Baby experiencing diarrhea? Smart steps to take toward finding the cause and relief.
A few smart steps can help you uncover the cause of your baby’s diarrhea and get your baby back on track with relief.
It’s not uncommon for babies to get diarrhea from time to time. While it’s usually not serious, it’s important to know what to do if diarrhea affects your baby and how to prevent it in the future.
Know what’s really diarrhea. In newborn breastfed babies, stool is often runny and seedy, which can look like diarrhea. But generally diarrhea is described as frequent, large, watery stools with a foul smell. If your baby is experiencing diarrhea, you should speak with your pediatrician to discover the cause.
Watch for signs of a food sensitivity. If you’re breastfeeding and your baby has diarrhea along with other symptoms such as vomiting or colic, check with your doctor to see if eliminating certain foods from your diet can help. Often, doctors will suggest avoiding dairy in a mother’s diet and monitoring to see whether improvements are seen in the baby.
Stay alert for signs of a food allergy. If you notice that your baby has diarrhea after almost every feeding, check with your pediatrician to see if she might have a cow’s milk protein allergy. About 3% of babies have a cow’s milk allergy. In these cases, babies react to proteins found in milk and other dairy products. Other symptoms can include:
- Skin rashes
Ask about switching formula. Whether your baby’s digestive tract seems a little sensitive or you suspect an actual allergy, check with your doctor about formula options. For instance, Nutramigen® has hypoallergenic proteins that are easy for babies to digest.
Know the symptoms of a virus. Plenty of babies get diarrhea due to viral gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Some of the tip-offs to a virus can be:
- Belly pain
Keep your baby hydrated and nourished. If diarrhea is caused by a virus, it’s important to make sure your baby is replenishing vital fluids, salts, and minerals.
- Offer additional breast milk or formula to your baby—it’s important to increase these liquids.
- Know that plain water does not contain enough sodium and other minerals needed to replace what was lost during dehydration. Also, apple juice and other sweet drinks can just make the diarrhea worse due to their sugar content.
- Ask your doctor about possibly giving your baby an oral rehydration solution.
Do what you can to prevent diarrhea in the future. If diarrhea is caused by a feeding issue, it’s important to note everything your baby is digesting so doctors can find out what is causing the reaction. If it’s viral diarrhea, ways to prevent include:
- Hand-washing. Everyone who comes in contact with your baby should first thoroughly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Wash your baby’s hands often too.
- Disinfecting. Be sure to disinfect changing tables, toys, and other surface areas your baby touches. One of the best ways of disinfecting these areas is to clean with a mixture made with half a cup of bleach combined with a gallon of water.
Call your doctor if your baby:
- Is vomiting along with the diarrhea
- Has severe diarrhea or diarrhea that lasts several days
- Does not have wet diapers
- Has diarrhea that contains blood or mucus
- Seems to be in pain
If you are planning a trip to the doctor, read “Baby Diarrhea: Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician” for some helpful advice.