How To Tell If Baby Is Lethargic – Tips, Reasons & Behavioral Changes

Last updated January 7th, 2021

Is your baby sleeping more than usual? Do you feel they are not being their usual self? Do you think your baby is getting sluggish and inactive? While your little one might not speak or tell you what is troubling them, you as a parent can always tell if something is wrong with your child. While it might be hard to notice at first, you need to be an attentive parent to get to know what is troubling your little one.

The symptoms, as mentioned earlier, might be a sign of your baby getting lethargic or listlessness. During this, your baby will be tired, or sluggish, relatively inactive as well. Your little one will seem to sleep longer than usual too. Your baby might also stare into space and seem very lost. Your little one is almost in a coma-like state. The child won’t speak, won’t acknowledge anyone, and seem lifeless. All of these mentioned symptoms substitutes as a sign of real lethargy. If these are the symptoms you can clearly see, call your doctor immediately.

“Typically, your baby only gets true lethargy when they’re sick or of their hormone levels are off, but that’s more commonly found in the newborn stage,” says Posner. While there might be situations where your little one is a bit out of it. They might not be acting themselves, a little fussy, getting irritated, or crying without a specific reason.

All these might be a cause of some other illness or sickness, and learning about them is important to you as a parent to take the next right step, which is why this article might help you take one.  

Symptoms and tips for finding lethargy

Lethargy can cause your little one to feel sluggish or very sleepy. You, as a parent, especially a first-time parent, might find it challenging to find out the solution to your baby’s problem.

It might not be easy to recognize the symptoms for a first-time parent. But knowing some of these symptoms can help you in a lot of ways. Some of the noticeable symptoms can be accounted for, which might help you find out if your little one is facing lethargy or not.

Symptoms of Lethargy

  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal heart rate Rhythms
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Spacing out
  • Not being able to wake up

Try this Tip

How to check if your baby is lethargic

If you just lift your baby’s arm. And let go, and their arm falls down limply and heavily to their side; this is a clear indication of them being not in control of their body.

So, this is a pretty simple and easy test to see if they are falling under the category of being lethargic or not.

You can easily do it anywhere and try to find out as early as possible to give them the proper care and treatment.

Medical Reasons for Lethargy

Medical Reasons for Lethargy

While lethargy in itself is a severe condition, which is enough to worry you as a parent, it can also be one of the symptoms of many life-threatening diseases. There are quite several severe medical conditions that require instant attention from a doctor. Some of them as follows:

Sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening disease caused by your immune system going into overdrive to protect you from many illnesses and infections. When the chemicals the immune system releases into your bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation in the entire body instead, it’s called as having sepsis.

While fatigue and weakness are some of the main signs of having sepsis, which might also seem an indication of your little one being lethargic. Other symptoms include low body temperature, blotchy or discolored skin, nausea, vomiting, etc.

Metabolic Disorders

When a baby has metabolic disorders, the body cannot break down the food properly, which leads to the body having too much or too little of certain substances. Your little one might show signs and symptoms as sluggish or slow, while other symptoms may include Phenylketonuria, Galactosemia, and others.

Hypoglycemia

It may be the sole cause of lethargy. It is also an axiom in emergency medicine that should be assessed as the first potential cause for lethargy or coma. Mostly occurring to infants in the early 48-72 hours of life, where the glucose is less than 40-60 mg/dl. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and low weight gain.

While some of the medical reasons I have provided above, there are other medical reasons why your baby must be feeling lethargic lately. To better understand the situation, you need to be attentive and pay attention to the smallest changes with your little one.

More Tips for Avoiding Lethargy

By now, you know how to recognize lethargy in your baby and what symptoms constitute it. So, if you can realize that your baby is just lazy, you can do some easy steps to make them active and lively again. It would help if you took care of their drinking and eating habits to make sure they are well hydrated.

Also, that you feed them on time and schedule, get them moving, take them on a walk or regularly stroll; missing their frequent day outs can make them lazy. Going outside is very important for your child, no matter the age. Also, taking care of their sleep and napping on time is crucial for babies not to feel lazy all day long.

