If a newborn baby is dehydrated, it means that he or she has lost too much fluid. What are the signs of dehydration in newborns, and how can parents intervene?
What causes dehydration in newborns?
Dehydration in newborns occurs due to a variety of reasons. By default, babies are vulnerable to diarrheal diseases that lead to fluid loss. The risk of dehydration further increases if diarrhea comes with high temperature, sweating, and vomiting.
Another contributing factor is the newborns’ increased insensible fluid losses or the immeasurable fluid loss from the skin, respiratory system, and stool. Not getting enough milk can also lead to dehydration.
The sooner you spot the signs of dehydration in babies, the quicker you can replace the lost fluids and restore your newborn’s normal fluid level.
Signs of mild dehydration
To check if your newborn baby is dehydrated, you can do the following:
Check for weakness
Dehydrated newborns often appear weak. To help assess their weakness, observe their activity level. If they play less than usual or look drowsy, the baby may be suffering from dehydration.
Observe if they are thirsty
Dehydrated newborns usually show signs of thirst and are eager to drink.
Feel for their fontanelle
If you suspect dehydration in your baby, feel for the soft spot at the top of their head (fontanelle). A sunken fontanelle is a common sign of dehydration.
Count their wet diapers
Newborns typically use 8 to 10 diapers per day; however, they urinate less often when they are dehydrated. A usual sign of dehydration is when a baby has fewer than 6 wet diapers in 24 hours.
Check for tears and mucous membranes
Sickness makes babies fussy and irritable. If they cry and you don’t notice tears, they might be dehydrated. Also, observe their mouth: dehydration often makes the mouth dry.
Assess their stool
Finally, check your baby’s poop. If your baby suffers from diarrhea, you may notice that they have loose, watery stool. However, if dehydration is due to other causes, you’ll see that they have decreased bowel movement.
Signs of severe dehydration
In addition to the signs described earlier, a severely dehydrated newborn baby may also show the following symptoms:
- Increased fussiness or irritability
- Sunken eyes
- Excessive sleepiness
- Wrinkled skin or poor skin turgor. You can check skin turgor by pinching the skin. Skin with normal turgor snaps back into place immediately after pinching.
- Pale or cold hands and feet
- Decreased urination (only once or twice in 24 hours)
When should I take my baby to the doctor?
You should bring your newborn baby to the doctor if you suspect that he or she is dehydrated. Moreover, seek medical treatment right away if your baby:
- Suffers from diarrhea (more than 5 times in 24 hours)
- Persistently vomits
- Has a high temperature
- Has no urine output for 8 hours
- Poor oral intake or appetite
- Low activity
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your baby’s condition. The doctor will monitor your baby closely to determine the cause of dehydration. They may likewise ask you to breastfeed your baby to see if your newborn latches well. If they notice that your baby is not receiving enough breastmilk, the doctor may advise you to pump and store breastmilk. As a last resort, and only after the physician’s recommendation, you may also have to supplement with infant formula.
If your baby suffers from mild dehydration, and they don’t need to be hospitalized, the doctor will give you instructions to treat your newborn at home.
At home, you might need to:
- Feed your baby more frequently
- Monitor your baby’s feedings
- Monitor your baby’s wet diapers other signs of dehydration
- Ensure that your newborn or infant is comfortable. Remove excess layers of clothing, and, if possible, transfer them to a cooler place.
Additionally, you need to give your baby any medication or oral rehydration solution (ORS) that the doctor prescribes.
How can I help prevent dehydration?
The best way to prevent your newborn baby from being dehydrated is to make sure that they’re getting enough milk. Newborns typically feed every 2 to 3 hours; even when they’re sleeping, wake them up to feed them.
Additionally, keep your baby cool during hot weather. If you feel that your newborn needs extra fluids, refrain from giving them water; instead, give them an extra bottle of breast milk or infant formula. You can also add another breastfeeding session.
Finally, prevent diseases that may lead to dehydration by stopping the spread of disease-causing organisms. Wash your hands before preparing your newborn’s milk and ask others not to hold your baby if they are not feeling well.
Learn more about Baby Care here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.