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 when a baby hasn't been taking in enough breast milk or formula. Diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating can also cause a baby to lose too much fluid. Common signs of dehydration include a dry diaper for 6 or more hours, a dry mouth, or sunken eyes with few tears.

This condition 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.

Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How is dehydration treated?

While your baby is treated for dehydration in the hospital, your baby will get fluids.

Your baby may drink fluids from a bottle. Or your baby may get fluids through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. It's also possible that the fluids will be given into a vein (I.V.). This may be done through a vein in the belly button or in another location.

What can you expect?

You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.

If your baby breastfeeds, your doctor might suggest meeting with an expert on breastfeeding called a lactation consultant. The doctor can show you how to tell if your baby isn't getting enough fluids and how to help your baby get more fluids.

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 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.

Where can you learn more?

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

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.