So much about having a baby is dealing with various fluids. So when those fluids are running low, it can be more than a little concerning. And because that little body is so tiny, there’s not a whole lot of storage space to keep a reserve supply of hydration. As a result, baby dehydration can happen quickly.
In this article: 📝
- When should you worry about dehydration in a baby?
- Symptoms of dehydration in babies
- How do you hydrate a baby?
When should you worry about dehydration in a baby?
If you suspect that your baby is dehydrated, it’s best not to wait—particularly if they are younger than 3 months old, and/or other symptoms are at play. Give your healthcare provider a shout as soon as possible.
Dehydration in babies happens when the amount of fluid going out is more than the amount of fluid coming in. It can be broken down like this:
- Too much fluid going out. This can be a result of vomiting, diarrhea, or excess sweating. A high temperature can cause your baby to lose fluids quickly.
- Not enough fluid going in. If your baby is sick—and particularly if they have a fever—they may not be getting the fluid intake they need. Another reason they might be low on fluids is feeding struggles.
(Let’s park here for a second. If you are having any trouble feeding your baby, you don’t have to struggle alone. Reach out to your healthcare provider. Other moms can also be a great help.)
Symptoms of dehydration in babies
So what are signs of dehydration in babies?
First thing to know: the signs of dehydration in newborn babies are slightly different from the signs of dehydration in toddlers. Here’s what to look out for:
Signs of dehydration in newborn
- A tear drought. If your baby is producing little to no tears when they cry, it may be a sign that they are dehydrated.
- Oversleeping. Newborns can sleep for up to 17 hours a day. If your baby is sleeping more than this, check in with your doctor.
- A sunken soft spot on your baby’s head. Fontanelles are small gaps in your baby’s skull that still need to merge. A sunken fontanelle may be a sign that your baby is dehydrated. (It’s not always a sign of baby dehydration, but it’s still worth taking note of, particularly if your baby has other symptoms.)
- Cold feet and hands. It can be quite tricky figuring out the temperature control settings on your baby, but if you notice a drop in temperature in their hands or feet, it’s worth taking note. Dehydration in babies can also cause their hands and feet to appear a little patchy.
- Not in the mood to feed. If your baby is not too keen to take the breast or the bottle, baby dehydration is one possible cause. (There are a plethora of reasons why feeding may be slow, ranging from mild infections to serious conditions to the fact that they just haven’t got the hang of it yet. If you’re having trouble, reach out to your doctor.)
- Wrinkles. If they’re looking a little too much like an elderly lady or gentleman, with loose skin and wrinkles, it could be a sign of dehydration.
- Fussiness. This is a hard one because there are so many reasons for fussiness. Dehydration is one of many possibilities.
Dehydration in babies and toddlers
- Drier diapers. Dehydration in babies can cause your baby to pee and poop less. Although changing diapers isn’t much fun, that regular wetness is a sign that the liquid is draining as it should. Dehydration can also cause constipation. If they’ve gone for 6 hours or more without needing a change, it’s worth taking note.
- Rapid breathing and heart rate.
- Dry mouth and dark eyes. Basically, if they look like they’ve been out partying for a week, check in with your doctor.
- Not their usual selves. If they’re not super excited by every fire truck and bumblebee that crosses their path, it might be a sign that something’s up. Add sleepy and cranky to the mix, and it may be a sign that their fluid levels are not optimal.
How do you hydrate a baby?
Frequent feeds work well, about every three hours or so for newborns. But while that’s easy to say, it’s not always that easy to do, particularly if your baby is not well. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, your doctor may recommend a lactation specialist.
If your baby is dehydrated because they are at the mercy of an infection, your doctor may give you some medication to solve the root problem.
In serious cases of dehydration in babies, hospitalization may be necessary so that their fluid intake can be monitored. They might be put on an IV until their levels stabilize.
So, bottom line: you can’t always prevent dehydration in babies. But if you think your baby is showing signs of dehydration, it’s worth checking in with your healthcare provider as soon as you can. It’s a common condition, and it’s very treatable. The earlier you catch it, the better.
Good luck! You’ve got this.