Infant Dehydration

Infant dehydration can be quite serious, so it's important to identify the symptoms, get to the root of the cause and treat your child accordingly.

Symptoms of Dehydration
Here are some symptoms that your child is dehydrated and needs to be rehydrated:

  • dry, sticky mouth and lips
  • hasn't wet diaper for past six hours
  • has persistent dark, yellow urine
  • sheds few or no tears while crying
  • less energetic, seems lethargic
  • eyes look sunken
  • has a sunken fontanel (soft spot)

What Causes Infant and Newborn Dehydration?
There are several factors that could cause infant dehydration.

Fever is one of the most common factors behind newborn dehydration. Our skin normally releases evaporated water. During a fever, our body temperatures rise, meaning that more water evaporates and sweats out of our skin. Fevers also mean significant water losses. In fact, for every degree above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, your infant's body loses 12.5% of the total body fluid.
Diarrhea in infants is usually caused by gastroenteritis, commonly known as the 'stomach flu.' Fluid is lost in the form of watery diarrhea.
If your baby can't keep down a meal, then she's losing fluid through vomit before it can enter her system.
During particularly warm days or simply by being overexposed to the sun, your baby could lose fluids and dehydrate because of sweat and water evaporation.

Rehydrating Your Infant
Rehydration is the process of giving fluids to your child to prevent dehydration. The way you rehydrate your infant depends on what the underlying factor of dehydration is.

Also, remember that preventing dehydration is the best treatment. That means giving fluids to your child to ensure that they're taking in more fluids than they are losing, regardless of whether illness is causing dehydration.

If your infant is losing fluids due to a fever, simply provide more fluids for her whether it be breast milk or formula. She may be having a hard time drinking because of discomfort. If you're worried that discomfort is refraining her from feeding, ask your doctor about using infant acetaminophen to lower her fever.
Dehydration by diarrhea is a bit more serious, as it can quickly deplete your baby's body fluids. Call your doctor when you notice symptoms of dehydration. He may advice you to give her an electrolyte solution, such as Pedialyte or Enfalyte.
If your baby has been vomiting for over 3 hours, it's time to call your pediatrician. Give your infant an electrolyte solution; a few sips every half hour should do. If your infant is able to hold down the electrolyte solution and hasn't vomited for about 4 hours, then you can try slowly offering her breast milk or formula. Slowly increase the amount per feeding.
Take your baby into a cooler environment, whether it be shade or inside a cool basement. Be sure to provide her with plenty of breast milk or formula to make up for the fluid she's lost and use the right baby feeding tools.

Remember that if despite your efforts, your baby is still unable to take fluids or is still displaying the symptoms of dehydration, take her to the emergency room where she can rehydrate through an IV.  

Chat with other moms about all your infant care concerns in our baby forum.