What Causes Baby Diarrhea?

      What Causes Baby Diarrhea?

      Discover the latest knowledge about what causes baby diarrhea—and how to help for your child.

      Doctors and researchers agree that baby diarrhea can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common causes of diarrhea in babies includes feeding issues (such as a sensitivity to a food in the mother’s diet if the baby is breastfed), cow’s milk allergy, and intestinal viruses. Learn about these potential baby diarrhea causes and find out when you should speak with your pediatrician if your baby is experiencing diarrhea.

      Baby Diarrhea Caused by a Food Sensitivity

      If you’re breastfeeding, your baby may react to something you’ve eaten. The best way to find out if this is the cause of your baby's diarrhea: eliminate certain foods from your diet on a trial basis, with the help of your pediatrician. You’ll likely be advised to keep a food diary and note a pattern of behaviors when you consume certain foods.

      Baby Diarrhea Due to an Allergy

      If your baby has diarrhea after all or almost all feedings, this may be a clue that an allergy is to blame. If your baby has this experience, check with your doctor to see if they might suspect a cow’s milk allergy. Research shows that about 3% of babies have a cow’s milk allergy. In these cases, babies are allergic to proteins found in cow’s milk and other dairy products. Casein and whey are often culprits. Other indications of an allergy to cow’s milk protein may include vomiting, skin rashes, and colic.

      It's important to talk to your baby's doctor if you're concerned that an allergy is causing your baby's diarrhea.

      Diarrhea combined with dehydration:

      If you suspect your baby may be dehydrated, contact your doctor immediately. Research indicates that diarrhea is especially serious when it results in dehydration. Signs of dehydration include:

      • No tears when crying
      • Lack of wet diaper for 6 to 8 hours in an infant or only urinating a small amount of dark yellow urine
      • Irritability
      • Lethargy

      Baby Diarrhea: Questions to ask your Pediatrician

      While it's not uncommon for babies to have occasional bouts of diarrhea, you should feel comfortable calling your baby's doctor at any time for information, advice, and assurance. Here are some questions to consider asking if your baby is experiencing diarrhea:

      • What are the typical causes of diarrhea in babies?
      • What are the indications of a virus?
      • Could diarrhea be an indication of a feeding issue or food allergy?
      • Should I change my baby's formula or diet? What should I add? What should I take out?
      • I'm breastfeeding; could something in my diet be causing my baby's diarrhea?
      • What can I do at home to ease my baby’s diarrhea?
      • How do I help avoid diarrhea in my baby in the future?
      • Could infant diarrhea be an indication of a more serious problem?

      Before you see your pediatrician about baby diarrhea:

      • Call the office and ask if you should do anything in preparation for your visit.
      • Write down all your baby's issues and your concerns, including answers to these questions:
        • When did you first notice your baby's diarrhea?
        • How often is your baby experiencing diarrhea in a day?
        • Is it explosive diarrhea?
        • What are their other behaviors: crying, fussiness, or spitting up? 
        • Has your baby had any indications of an allergic reaction - skin rashes, hives, breathing trouble?
        • Is your baby refusing to eat?
        • Does anything seem to improve their issues or make them worse?
      • Make a list of everything your baby is taking:
      • Note any changes in your baby’s sleep pattern, eating habits or illness

      With time, many babies' digestive issues improve. But right now, your doctor can help you determine if your baby has diarrhea and what may be causing it. Learn more about your baby’s poop habits and what they mean.