Learning About Dehydration in Newborns

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What is dehydration?

Dehydration means that your baby has lost too much fluid. This can happen if your baby stops breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating can also cause your baby to lose too much fluid.

Dehydration can be serious. Your baby's body needs fluids to make enough blood. Without a good supply of blood, vital organs such as the heart and brain can't work as well as they should.

What can you expect when your baby is dehydrated?

You may be able to treat your baby at home. But your doctor may want your baby to stay in the hospital for a while to get fluids. This is often for 1 or 2 days, but it may be longer.

Your baby may get fluids by being bottle-fed, through a feeding tube in the nose, or in a vein (IV).

Your doctor might suggest meeting with an expert on breastfeeding. These experts are called lactation consultants. They can show you how to tell if your baby isn't getting enough fluids. And they can show you ways to help your baby get more fluids.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Sunken eyes with few tears.
  • A dry mouth with little or no spit.
  • No wet diapers in a 6-hour period.
  • Strong-smelling urine with a dark yellow colour.

These symptoms can develop if your baby is not getting enough breast milk or formula.

How is dehydration treated?

If your baby gets treatment in the hospital, he or she will get fluids.

When you bring your baby home you'll want to make sure your baby is getting enough fluids by doing these things:

  • Make sure your baby wakes up and eats when it's time for feeding.
  • Keep track of the number of wet diapers your baby has in a day. For the first few days of life, your baby may have about 3 wet diapers a day. After that, expect 6 or more wet diapers a day throughout the baby's first month.
  • It can be hard to tell when a diaper is wet if you use disposable diapers. If you can't tell, put a piece of tissue in the diaper. It will be wet when your baby urinates.
  • Keep track of your baby's bowel movements. Having fewer than normal can be another sign of dehydration.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your baby is very sleepy or hard to wake up.

Call your child's doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby isn't having enough wet diapers each day, or has dark yellow, strong-smelling urine.
  • Your baby isn't interested in feeding.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have problems feeding your baby.
  • Your baby does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: July 26, 2016