Do Babies Need Electrolytes?

Last updated on : May 18 2022

Drinking water


Dr. Franklin Marc E. Tarronas has reviewed this article. Here is his bio:

Dr. Franklin Marc E. Tarronas (M.D., MBA) is a pediatric medicine physician who works as a hospitalist at Diliman Doctors Hospital. He graduated from the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health and completed his internship at The Medical City. He completed pediatric residency training at St. Lukes Quezon City. Dr. Tarronas is passionate about developmental pediatrics and its impact on community medicine. He has appeared on TV5 and UNTV radio to discuss specific pediatric topics.

A Mother's Guide To Dehydration And Giving Extra Fluids.

Babies are your pride and joy as a mother. They mean the world to you, and you would do anything to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. So it's a big deal when they get sick, especially as infants.

Dehydration and diarrhea are two of the most common sicknesses your infant can get. Between vomiting, bad tummies, and diarrhea, your child loses nutrients fast when they get sick.

Let's go over what dehydration is and how it hits babies. We'll cover its effects and how to identify and treat them. We'll also be discussing electrolytes and how you can replenish the ones your babies lose when they get sick. 

What Should Babies Be Drinking Normally? 

When your baby is an infant, breast milk is the one and often only thing your baby should be drinking for the first 6-12 months. It has all the nutrients they need, and breastfed babies don't need to drink water separately.

If you have difficulty breastfeeding, you can also use infant milk formula. This form of cow's milk also allows children to receive all the suitable proteins and nutrients from a bottle.

You should avoid giving your children any other kind of drink at a young age. You should especially avoid caffeinated beverages, carbonated drinks, and hot drinks.

These will give your babies indigestion and make them ill at ease. It can also exacerbate any problems with dehydration or diarrhea they may have, despite both conditions being opposites.

Not to mention, they can rot their still-developing teeth. There are drinks that a pediatrician can say are safe, as long as they're specifically designed for young children.

When in doubt, stick to breast milk and formula as much as possible.

Dehydration: It's Serious Business

The best practice is to ask your pediatrician if your baby has any medical concerns, especially when it comes to dehydration. 

As a guide, let's go over what dehydration is, how you might spot it in your baby, and how to treat it.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration is a severe medical condition that starts small but can lead to death in the worst-case scenario. As the name suggests, dehydration is when the body loses too much water and fluids to function as normally.

When your body runs out of fluids, you are at a greater risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The condition is precarious for children and the elderly. 

Dehydration is most commonly associated with intense physical activity. However, a scorching, humid environment can drain the fluids right out of your body.

It is crucial to avoid getting dehydrated since this can lead to other illnesses. In babies, dehydration is caused by excessive heat or expulsion via diarrhea or vomiting.

While these conditions tend to pass through your child within 24 hours of first experiencing them, they can leave your baby feeling fussy or lethargic. 

As a result, it's better to stay on top of things before your baby gets dehydrated.

How Do You Know Your Baby Is Dehydrated?

He has big smile.


Here are some of the most common symptoms of mild dehydration in babies:

  • Dry mouths and lips
  • Fussy but lacking in energy
  • Thirstier than normal
  • Less urination and may have no tears when crying
  • Sunken eyes
  • Fontanelle (soft spot in baby's head) is also sunken
  • Sleepiness and even unresponsiveness

When your baby starts showing these signs, you'll need to increase their breast milk feeding through smaller, more frequent servings.

Give them small sips of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) to replace lost electrolytes.

At any time, if your baby becomes unresponsive, take them to the hospital immediately. They will know what to do.

How To Treat Your Baby's Dehydration: Steps To Take

The most important thing is to replenish lost fluids and nutrients when treating infant dehydration. Here's a step by step guide on how to treat your baby's dehydration:  

  • Please consult your doctor and feed them according to the doctor's advice.
  • Feed them with smaller, more frequent servings of milk.
  • Avoid over-the-counter medicine for children under two years old.
  • Feed them only unsweetened drinks. Avoid anything other than milk as much as possible.
  • Encourage your children to drink milk as usual.
  • Give your child plenty of rest.
  • Give them small amounts of Oral Rehydration Solution and Electrolyte Solutions.
  • When in pain, you can give them ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
  • Stay vigilant for signs of worsening conditions.

When your baby is dehydrated, the best thing to do is increase their hydration through breast milk and ORS when needed. If these are not enough, it is best to take them to the hospital.


Now that we've gone over dehydration and its effects and treatment, we can go over electrolytes. This vital part of physical health gets thrown out of whack when you lose too many fluids.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals with electric charges that run through your bodily fluids, like blood and urine. Outside the body, they conduct electricity when placed in liquids.

You need electrolytes for your survival because they regulate the amount of water in your body and balance your pH level. Without electrolytes, your body will be in disarray.

Most of your bodily functions rely on working electric charges, like brainpower and muscle movement. Electrolytes provide that power. Low electrolyte levels mean low intensity for your body parts.

Due to dehydration, you're at risk for irregular heartbeats, cramps, and more severe ailments and conditions when your fluid levels go down.

Calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate are all electrolytes found in the human body. You can find them in food and supplements when needed.

In babies, diarrhea and vomiting can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, so replacing lost electrolytes is essential. 

The amount of water coming out of the body should equal the amount inside to prevent dehydration.

