It's common for almost every new parent to worry about how much milk their baby is consuming. It can be hard to tell, especially with breastfeeding mothers. There's an unforgiving learning curve when you're nursing, and you can't really measure your milk. Inevitably this all leaves a lot of concerned parents asking themselves, "Can breastfed babies get dehydrated?" To be honest, dehydration can happen in breastfed and formula-fed babies. As long as you recognize the signs of dehydration, however, your baby should be OK.
Dehydration most often occurs in infants born to first-time moms, according to La Leche League International (LLLI). This isn't a slight to new moms. It's just that they might not have developed adequate breastfeeding skills yet. Additionally, many new moms are instructed to have a "breastfeeding schedule" with their babies. I was encouraged by hospital staff to have one with my first baby. These schedules, especially if kept strict, can be problematic. "Breastfed babies can get dehydrated if mom is not putting baby to the breast frequently enough," Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and Fellow of American College of Childbirth Educators (FACCE) Deena Blumenfeld of Shining Light Prenatal Education, explains to Romper via email. She says babies need to be breastfed on demand or when they are hungry. "If mom is feeding baby on a rigid schedule that may result in insufficient milk intake."
Another factor that lactation consultants can consider when trying to figure out why a baby is dehydrated is to ask the mom about any previous breast surgeries. As explained on LLLI, breast biopsies, reductions, and the like can all lead to complications in breastfeeding. Not always, but it's a possibility and should be taken into account.
No matter what's causing the dehydration, thankfully, there are some pretty obvious signs to look for in your baby. Dehydration is a spectrum of severity and asking yourself these seven questions will help you figure out the level of care you'll need to correct the issue.