Infant Dehydration


Dehydration in Newborns

Infant dehydration occurs when there is a loss of water in the body, it usually takes place when baby does not consume enough fluids or when too much liquid is lost, due to diarrhea or vomiting.

Babies are more prone to dehydration, because their kidneys are still immature.


Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Low urine output. The baby has not urinated for several hours.
  • The baby does not seem to have any tears while crying. 
  • The baby’s eyes seem sunken into the eye sockets. 
  • The infant dehydration symptoms may include the lips, and inside of the mouth seeming dry. 
  • Unusual weakness and fatigue. 
  • The baby seems to have a high fever.
  • Signs of dehydration in children may include a pulse that seems faster than usual.
  • The baby’s skin seems sweatier than usual. 
  • The baby seems to have become pale in color. 
  • The baby has a sunken fontanel. (soft diamond shaped area on top of a baby’s head between the scull bones) This is a definite symptom of dehydration in infants.
  • The baby has “tenting skin” if the skin is pinched, it does not return to its flat state, this is also one of the immediate signs of dehydration. 
  • The fingernail bed can be pressed on firmly until it turns white. When you let go, the nail should return to it's normal color within 1 second. If the nail takes longer to go back to normal, the baby is dehydrated. 


What are the Dehydration Risk Factors?


Dehydration Treatment and Breastfeeding

    If the baby is dehydrated because of health issues, breastfeeding is a good way to replace a baby’s fluids and in most cases, will help the baby get over the infection or illness faster. 

In severe cases of dehydration, the baby may need intravenous fluids while continuing to breastfeed. 

    If the mother has a low milk supply, she can continue to breastfeed and supplement her baby. (Preferably with donor breast milk, but if not available, formula) 

Supplements can be given to a baby via an SNS “supplemental nursing system”, which keeps a baby at the breast while supplementing.


Infant Dehydration Tips

  • Make sure that you get professional breastfeeding help. Your breastfeeding counselor can evaluate your breastfeeding positionlatch and make sure that the baby is drinking enough milk. 
  • Feed your baby on demand and as often as possible. 
  • Take your baby to the doctor to rule out any underlying illness. 
  • Make sure that your baby has a good output of urine daily. 
  • Keep milk production to its maximum, if milk supply is a problem:
  1. Feed baby frequently.
  2. Pumping in-between feedings.
  3. Breast compressions while nursing.
  4. Educating yourself about lactogenic foods.
  5. The use of Herbs. 
  6. Lots of skin to skin contact


Effects of Dehydration

    Dehydration in children should not be taken lightly. The long term dehydration effects are:  kidney failure, seizures and swelling of the brain. If the baby is not given the proper attention, death from dehydration is also a possibility.
Top of infant dehydration page

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Breastfeeding course information through Childbirth International on The physiology of breastfeeding / Health problems / infant dehydration.


Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with this page on infant dehydration

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