Diarrhea is the sudden increase in the number and looseness of stools. Diarrhea is defined as 2 or more watery or very loose stools. Normally, baby stools are soft and loose. Newborns have frequent stools, sometimes with every feeding. For these reasons, you may have trouble knowing when your baby has diarrhea.
Your baby may have diarrhea if you see changes in the stool, such as more stools all of a sudden; possibly more than one stool per feeding or really watery stools. Babies who have diarrhea may have less energy, dry eyes, or a dry, sticky mouth. They may also not wet their diaper as often as usual.
Causes of Diarrhea
Diarrhea in babies is usually caused by a virus and goes away on its own. Your baby could also have diarrhea with:
- A change in your baby's diet or a change in the mother's diet if breastfeeding.
- Use of antibiotics by the baby, or use by the mother if breastfeeding.
- A bacterial infection. Your baby will need to take antibiotics to get better.
- A parasite infection. Your baby will need to take medicine to get better.
- Rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Diarrhea Causes Dehydration
Diarrhea is the most common cause of dehydration. Infants and young children under age 3 can become dehydrated quickly and get really sick. Dehydration means that your baby does not have enough water or liquids in the body. Watch your baby closely for signs of dehydration, which can include:
- Dry eyes and little to no tears when crying
- Fewer wet diapers than usual
- Less active than usual, lethargic
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin that does not spring back to its usual shape after being pinched
- Sunken eyes
- Sunken soft spot on top of the head (fontanelle)
Tips To Prevent Dehydration
A baby with diarrhea loses too much fluid and become dehydrated. Lost fluids need to be replaced. For most children, drinking the kinds of fluids they normally have should be enough. Give your baby plenty of liquids so that he/she does not get dehydrated. The diarrhea will normally go away in a few days without any changes or treatment.
- Keep breastfeeding your baby if you are nursing. Breastfeeding helps prevent diarrhea, and your baby will recover quickly.
- If you are using formula, make it full strength unless your child’s doctor gives you different advice.
If your baby still seems thirsty after or between feedings, talk to your child’s doctor about giving your baby Pedialyte or Infalyte. The doctor may recommend these extra liquids that contain electrolytes.
- Try giving your baby 1 ounce (2 tablespoons or 30 milliliters) of Pedialyte or Infalyte, every 30 to 60 minutes. Do not water down Pedialyte or Infalyte. Do not give sports drinks to young infants.
Try giving your baby a Pedialyte popsicle.
If your baby throws up, give them only a little bit of liquid at a time. Start with as little as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of liquid every 10 to 15 minutes. Do not give your baby solid foods when she is vomiting.
Don’t give your baby anti-diarrhea medicine unless your child’s doctor recommends it.
Diet For Babies With Diarrhea
If your baby was on solid foods before the diarrhea began, start with foods that are easy on the stomach, such as:
Don’t feed your baby food that makes diarrhea worse, such as:
- Apple juice
- Fried foods
- Full-strength fruit juice
Tips For Preventing Diaper Rash
Your baby might get diaper rash because of the diarrhea. To prevent diaper rash:
- Change your baby's diaper frequently.
- Clean your baby's bottom with water. Cut down on using baby wipes while your baby has diarrhea.
- Let your baby's bottom air dry.
- Use a diaper cream.
Wash your hands well to keep you and other people in your household from getting sick. Diarrhea caused by germs can spread easily.
When To Call Your Child’s Doctor
Call your child’s doctor if your baby is a newborn (under 3 months old) and has diarrhea. Also call the doctor if your child has signs of being dehydrated, including:
- Dry and sticky mouth
- No tears when crying
- No wet diaper for 6 hours
Know the signs that your baby is not getting better, including:
- Fever and diarrhea that last for more than 2 to 3 days
- More than 8 stools in 8 hours
- Vomiting continues for more than 24 hours
- Diarrhea contains blood, mucus, or pus
- Your baby is much less active than normal (is not sitting up at all or looking around)
- Seems to have stomach pain