sick baby refuses to drinkPin

Mom’s Question:

My 7 months baby had a fever 103F 4 days ago. She has been sick and had diarrhea for 4 days and will not drink or eat anything!

She cries and gags when I try to feed her the bottle; I’ve tried to spoon-feed her, cup-feed her…

She has no fever anymore but still has diarrhea, and loss of appetite. I took her to the hospital, and they did blood work and urine and told me she was borderline dehydrated and I just needed to take her home and give her fluids!

Today I got her to drink 2 oz, but that’s it… I am so worried and frustrated.. Didn’t really get any help from the hospital. I don’t know what to do. She’s not lethargic but is definitely not her happy, energetic self.


How To Treat Sick Baby That Refuses to Eat or Drink

I can certainly understand that you are worried. Dehydration is dangerous, and I think you did the right thing by taking your daughter to the hospital.

Diarrhea in children is generally caused by infection of the intestines. Diarrhea is usually self-limited, and its most common complication is severe dehydration.

When to take the baby to the hospital

Symptoms of severe dehydration include decreased tears, dry mouth, sunken eyes, decreased urine, and lethargy. You can find a specification of more signs of dehydration in this article.

Other reasons to take your baby to the hospital are a fever of 102 F (39ºC) or higher, persisting vomiting, visible blood in the stool and/or inadequate response to oral rehydration therapy.

How to hydrate a sick baby at home

If dehydration is not severe and your baby is able to drink and eat, it is advisable to treat her at home. I assume this is why you sent home and asked to give your daughter fluids.

Just as you already know, it is very important that you keep your baby hydrated. Easier said than done with a sick baby that refuses to eat or drink. It is very important NOT to create tension and a power struggle around eating or drinking. Your baby may be nauseated, tired, sad, or just simply without appetite. For this reason, you need to use all your patience and hydrate with baby steps.

Here is what to try:

Try to give the baby a teaspoon of liquid; pretty much anything she might accept, every five minutes for an hour.

Then rest for one hour and then do the same thing again for an hour.

Do this until your baby starts peeing or acting normally or shows signs of wanting to drink more.

This procedure is usually what happens also at the hospital for a start unless the child is so dehydrated that an intravenous drip is needed. But since your daughter isn’t throwing up and isn’t lethargic, there is probably a good chance to help her at home.

Even if it is extremely exhausting, you should continue with this procedure at night too, if necessary to make her start peeing normally again.

I’ve sat with my baby in my knee more or less asleep, doing these  “ one teaspoon every 5 minutes feedings” to combat dehydration. I’ve actually felt that even if I became totally exhausted, getting my babies to accept the teaspoon when they were almost asleep was almost easier.

(Even if you must stay awake, let your baby fall asleep between the feedings.)

Since she has diarrhea, prune and pear juice are not recommended, but if she likes blueberry juice or soup, you could offer that.

Water, cereal, apple sauce, veggie, and fruit purees are good too, as well as, of course, pedialyte.

If she is at all interested in feeding herself, or even just putting her fingers in some good purée and lick them, let her do that too. Bananas and blueberries might mitigate diarrhea and help stop dehydration.

Remember that even if she only drinks or eats a teaspoon, every little mouthful helps.

So do what you can to offer her something she likes and offer it often. Then keep track of her peeing and approximately how much she eats and drinks.

If she becomes worse or even remains the same, don’t hesitate to take her back to the ER.

I hope this helps a little bit. I really wish you good luck!

(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

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  1. Momof6

    Did the ER doctors check her stool for rotavirus? She is at an age where it is quite common.
    If wh has the rota virus, her stools will be extremely watery and foul smelling, and usually will exhibit a high fever. (The doctors almost did a spinal tap on my dd to rule out meningitis because of the high fever.)

    There is no treatment the docs can give you for rotavirus but it does make getting fluids in her very important.

    Try popsicles, pedialyte, jello water, gatorade, pedialyte. Anything she will take that has fluid in it, but avoid apple juice, milk products (other than breastmilk) and things with citrus.

    Watch carefully for signs of dehydration and go to the ER if necessary!