10-Week-Old Baby Dies of Water Intoxication Due to Parents Diluting Breast Milk

Drinking a lot of water may be fatal for a child, and doctors warn that even tiny quantities provide little benefit to babies.

Water is essential for adult health, yet newborns are properly hydrated just by sipping breast milk.

Furthermore, when newborns drink too much water, their salt levels drop too low for them to metabolize nutrition, which can result in convulsions, unconsciousness, and even death.

Babies are better off obtaining all of their calories and water from breast milk or baby formula for the first six months of their existence.

Breast milk is around 88 percent water, therefore new moms who are able to breastfeed need not be concerned that their newborns may get dehydrated. So when a newborn receives breast milk, they are getting primarily water with just the proper amount of calories. 

However, if parents feed their child water or watered-down formula, their baby may rapidly decline and die. This was the situation for Niveah, a 10-month-old infant from Georgia who died in 2015.

A Georgia mother and father were accused with murdering their 10-week-old baby girl by diluting the breast milk she was fed.

According to criminal warrants issued Wednesday, Nevaeh Marie Landell died of water intoxication in late March.

Prosecutors claim Herbert George Landell, 26, and Lauren Heather Fristed, 25, contaminated the baby’s breast milk with water, depriving it of nutrition. When Nevaeh became ill, Landell and Fristed denied to treat her, claiming their religious convictions. She was dead by the time they got her to the hospital.

According to Gwinnett County Police, the infant had no medical attention pre or post birth and would have been born at home if Fristed had not required an emergency C-section.

As per the warrants, watering down the milk caused Nevaeh’s electrolyte and salt levels to plummet and her brain to expand.

Landell is accused of criminal murder and aggravated violence by deprivation. Fristed was charged with aggravated violence by deprivation, first degree child abuse, and second degree child cruelty. Both are being held in prison without bond.

According to Dr. Sujatha Reddy, 11Alive’s medical reporter, newborns should not consume water until they are at least 6 months old. Babies can drink modest amounts of water between the ages of 6 and 12 months, no more than one to three ounces at a time. Dr. Reddy advises that because water has little nutritional benefit, newborns should initially drink breast milk or formula.

Dr. Reddy’s pediatric nurses believe there is no need to dilute a baby’s breast milk. Water poisoning symptoms include grogginess, disorientation, sleepiness, twitching, and convulsions.

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