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Christine believed the “breast is best” message. However, Kimmy told her that a recent study launched in the UK suggested that dehydration in babies, though rare, is a potentially fatal condition caused by inadequate breastfeeding.

“But my doctor encourages me to breastfeed,” said Christine.

“Of course, dehydration is not caused by breastfeeding itself but occurs when women, especially first-time mothers do not know how to suckle their babies properly or cannot tell if they are full.”

“Okay…so I may be at risk since I am first-time mother, so how serious is dehy…”

“Dehydration. Well, it occurs when babies fail to take in sufficient quantities of milk in the early days of life. ” Kimmy added that dehydration can cause sodium levels to increase, which can lead to seizures, gangrene, brain damage, or even death, in the worst cases.

“Still want to know more about it?”

“Yes! Please.”

Signs of dehydration

“Actually, dehydration can also happen as a result of vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or sweating as your baby takes in less fluid than he loses. Since the greater proportion of babies’ bodies is made of water than in adults, dehydration may have a far more serious effect.” Kimmy explained.

“Sometimes, I find that my baby does not wet his diapers even after more than six hours, and has a dry, parched mouth and lips. What does this mean?” asked Christine.

“These are signs of dehydration! Other signs include:

  1. urine that looks darker in his diaper and smells stronger than usual
  2. lethargy
  3. no tears while crying
  4. sunken eyes
  5. hands and feet that feel cold and look splotchy
  6. excessive sleepiness or fussiness
  7. and sunken fontanels (the soft spots on your baby’s head) - also signs of dehydration

So you better check whether your baby has these other signs too.”

“Oh dear! How do I stop it from happening again?”

How to prevent dehydration?

“As we know, weather is getting hotter, so make sure your baby is drinking plenty of fluids, especially when he is ill, as babies tend to not want to drink or eat when they are not feeling well. Offer him lots of water before going out in the sun, and try keeping him in a cool place out of the sun as much as possible.” Kimmy explained.

“Should I stop breastfeeding him?”

“No. You can continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed him. If he is 4 months or older, you can supplement his intake with a little water as well. And if he is drinking juice, try diluting it with water, so that they can consume more water without increasing the amount of juice in a day.”

“Ahuh…but how much water should I put into the juice?”

“Okay, say he is drinking 3 or 4 ounces of juice per day, you can add 6 or 8 ounces of water to the juice.”

“I see.”

Kimmy also told Christine to be especially wary of dehydration under these circumstances:fever, overheating, diarrhea, vomiting, and refusing to drink, as they may cause a serious case of dehydration to the baby.

How to treat it?

“If he shows signs of dehydration, what can I do?” asked Christine.

“Well, there are some recommended plans to treat dehydration. If he cannot swallow, ask your doctor to offer him some medicine such as liquid paracetamol to control it.”

“Also, electrolyte solution, or clear liquids, such as water and diluted apple juice are used to treat dehydration caused by serious diarrhea or vomiting. Once he stops vomiting, small amounts of water or electrolyte solution could be given to your baby every half-hour to an hour.”

“Alright, I understand, and then I can start moving him back to his regular diet?” Christine asked.

“Yeah, start with plenty of fluids and easy to digest food if he is on solids, such as cereal or yoghurt.”

“One last thing, ask your doctor before giving any treatment. And for serious cases, you should take him to the children’s A&E immediately, as a special liquid is needed through an intravenous tube to replace water and electrolytes in his body until he is rehydrated.”

“Thanks Kimmy! I have a lot to learn indeed as this is my first baby. I hope it won’t happen again!” LWB

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