench your baby’s thirst when they are young. The water will fill them up, but they will miss out on the nutrients that the formula provides. Also, do not be tempted to dilute the formula. Make the formula up in accordance with the product instructions.
As mentioned above, before 6 months old, your baby will not require water to drink. Their regular breast milk feeds will keep them hydrated. But as a breastfeeding Mom, you need to make sure that you keep your fluid intake up. The proper amount of water will keep your milk supply up. This is important in the warmer months when your baby will be wanting to feed more.
When mixing formula, it is recommended that you use water with a low fluoride presence. That is why some people elect to use bottled water, as it is low in fluoride. However, early exposure to fluoride will help to prevent tooth decay later in life. If you only feed your baby ready-made formula (that contains no fluoride), or formula mixed with low-fluoride water, then they will not get this protection from tooth decay.
The best thing to do is to strike a balance between the two. Over exposure to fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is a cosmetic issue that creates faint white streaks on milk and adult teeth. But little or no exposure can increase the chance of tooth decay. Alternate using tap water and low-flouride water to prevent these issues from occurring.
If you have concerns about the quality of your tap water, then you may choose to continue to boil and cool it before giving it to your child. Alternatively, you can use a water filter which performs a similar function to boiling and cooling. It is recommended to keep filtered water in the fridge as the filtering process removes the chlorine additive designed to keep water fresh.
Be mindful that once your baby is over 6 months old, they will require some exposure to natural bacteria to build their immune system. Trying to shelter your baby from all germs may actually be harmful to them in the long run, as they do not build their own immunities. This can make them more prone to minor and major illnesses.