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It is so fundamentally important to recognise symptoms of dehydration in babies quickly is so they can be treated quickly.
If left untreated, dehydration can be fatal. And babies tend to get dehydrated far quicker than adults because their bodies are so tiny so they don’t have a high water reserve.
Babies also have a high metabolic rate to an adult because of the rapid cell production (growth) that happens in their body.
Illness like colds/flues, vomiting, diarrhoea and teething are the main culprits in causing dehydration. Simply because most babies (like adults) tend to lose appetite when they’re not well.
As babies only feed on milk, the chances of them getting dehydrated are high. This is especially true in formula-fed babies.
Here are a few ways to help you recognise dehydration in a baby
SLEEPINESS OR LOW LEVELS OF ENERGY
If you notice that your baby is more sleepy than usual, then this could be a sign that not only is your baby unwell, but could be dehydrated.
Dehydrated babies tend to be really sleepy almost unresponsive to mommy’s voice or to the touch. They will sleep more than they are awake (more than the newborn kinda sleep pattern).
Your baby might also appear to have low energy levels, and become disinterested in play.
Please seek medical attention immediately if your baby becomes unresponsive.
IRRITABILITY AND DROWSINESS
You may notice some irritability in your baby when they are dehydrated. Most unwell babies are rather irritable anyway, however, dehydrated babies tend to be extremely irritable and really really clingy.
They are at times drowsy and somewhat unresponsive.
DRY MOUTH AND PARCHED LIPS
Dry mouth and parched lips are another classic sign that your baby does not have enough liquid in their bodies and is suffering from dehydration.
This symptom is usually overlooked in hot weather as mommies tend to associate the dryness with the heat and dry weather – It is not.
So please make sure you seek medical advice if you notice your baby’s lips becoming increasingly dry.
THIRST – MIGHT REFUSE TO FEED BUT WANT TO CONSTANTLY DRINK
This is most common in an infant who has been weaned to solids. You will find that your baby will refuse all kinds of food that you offer them (even their favourite) but they will take some formula (or breastmilk if they’re still being fed).
Although they are not eating as much as they normally would, the good thing is they are still drinking.
It is, however, possible to note that even though they are drinking milk or water, dehydration can still occur, especially when they are suffering from vomiting and/or diarrhoea as their water output may be higher than the intake.
It’s always worth noting the balance between the two. Again, if this thirst is combined with any of the other symptoms, then please seek medical attention immediately.
ABSENCE OF TEARS WHEN CRYING
So at times, not very often, but at times, babies will cry and no tears will come out. My son used to do that. It’s called an ‘attention seeking cry’.
This cry is not the same as the dehydrated cry.
A dehydrated baby will normally find it very hard to vocalise their cry due to low energy levels. So they tend to have that very heartbreaking, squeal almost (I know this is not the best word to use), but it’s usually with so much effort and very faint with no tears to show for it.
You will recognise this cry as soon as you see it. It’s kind of hard to explain. The only word I can use to describe it is heartbreaking.
DECREASED NUMBER OF WET DIAPERS
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the number of wet diapers your little one is producing.
Decreased number of wet diapers is usually a good indication that your baby is not taking in enough fluids and/or is dehydrated.
It’s more so important to keep an eye on your baby’s diapers if they are suffering from diarrhoea. As this is usually harder to tell how much urine is passed in with diarrhoea.
Seek medical advice if your baby is suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting or has not passed urine within 6 – 12 hours.
LESS ELASTICITY IN THE SKIN
The skin may also be cold to the touch and appear blotchy.
I remember reading this once and thinking to myself ‘what on earth does this mean? And how on earth will I know if my baby’s skin has enough elasticity or not?
Well, needless to say, that I was able to recognise it the minute I saw it. Basically, let me put it this way. The skin on a well-hydrated baby looks like a juicy tomato.
Nice, plump and very smooth! (You could almost eat them) – But the skin on a dehydrated baby looks like a juicy tomato that has been left out in the sun for too long.
The skin becomes all wrinkled, shrivelled and very delicate!
OK, so, this might not be the best analogy, but to be honest, this is the best way I can describe it for someone who would be in the same position as I was.
SUNKEN EYES AND FONTANELLE (SOFT SPOT)
With less elasticity in the skin, your baby’s eyes and Fontanelle (Soft Spot) will become noticeably sunken or hollow! This is another indicator that your baby is suffering from dehydration and need medical attention.
If your baby is suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, take them to your GP, and if your baby is not suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting but is displaying one of these symptoms, then take them to your GP for medical attention.
If you are unable to see the GP for whatever reason, take your baby to the walk-in centre and explain your concerns.
Failing that, take your baby to A and E. It’s ALWAYS better to be SAFER than SORRY.
Never underestimate the dangers of dehydration. Dehydration is dangerous in adults, even more in babies.
Always remember that you know your baby better than anyone else does. Don’t be intimidated by medical staff who dismiss your concerns. A mother’s instinct is always right!
So, there you have it!
Have any questions or contributions to this post? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
I would love to hear from you!
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