How Does Consuming Electrolytes Treat Dehydration?

The best way to treat dehydration is to rehydrate. While drinking plenty of water is enough in mild cases, you will need drinks that specifically replace lost electrolytes in more severe cases.

If these electrolytes are not replaced, they will affect the use of your muscles. You could suffer fatigue, irregular heartbeats, bone, and nervous system disorders, and even experience convulsions.

Consuming Oral Rehydration Solution or undergoing Electrolyte Replacement Therapy (via IV drip) are the main methods healthcare professionals use to treat insufficient electrolytes caused by dehydration.

When your baby is starting to experience expulsions, a lack of energy, and dry lips, be sure to start giving ORS in small doses to keep their electrolyte levels up.

What Are The Common Sources Of Electrolytes?

Eating food.

The good thing about electrolytes is that they are found in the food we eat, allowing us to replenish lost electrolytes normally without needing an ORS.

Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of electrolytes. Salty foods are good sources of sodium. Bananas and potatoes are rich in potassium, while greens and dairy products are rich in calcium.

Eating a well-balanced diet will allow you to prevent electrolyte imbalances since having too little or too many electrolytes is terrible for you. Find the right foods and consume them in the proper serving sizes.

Sports drinks are also an excellent way to replenish electrolytes lost to physical activities. You can also drink supplement tablets if you lack a specific type of mineral.

What Are The Safest Sources Of Electrolytes For Your Baby?

Toddlers primarily rely on and are satisfied by consuming breast milk. Breast milk is more than enough to keep them hydrated and their electrolyte levels in check when given sufficient amounts.

However, vomiting and diarrhea can get rid of too many electrolytes too quickly. In cases like that, the amount of electrolytes in regular water is too low to make a difference.

You will need to give your children Oral Rehydration Solutions like Pedialyte. Depending on your preferred consumption method, we go over the ideal Pedialyte dosage for your babies on this link.

It's important to note that ORS is not a substitute for breast milk and is best used when breast milk is not enough to treat dehydration or when your baby is primarily bottle-fed.

While other drinks could raise your child's electrolyte levels, it is best to consult your doctor before giving them anything other than breast milk and ORS.

When Should You Call A Doctor?

The best time to call a doctor is when your child reacts differently by vomiting excessively, having excessive diarrhea, or lacking appetite. 

Here are some specific conditions that require calling your pediatrician or bringing your child to the hospital:

  • Your newborn baby (younger than three months old) gets diarrhea.
  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration like dry mouth and lips, no tears when crying, lack of fluids in general, and a quick heartbeat.
  • Your baby has no appetite. Will not eat anything (no breast milk or infant formula) other than Oral Rehydration Solution for 24 hours.
  • Your child does not urinate and lacks energy. They become less active and less fussy.
  • Fever and expulsion (diarrhea and vomiting) last more than 24 hours. Or your child vomits more than a few times in 24 hours.
  • Your child has bright brown, red, and green-colored vomit.
  • Your child isn't getting better after receiving ORS.

If your child is unresponsive and unusually sleepy amidst their expulsions, with sunken eyes and losing weight, take them to the emergency room as quickly as possible. These are signs of severe dehydration.

How Can We Prevent Infant Dehydration?

As unfortunate as infant dehydration can be, it's preventable. Keep your babies hydrated and let them drink plenty of fluids, especially breast milk or milk and water.

Start giving Oral Rehydration Solutions in small amounts when your child may get dehydrated in sweltering weather. Providing this extra hydration is especially necessary when they start vomiting. 

Since we're focused on infants, give your child breast milk or infant formula. Consult your doctor on whether or not you should provide water to your baby on a hot day.

If the child is over six months old, you can add about 4 ounces of water a day if they are still purely on milk.

Preventing Dehydration In Specific Situations.

These are common yet specific instances in which your child can suffer dehydration. Here are the ways to stay ahead of these situations: 

Excessive Heat: Even the strongest adults bog down and overheat on a hot summer's day. You will need to increase the fluids you give your infant and avoid hot areas.

Diarrhea: Acute gastroenteritis can cause your baby to lose a lot of fluids. Encourage your baby to drink more milk to replace lost nutrients. If they can handle it, you can give them ORS.

Vomiting: If your baby gets infected or has a virus, it can throw up a lot. When this causes dehydration, give them milk, water, and electrolyte liquids in small, frequent amounts.

Refuses to Drink: Children are stubborn, but it may be a sign of a sore throat when they refuse to drink. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help ease their pain. 

Once they've been soothed, you can give them milk and water in small amounts frequently.

Fever: Your baby overheats when they get a fever. Overheating can lead to a lack of fluids which then leads to dehydration. It would be best if you kept the liquids flowing during these periods.

If that isn't enough and your baby has trouble swallowing, ibuprofen or acetaminophen (for older kids) can help ease their pain.


When in doubt, the best thing to do when your baby is dehydrated is to continue breastfeeding. If they're bottle-fed, you should give them a glass of cooled, heated water.

If these are not enough, you can proceed with replenishing your baby's electrolytes with small spoons or pops of Oral Rehydration Solution, as recommended. Do this until your baby gets better. 

All-in-all, only give your baby ORS and drinks or medicines upon the advice of your pediatrician. It is essential to be safe and wise to help keep your baby happy, healthy, and well.

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