Dehydration in Babies

Dehydration happens when the amount of fluids in the body becomes less, which in turn affects the basic functioning of the body. Know the symptoms of dehydration and learn how to prevent it.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Dehydration in Babies
Dehydration in Babies
What is Dehydration?

Your little one’s body is made up of 75% water. Each day, your child loses water through sweat, urination, bowel movements, crying and breathing. During the initial few months fluids replacement happens through breast milk or formula. Once solid foods are started, fluid intake can be through consumption of water and from other sources like fruits and vegetables. Water is the elixir of life and our body requires water for normal functioning, to maintain body temperature and to make body fluids.

Dehydration is a condition where the body loses water and nutrients at a rapid rate than it can be replaced normally. Infants have small reverses of water and they tend to deplete fluids at a faster rate than adults, especially when they have illness. Hence it is important for the little ones to stay hydrated when they are sick.

Causes of dehydration

The most common causes of dehydration in children are

·         Diarrhea: Diarrhea is the main cause of dehydration in babies. During an episode of diarrhea, electrolytes and water are depleted quickly. It becomes difficult to balance the lost nutrients through feedings. The severity increases if the condition persists for more than two days.

·         Vomiting: Repeated vomiting can lead to loss of important fluids leading to dehydration.

·         Fever: During a fever, your baby may not be able to take frequent feeds which can result in dehydration.

Some of the other causes of dehydration are

·         Feeding issues

·         A baby refusing to eat due to health issues

·         Consumption of medicines like diuretics

·         Over exposure to the sun and spending too much time outdoors can lead to fluid imbalance.

·         Failing to take fluids after vigorous physical exercises

Symptoms of dehydration Mild to moderate dehydration

·         Not drinking or eating enough

·         Lethargy, less activity

·         Urinates less frequently (for infants, fewer than six wet diapers per day)

·         Parched mouth, lips

·         Fewer tears when crying

·         Darker, more concentrated urine


Symptoms of severe dehydration (in addition to the above symptoms)

·         Child not responding to your touch or your voice

·         Excessively sleepy

·         Extremely fussy

·         Sunken eyes and fontanels (soft spots on your baby’s head)

·         Cool, discolored hands and feet

·         Rapid heartbeat

·         Wrinkled skin

·         No tears when crying

·         Dry eyes and mouth, cracked lips

·         Urinates only one to two times per day (12 or more hours since last wet diaper)


Treatment of dehydration

Treatment of dehydration depends on the severity of the condition.

For mild to moderate dehydration:

·         Feed frequently

·         Give diet that is rich in fluids and electrolytes

·         Have a track on your baby’s feedings and the number of wet diapers produced each day

·         If the condition is too warm, move your baby to a cool place and remove excessive clothing.

·         After the doctor’s consultation, provide oral rehydration solutions. Oral rehydration solutions will replace lost fluids and body salts.

For severe dehydration

·         Doctor will monitor baby’s intake and output of fluids

·         If the baby has severe vomiting and diarrhea, fluids will be administered intravenously

·         Medications to treat the underlying cause of illness to prevent further dehydration.

Prevention of dehydration

·         If you are breastfeeding, feed your baby every two or three hours. For formula fed babies, offer one to three ounces of infant formula every two to three hours.

·         Monitor the number of wet diapers your child produces and keep a track on their weight gain.

·         Avoid taking your newborn in the hot sun.

·         Babies don’t require extra water. Breastmilk and formula will provide enough fluids.

·         Continue to breastfeed even if your baby has an illness.

·         Follow proper hygiene when you feed your child.

·         Avoid giving commercial sports drinks to infants.


If your baby is not able to eat well or has a fever and any other illness, consult a doctor immediately. 

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