Dehydration is a common condition in babies. It can stem from a sickness that may lead to a bout of vomiting or diarrhea (or both). It can also occur when your child does not have enough fluids. Simply put, when the amount of fluids being released by your baby’s body is more than their intake, it leads to dehydration.
For the first couple of months of life, your baby’s routine will revolve around feeding, soiling diapers, and sleeping and waking up at odd hours of the night. The diaper-changing routine can often get a little tedious—you may find that you have to change one as frequently as once an hour. While it’s okay if your baby is wetting more diapers (more than 10 every day), fewer diaper changes (less than five per day) may be a sign that your baby is dehydrated.
Dehydration in Babies and Children: Causes, Signs, and Remedies
Dehydration can take place in babies due to many reasons. While your milk will be enough to hydrate your baby for the first six months of life, it’s a good idea to start monitoring your baby’s fluid intake once he or she starts eating solid foods.
Common Causes of Dehydration
You may be racking your brain to figure out what caused your baby to become so dehydrated. These are some of the common causes:1
- Exposure to high temperatures
- Frequent vomiting or diarrhea
- A viral or bacterial infection, which can trigger gastroenteritis and cause an inflammation of the stomach and bowels
All these scenarios result in a loss of essential fluids from your baby’s tiny body, which can easily result in dehydration.
The most common cause of gastroenteritis in babies is rotavirus. This nasty little bug spreads through stools of the infected person. It is common for your little one to pick up rotavirus in a daycare facility.2
Is Your Baby Dehydrated?
Are you worried that your bundle of joy might be dehydrated? Look out for the following symptoms:
- Fewer wet diapers than normal (most doctors say less than five)
- Your baby has not passed urine for more than four to five hours
- The soft spot on your baby’s head, known as the fontanelle, may sink in
- Your baby is breathing faster and looks drowsy
- Your baby is less active and not very playful
- Darker colored urine and absence of tears while crying
- Your baby’s hands and feet are cold to the touch
- His or her eyes may look sunken
- Mouth and lips will be dry
Home Remedies For Treating Dehydration In Babies
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to make a phone call to your baby’s pediatrician. If your doctor advises you to self-treat your baby at home, these are a few home remedies you can try:3
- Breastfeed your baby as much as possible. Nothing can compare to the antibacterial and healing powers of breast milk.
- If your baby is bottle fed but refuses to finish the full bottle, give your babe small quantities of milk every hour to keep them hydrated. For example, if your baby typically feeds every four hours, reduce the amount of formula you give at a time and feed your baby every two hours instead.
- If your baby has started solids, offer them foods such as mashed potatoes and mashed bananas to replace lost nutrients.
- If there is no fever or diarrhea accompanying your baby’s symptoms, try giving them fresh fruit juices, soups, broths, or even a popsicle to replenish as many fluids as possible.
Before trying anything new, be sure to speak with your baby’s doctor to see what guidance he or she might offer.
How To Make Oral Rehydration Solution For Babies At Home
Experts say that the best way to restore lost nutrients during a bout of dehydration, diarrhea, or vomiting is giving your baby oral rehydration solution (ORS). While you may purchase it from the market, here are two easy ways to make ORS solution at home.4
- Mix one teaspoon each of salt and sugar in one liter of boiled drinking water. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Let your baby sip on this liquid throughout the day or give him or her one to two teaspoons every now and then.
- Mix one cup of precooked baby rice cereal (or 1½ tbsp granulated sugar) with two cups water and ½ tsp of salt. Stir till the mixture becomes a little thick but runny enough for your baby to drink. Give this mix to your baby throughout the day to replenish lost nutrients.
As you manage the symptoms of dehydration in your baby, rest assured that most cases can be treated at home with plenty of patience, diligence, and TLC. So give them extra love and fluids at this time, and don’t forget to see your doctor if symptoms worsen.
1. National Health Service. Dehydration in babies. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dehydration/Pages/Symptoms.aspx. Updated February 2017. Accessed January 31, 2018.
2. National Health Service. Sickness and diarrhoea. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Rotavirus-gastroenteritis/Pages/Introduction.aspx#close. Updated September 2017. Accessed January 31, 2018.
3. WebMD. Dehydration: Home treatment. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/dehydration-home-treatment. Accessed January 31, 2018.
4. State of Colorado. Preventing and treating dehydration. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/OEPR_Preventing-and-Treating-Dehydration.pdf. Updated November 1997. Accessed January 31, 2018.