Dehydrated baby, exhausted mama!

Petra had a hard time on the day we went to the Aquarium, and I wanted to write about it because it took me a while to figure out what was going on. I might save you some frustration and your baby some discomfort.

Petra was dehydrated and–and this is the weird/obvious part–she didn’t know what that was. She hadn’t ever been thirsty before. It wasn’t a feeling she understood. She had always gotten hungry first. Petra learned on her first day of life that when she’s hungry, she should nurse and the hungry feeling goes away. Thirsty was a new feeling, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She was tired and cranky, but wouldn’t sleep. I didn’t suspect that she needed to nurse because I had fed her only an hour before. I didn’t think about how humid it was or how much she had been sweating (Granny corrects me–“Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow.”) glowing that day. The first clue was when I realized that she had barely peed all day. She was sweating all her excess water out–and then some.

When I realized it, I felt awful for letting her suffer and just trying to bounce her to sleep. I sat down in a dark stairwell off of “Shark Alley,” and nursed her for a long time. I was a bit dehydrated, too, so I worried that I wasn’t able to give her much. She nodded off and when she woke up, she seemed much happier. I gave her some water from a sippy and made sure to drink plenty of water myself for the rest of the day.

This is one of those important things all parents should be aware of. Don’t be a dummy (like me).

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Less elasticity in the skin
  • Eyes and fontanel (or soft spot on head) appear sunken
  • Decrease or absence of tears
  • Dry mouth, parched lips
  • Baby displaying lack of interest in feeding
  • Less frequent peeing (super obvious if you do EC)

If the baby’s dehydration is mild to moderate, they might not have all of those signs.

Prevention and awareness are the best way to handle dehydration–if your baby has been sweating glowing a lot or has had diarrhea, offer extra fluids. Nursing is complicated because the baby might not feel hungry or want to nurse. You might have to pester them. Babies over four months can have some water.

Don’t forget, if you are nursing, you need lots of water. My neighbor is a dairy farmer and he insists that 20 gallons of water goes into each gallon of milk. Cows drink a lot when they are lactating. People need to as well. So fill up that water bottle and ignore your toddler’s whiny requests to “just have a little drink” and fill it with disgusting backwash. Pretend it’s wine. Get him his own cup. Stand strong and take care of yourself. You are the baby’s oasis.


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