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Dehydration 411

When your baby's in the throes of a stomach bug, one nasty side effect is the mess—who knew such a little person could regurgitate so much, not to mention all those leaky diarrhea diapers. But a much more serious consequence is the risk of dehydration, which can happen very quickly in an infant and cause dangerous complications and even death. The good news: "Most babies can avoid dehydration just by eating," says Peter Belamarich, M.D., a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. If you breastfeed, he recommends you continue to nurse, giving your baby short, frequent feeds. Formula-fed babies should pass on their usual bottles and drink an electrolyte solution instead, until the vomiting subsides. If your baby refuses to eat, get out a medicine dropper and give her two or three teaspoons of the electrolyte solution every 15 minutes, and watch for these signs of dehydration:

  • Dry diapers. Your baby should be wetting six to eight diapers a day. If you find one is still dry a few hours after a change, check in with your doctor.
  • A dry, parched-looking mouth, sunken eyes, a sunken fontanel and a lack of tears when your baby cries (once she's crying tears). Get your baby to the doctor if she shows even one of these symptoms.
  • Continued vomiting. If your baby has been throwing up consistently for 6 hours or sporadically for 24 hours, talk to your pediatrician.