Taking care of a newborn can be both rewarding and challenging.
Your cute little one will give you the most adorable smile but can also provide you with the most worrisome and disgusting ailment there is.
And one of them is diarrhea.
Baby diarrhea though is a common issue. It will usually go away on its own within a day or two.
However, some can have a more severe case, which can lead to more serious complications.
Here’s what to know about your baby’s diarrhea, the symptoms, and causes to look out for, what’s the treatment and remedy for it, and when to see a doctor pronto.
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List of Contents
Infant Diarrhea Symptoms
Frequent, loose, watery feces are the primary signs of diarrhea in infants.
Mild to moderate diarrheas in babies can lead to them having 2-5 water stools per day.
While the most severe cases of infant diarrhea can lead to 6 or more watery stools per day.
Other symptoms of diarrhea in your newborns may also include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- More fussiness
Look out for symptoms of dehydration as that can lead to more severe problems.
Signs of a dehydrated baby can include:
- less than the usual wet diapers in a day
- dry diaper for more than 8 hours
- dry mouth
- flat sunken soft spot on their heads
- dry eyes – no tears when crying
- dark urine
- fast or hard breathing
There’s also a simple test that can let you know if your child is severely dehydrated or seriously ill.
It’s called the capillary refill time (CRT), which measures the time taken for color to return to an external capillary bed after pressure is applied.
To do this test, you need to be in a room that has a temperature of 20–25°. Then press on your baby’s finger for 5 seconds using moderate pressure.
If the blood comes back on their finger after 2 seconds or less, your baby is still fine.
If it takes longer, see a doctor immediately.
Signs of Diarrhea in Breastfed Babies
It can be hard to tell if a breastfed baby has diarrhea as their stool is often runny, loose, and even seedy.
Which is normal by the way.
Breastfed babies tend to also pass more than 6 stools per day until they’re 2 months of age.
But if you notice that your baby is pooping more and is having more loose stools for at least 3 or more instances, then your breastfed baby might have diarrhea.
If their poop also contains blood, and mucus and smells horrible (more than usual), then they might also have diarrhea.
Other symptoms can also be fever, eating poorly, and the other usual diarrhea signs in infants.
9 Baby Diarrhea Treatments & Remedies
Here are some home treatments and remedies for diarrhea that you can give to your baby:
Keep giving your little one the usual amount of fluids to avoid dehydration.
If they’re formula-fed, keep giving them the usual amount of milk. Don’t dilute the milk with water.
If they’re breastfed-fed, keep feeding on demand.
If they’re on baby-led weaning, give them a regular amount of water.
You can also give ORS (Pedialyte) if they’re not taking other fluids well.
Just remember to always consult with your pediatrician before giving your baby any remedies.
Babies who experience prolonged diarrhea and become dehydrated will require hospitalization to get fluids through an IV.
If your infant is old enough to take solid foods, offer small, frequent feedings of foods that are simple to digest, like rice cereals, bananas, toast, applesauce, and bananas.
Breastfeeding mothers may need to make dietary changes to steer clear of anything that could give their infants diarrhea.
Avoid certain foods
Babies, especially baby led weaned ones, with diarrhea should refrain from eating anything that can aggravate their condition, such as:
- fatty foods
- foods with lots of fiber
- dairy items like milk and cheese
- sweets like cookies, cake, and soda
Avoid cow’s milk
Cow’s milk can be hard for some newborns to digest and may make diarrhea worse, so avoid giving it to your baby.
Avoid sweet drinks
Don’t give your baby, even if they’re baby led weaned, any sweet drinks or liquids that are high in sugar.
Fruit juices and other sweetened beverages might worsen diarrhea.
Oral Rehydration Solution
Your doctor could recommend an oral rehydration solution for your baby.
You can buy these at the grocery store or pharmacy, but TAKE NOTE not to mix this with your baby’s formula milk.
Prevent diaper rash
Your baby might start having a diaper rash if they keep on pooping frequently.
To avoid a nasty diaper rash, always clean them thoroughly and gently and apply a diaper rash cream or ointment every time you change their diaper.
Check out more diaper prevention tips here.
Always wash your hands
Viral or bacterial infections that result in diarrhea are particularly infectious.
Every time you change your baby’s diaper, wash your hands with warm water and soap to stop the illness from spreading.
Keep the diaper-changing space sanitized and spotless. When your child is fully recovered, keep them home from daycare.
Children shouldn’t take over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications, according to doctors.
But if you have a bacterial illness or a parasite infection, your doctor may advise taking an antibiotic or anti-parasitic medication.
