Pedialyte for Infants - While Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is easily digested and contains all the electrolytes and nutrients your baby needs to prevent dehydration. Unlike dairy or soy-based formula, breastmilk does not contain large protein molecules and is, therefore, less irritating to the intestine.

holding baby
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Do Babies Who Are Breastfed Need Pedialyte When Ill?

Gastroenteritis is a common illness that is often caused by a virus and is highly contagious. It is especially common during the winter months. It cannot be treated with antibiotics and usually resolves on its own within 48 hours.

The most significant concern during an infection is dehydration, especially in babies. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause fluid loss, which needs to be replaced in order to prevent dehydration.

Water alone is insufficient to replace the electrolytes your baby needs to prevent dehydration. If your baby is formula-fed and is experiencing dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, they may be given Pedialyte instead of their regular formula for 24 hours to help replace lost electrolytes. Breastfed babies do not need to switch to Pedialyte and can continue breastfeeding to prevent dehydration.

Breastmilk is easily digested and contains all the electrolytes and nutrients your baby needs to prevent dehydration. Unlike dairy or soy-based formula, breastmilk does not contain large protein molecules and is, therefore, less irritating to the intestine. It is so easily digested that some of it is absorbed before your baby has a chance to vomit or have a stool. On the other hand, Pedialyte has no nutritional value and is only used to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Therefore, breastfed babies do not need to switch to Pedialyte and can continue to breastfeed to prevent dehydration.

Breastmilk is a superior choice for preventing dehydration in babies compared to Pedialyte. In fact, giving Pedialyte to a breastfed baby instead of breastmilk may delay their recovery.

Let's also not forget that breast milk contains antibodies that fight off any viruses! Pedialyte has no antibodies.

daddy and son
Father and baby - Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

A baby with an intestinal virus should continue to breastfeed and nurse more frequently, especially at night. Short, frequent feedings are recommended to prevent dehydration and support the baby's immune system. There is no need to wean the baby temporarily, and breastfeeding can provide comfort during this time. There is no better way to comfort your baby.

Another good reason to continue breastfeeding; your baby would likely take in more fluids via breastmilk than any other form of feeding.

If oral rehydration therapy is necessary during an infection, breastfeeding should continue. However, some flavors of Pedialyte may contain artificial sweeteners and flavors, which some parents may wish to avoid. If you are using Pedialyte to prevent dehydration, you may want to choose a flavor that does not contain these additives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed an oral rehydration formula that has been used to prevent dehydration in hundreds of thousands of babies worldwide. If unavailable, this formula can be used as an alternative to Pedialyte or other commercial rehydration solutions.

Oral Rehydration Formula

(The ingredients must be in the exact amounts)

  • 1 teaspoon sodium chloride (table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • 4 teaspoons potassium chloride (salt substitute)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1-quart water

If your baby is able to drink fluids, breastmilk should be the first choice. If a baby is unable to keep any breastmilk down at all, it is important to consult a doctor, as intravenous fluids may be necessary.

Breastmilk popsicles can provide an extra boost of fluids and support the immune system in babies and older children. They can be especially helpful during infections or when a child is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Simply freeze breastmilk in an ice cube tray or Popsicle mold and offer it to your child as a treat.

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Dehydration Signs in Babies

Watch for Any Signs of Dehydration in a Baby:

  • A fever.
  • Small amounts of urine or no urine at all for 12 hours.
  • Refusal to breastfeed.
  • Dark urine instead of yellow.
  • Sleeping all the time or extreme fussiness.
  • A sunken in fontanel (soft spot on head)

If you notice any worrying symptoms in your baby or have concerns about their health, it is best to contact a healthcare provider, particularly a breastfeeding-friendly doctor. They will be able to advise you on how to address the issue and support your baby's recovery.

baby crying
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Wootan Feeding Technique to Prevent Dehydration

The Wootan technique is a method that can be used to help prevent dehydration in breastfed babies by keeping as much breast milk in the baby's stomach as possible.

If your baby is experiencing diarrhea but no vomiting, it is important to allow them to nurse as frequently as possible in order to prevent dehydration. You should not be concerned about timing or restricting feedings during this time.

Vomiting is a more serious matter, and breastfeeding according to the following pattern can help prevent dehydration:

Breastfeed for 15 seconds, and wait 15 minutes. If the baby has not vomited again, continue:

Breastfeed for 30 seconds, and wait 14 minutes.

Breastfeed for 35 seconds, and wait 13 minutes.

Breastfeed for 40 seconds, and wait 12 minutes.

Breastfeed for 45 seconds, and wait 11 minutes.

Breastfeed for  50 seconds, and wait 10 minutes.

Breastfeed for 55 seconds, and wait 9 minutes.

Breastfeed for 1 minute, and wait 8 minutes.

Breastfeed for 65 seconds, and wait 7 minutes.

Breastfeed for 70 seconds, and wait 6 minutes.

Breastfeed for 75 seconds, and wait 5 minutes.

Breastfeed for 80 seconds, and wait 4 minutes.

Breastfeed for 85 seconds, and wait 3 minutes.

Breastfeed for 90 seconds, and wait 2 minutes.

Breastfeed for 95 seconds, and wait 1 minute. If the baby has not vomited again at this point, they should be safe to resume breastfeeding on demand. If vomiting begins again, repeat the cycle starting at 15 seconds of nursing to, 15 minutes of waiting, and so on.

Babies under two should not be forced to eat any solids. They can breastfeed exclusively for as long as they wish. Older children can be brought back to a normal diet gradually within the course of 2 - 4 days.