Sodium is an electrolyte nutrient that carries an electric charge throughout your body. Sodium is an essential nutrient that helps control the absorption of other nutrients, manages your blood volume and blood pressure. Sodium levels in babies can fluctuate, especially soon after birth when a newborn's bodily systems are beginning to function on their own.
Testing Sodium Levels
A blood test is used to test your baby's sodium levels and may be done if your child is exhibiting symptoms consistent with levels that are either too high or too low, according to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, but can also be part of a blood panel used to monitor electrolyte levels and dehydration. The Merck Manual explains that normal levels of sodium for a baby range between 135 and 150 mEq/L.
High Sodium Levels
Neonatal hypernatremia is the condition in which a baby's blood sodium levels are too high, generally above 150 mEq/L. Babies who are born pre-term or at low birth weights are more likely to develop hypernatremia than full-term babies of average size. Infants who suffer from diarrhea, high fevers and dehydration associated with these illnesses are at risk ofr the condition as well. Symptoms of high sodium include seizures, lethargy and spastic, or tight muscles, according to Merck Manual. Your hypernatremic baby may be treated through the administration of an intravenous saline solution to boost blood volume, and possibly dialysis to remove excess sodium in extreme cases.
Low Sodium Levels
Low sodium levels in babies is called neonatal hyponatremia, and is defined as measuring lower than 135 mEq/L. The most common causes of low sodium levels are similar to the reasons that a baby would develop higher-than-normal sodium levels, and include diarrhea and vomiting that throws off the balance of electrolytes within the body. Your baby might also develop hyponatremia if he drinks juice or infant formula that does not contain the proper concentration of sodium. Symptoms of low sodium levels can include nausea and vomiting, an unresponsiveness that can lead to coma, muscle cramps and seizures. Intravenous saline solutions will be given to your baby to replace the amount of sodium that is lacking.
Sodium Levels and Breastfeeding
La Leche League International explains that a nursing mother's health and breastfeeding abilities of the child can play a role in an infant's sodium levels. Mothers who experience milk production problems, may make milk that is more concentrated in sodium when compared to a woman who has plenty of milk available to her baby. The added sodium in the milk can lead to dehydration in the child, in turn creating a possible sodium imbalance. New mothers who produce only colostrum in the first few days of their baby's life may also unknowingly expose their babies to too much sodium if the normal milk supply does not come in when expected, and is delayed.
Your baby could be at risk for kidney damage and impairment of other organs if sodium is not restored to appropriate levels. Israeli researchers from Emek Medical Center and Galilee Medical Center found that low birth weight babies who were deficient in sodium in their early days, exhibited an increased desire for salty foods during their childhood, even after their disorders had been treated. Limiting the amount of salt your child eats can contribute to a healthier life in terms of high blood pressure and weight gain.