Causes of Baby Diarrhea
Babies’ diarrhea can be brought on by a variety of things, such as infections, food intolerances, and dietary changes.
- Bacterial or Viral Infections
Babies can pick up these germs through contact with unclean food or water or when they touch germy surfaces and then put their hands into their mouths.
They can get Rotavirus, an infection of the intestine which is one of the most common causes of diarrhea.
There’s also Salmonella, in which your baby’s stool might contain streaks of blood.
And Giardia, a parasite-causing infection that is more likely to occur in child care center outbreaks.
Gastroenteritis or food poisoning can also cause your baby’s diarrhea.
- Food Allergies or Intolerance
Babies who are sensitive to specific foods, such as soy or cow’s milk, may get diarrhea.
- Dietary changes
A baby may experience diarrhea if new foods are introduced to him or her, either by breastfeeding or baby led weaning.
Taking supplements, protein powders, and antibiotics can also trigger diarrhea so take note of those when breastfeeding.
Always assume that when you’re breastfeeding, whatever you consume will be passed on to your baby, so be careful of any dietary changes.
Changing their milk formula can also lead to diarrhea.
- Medical Issues
Infants who are on certain medications, such as antibiotics, or who have digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or lactose intolerance may also experience diarrhea.
- Rare causes
These are very uncommon, rare causes of diarrhea:
- cystic fibrosis
- neuroendocrine tumors
- Large bowel (intestinal) infections (like Shigella colitis)
- C. difficile infection
Effects of Diarrhea on Babies
It can be dangerous for your babies, particularly for newborns, to get diarrhea, primarily because of the reasons below:
Diarrhea can make your newborn’s body lose too much water and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration.
- Nutrient deficiency
Diarrhea can also cause a baby to lose important nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Diarrhea can prevent nutrients from being absorbed in the digestive system, which can result in malnutrition and other issues.
- Electrolyte imbalances
Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are critical for healthy physiological function and can become unbalanced as a result of diarrhea.
- Large bowel infection
Some serious cases of diarrhea that involve being on strong antibiotics, can lead to a severe large bowel infection such as Shigella colitis.
When To See A Doctor
If your infant exhibits a mix of these symptoms, call or visit the doctor right away:
- Baby is less than 1 month and has 3 or more watery stools in the past 24 hours
- Fever 104° F/ 40° C
- Has poop that is black, white, or crimson, or that contains blood or pus
- Stomach pain that lasts for more than 2 hours
- Sluggishness or sleepiness
- No tears when they cry
- Has an unusual rash
- Flat or sunken soft spot on the top of the baby’s head
- Skin that isn’t as elastic as usual (doesn’t spring back when you gently pinch and release it)
- Pees less frequently (fewer wet diapers)
How To Prevent Diarrhea in Infants
You can’t really outright avoid it but you can help prevent the onset of diarrhea by doing the following
- Always wash your hands
Properly washing your hands can reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria that can lead to diarrhea.
- RSV VaccinE
Ask your doctor for a rotavirus vaccine for your little one.
- Travel safe
Make sure to always check if the food and drink that your baby is having are clean and safe, especially if you travel to certain countries.
FAQ on Infant Diarrhea
What can I give my baby to stop diarrhea?
You can give your baby ORS (Pedialyte), provided that it’s been advised by their pediatrician.
Take note though that diarrhea will usually go away on its own. You just need to manage your child’s fluid intake and make sure they won’t get dehydrated.
When should I worry about diarrhea in babies?
You should worry about diarrhea in your babies when you can see severe symptoms of dehydration, blood stools, vomiting, fever, and belly pain.
How long should diarrhea last in babies?
Normal diarrhea can last for at least 2 days while moderate to severe ones can last for more than that and can even dangerously extend for weeks.
What causes a baby to have diarrhea?
The causes of diarrhea in babies can vary such as bacterial or viral infections, medical issues, food allergies or intolerance, dietary changes, and other rare causes.
Takeaway on Baby Diarrhea
The most important thing to remember if your baby has diarrhea is to keep them dehydrated.
Diarrhea is actually common and will usually resolve itself in a day or two.
But the effects of it, such as dehydration can lead to more severe complications.
So keep a lookout for that and if you feel that your baby’s health is deteriorating, don’t hesitate to rush to the hospital asap.
If you love this article, then make sure to check my guide on What To Do When You Run Out of Diapers, 27 Best Diaper Blowout Hacks Every Parent Should Know, Diaper Rash (Treatments, Types, Causes, and Prevention) and Is Diaper Free Time Necessary?