Infant Hydration – What You Need to Know

Everyone knows that keeping our bodies hydrated is key in keeping our bodies healthy at any age. But fluid requirements in babies and small children is different than for adults and can vary at different stages of development. When illness strikes, fluid depletion can be rapid and hydration tricky.

You would think that babies and children require less hydration than adults do, but this is not necessarily the case. The fluid requirements for young infants is about 150 ml per kilogram per day compared to 50 ml / kilogram for an adult. It takes a lot of energy to grow that little body.

It is also important to know that babies have decreased thirst sensitivity and are more sensitive to temperature changes than adults are.

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

It means infants and small children are highly dependent on their caregivers to know and regulate their hydration needs. They cannot tell you when they are thirsty because they just don’t know.

HOW MUCH HYDRATION DOES MY CHILD NEED?

The following are EFSA guidelines as to the fluid needs of infants and young children.

0-6 Months 100-190 ML / kg of weight / DAY
6-12 Months 800-1000 ML / DAY
1-2 Years 1100-1200 ML / DAY
2-3 Years 1300 ML / DAY
4-8 Years 1600 ML / DAY
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS ADEQUATELY HYDRATED?

A good rule of thumb is to check fro 6-8 wet diapers per day. This is the most obvious sign that your baby is getting the hydration that they need.

WHAT SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION SHOULD I BE AWARE OF?
MODERATE SEVERE
SKIN Dry Clammy
LIPS Dry Parched
EYES Deep set Sunken
TEARS Reduced None
FONTANELLE (soft spot) Soft Sunken
MOOD Irritable Lethargic
URINE Dark Yellow None
WHAT IS THE BEST HYDRATION FOR MY CHILD?

If your baby is breastfed, then the breast is the best thing to offer your child. No additional fluids are needed.

For formula fed infants or babies older than 6 months the following can be offered:

  • Breastmilk or formula
  • Water (not under 6 months)
  • Electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte

Stay away from high sugar drinks like Gatorade, sodas and high sugar juices juices.

WHAT IF MY CHILD IS VOMITING AND CAN’T KEEP FLUIDS DOWN?

This is the one of the hardest parts of caring for a sick and vomiting baby. If you give too much fluid they can vomit more and if you don’t give enough, they can risk dehydration. Here are some guidelines to follow for hydrating a vomiting baby or child.

For breastfed babies – offer the breast to soothe and comfort and to nourish your child. If they are vomiting, offer in small amounts or shorter periods of time.

For Non-Breast Fed Babies – Offer small amounts 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of electrolyte solution every 15-20 minutes. It is best to give these fluids either via a syringe or the Hydrator to best monitor fluids and only administer the correct amounts. Avoid giving children sippy cups or bottles of fluid to avoid over hydration and vomiting.

If your child can keep the fluid down for a couple of hours without vomiting, gradually increase the fluid amount by small amounts.

Babies that continue to vomit can be very thirsty and drink rapidly leading to more vomiting and hydration issues. This is why careful dosing of fluids is important.

Once your child can go 8 hours without vomiting, resume regular fluids as tolerated.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I GIVE MY TODDLER OR OLDER CHILD?

Do not give milk products to a vomiting toddler. Give clear fluids, water or Pedialyte. Give from 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons every 15 minutes depending on how old your child is. The key is small amounts of fluid on a regular schedule.

*This article is not meant to substitute medical advice, it is only meant as a guide to prevent any potential hydration issues. Please call your doctor if any of the symptoms of dehydration persist or vomiting are present.