Behavioral changes that may occur along with lethargy 

Behavioral changes that may occur along with lethargy

While lethargy can transform into a difficult medical situation, it might not always be what is troubling your little one or the reason for their being so inactive. Your little one might be going through other problems. For which the subtle signs are not as harsh as mentioned in the beginning. Some of them are as follows:

  • Poor Feeding
  • Persistent crying
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing

Even during these symptoms, your little one might feel inactive or tired, but the problem is not lethargy. They shouldn’t be confused as being passive or lethargic, as symptoms for that are quite strong. So, if your baby is facing these issues and problems, you might want to pay attention and try to narrow down the real issue and consult with your doctor for the same. They might be facing other issues, and as they can’t communicate their problems clearly to you, you need to be on alert to recognize them on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a sleepy baby syndrome?

The sleepy baby syndrome, also known as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), is when a baby 12 months or younger dies during sleep with no warning signs or a clear reason. SIDS is associated with defects in a portion of an infant’s brain. Usually, the baby is affected by the incorrect sleeping environment.

What causes stress in babies?

Although it might not seem accurate, babies also get stressed, and you might not even know about it! Stress can come in many forms to babies, from faces to reactions, rough handling, significant changes in their daily life, or overloaded by too much stimulation. 

What are 4 signs of stress or distress in babies?

Hiccupping, yawning, sneezing, frowning, squirming, arms, and legs pushing away are some of the symptoms. Offering a lot of affection to your little one might be a good start towards relieving their stress. Keeping their schedule intact as much as possible and overall keeping them active but not too much might cause a problem.  

Should I let my sick baby sleep all day?

While it’s essential to give your little one sufficient sleep, I order to recover from any illness, too much sleep at a time might not be a good idea. If that’s what your entire baby does, it might be useful to check up on them and see if there are additional symptoms. As always, do consult your doctor to identify the problem early on.

Can dehydration cause lethargy?

If your baby has a dry tongue or lips, no tears when crying, fewer than 6 wet diapers per day, sunken eyes, and dry or wrinkled eyes. These might be some of the symptoms that can be identified as a case of having dehydration.

To Summarize

The inactivity of a baby is often confused by parents as their child is lethargic. Lethargy is a severe medical condition where if your little one is sleeping the whole day, is sluggish, not wake up or respond, you need to pay a visit to your doctor as soon as possible. Other severe symptoms might include vomiting or dizziness.

Lethargy is also one of the causes of many life-threatening diseases like sepsis and many other conditions. You need to be a very attentive parent and recognize even the smallest changes in your little one. While it might be useful to pay attention but at the same time, don’t try to obsess over every little change. If some symptoms seem to prolong, then you should seek advice from your doctor.

If your baby is active, fine, and doing well, you obviously don’t need to worry. Sometimes your little one might just not be in the mood to be as active as they are usually are. If they can be comforted while crying and nothing is prolonged, then just give your little one time and some sleep with a lot of love to make them go back to their usual self!

2 thoughts on “How To Tell If Baby Is Lethargic – Tips, Reasons & Behavioral Changes”

  1. Hello, there.
    Thanks a lot for this wonderful piece. It spoke to me directly. My baby has struggled with lethargy for a while now, and while we got medical help, none of the home care remedies you have provided in this article was recommended for us to try at home. But, when i came across this powerful, it turned out to be my saving grace. My baby is much better now and my worries are settled. I know so much now and i know better.
    I was wondering if you know more about Jaundice in babies ? I would really appreciate if you can share some information about that too.
    Thank you very much.

    • Hello!
      I am happy to hear that I could help you out in any way possible. It feels great to know that something I have written could help someone in need. Though I don’t have much knowledge or experience about jaundice in babies, please keep looking forward to our articles. Someone would surely come up with something related to jaundice in babies and provide you with an insight!
      Glad to hear your baby is feeling better now. Take care 🙂

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