First time parents tend to fret about almost every little thing that happens with their baby’s diet, sleep patterns and bowel movements. Their concerns are justified since babies don’t have the ability to explain why they are crying. Therefore, it is up to the parents to take on the roles of investigators even if that means they have to focus on poop.
Baby bowel movements have different textures, odors and colors. This depends on the food the baby is feeding on. These could include solid foods, formula or breast milk. When compared to an adult’s stool, a baby’s stool is generally loose. Loose stool every now-and-then is not an uncommon thing to see. However, if those bowel movements suddenly become more watery or looser, profuse and frequent, chances are that your child is suffering from diarrhea. Read on to learn how you can deal with this problem.
Causes of Baby Diarrhea
The list of possible causes of baby diarrhea is long. The diarrhea could be as a result of bacterial or viral infections. It can also be caused by antibiotics, parasites or something the baby ate.
1. Viral Infection
When a baby has a viral infection, there might be a change in stool texture. Viruses such as influenza, astrovirus, calicivirus, and rotavirus are causes of diarrhea in babies. These viruses also come with accompanying symptoms such as achiness, chills, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting.
2. Bacterial Infection
Bacteria such as E. coli, campylobacter, staphylococcus, shigella and salmonella can also be the cause of diarrhea. If your baby is suffering from a bacterial infection, she/he could have a severe case of diarrhea. The diarrhea is also accompanied by signs and symptoms like fever, blood in stool and cramps. The baby may also experience vomiting.
3. Ear Infection
There are cases where the cause of diarrhea is an infection to the ear(s). The infection could either be bacterial or viral. In such a situation, you may notice that the baby keeps pulling his/her ears and is fussy. The baby may also vomit and not have an appetite. The baby may have also recently had a cold.
4. Parasitic Infections
Parasites have also been linked to diarrhea in babies. For example, giardiasis is caused by a parasite that is found in the bowel. Some of the symptoms include diarrhea, greasy stool, gas and bloating. Parasitic infections are spread easily, more so in group-care circumstances.
Some babies have diarrhea after taking or when taking antibiotics. Diarrhea in such a case is related to the antibiotics because they kill off the good bacteria found in intestines as they kill the bacteria causing the problems. Even so, you should not stop giving the baby the antibiotics unless instructed by a doctor.
6. Excess Intake of Juices or Sweetened Drinks
Babies have sensitive stomachs. Therefore, when the baby consumes too much juice especially fruit juice or sweetened drinks, the baby might have loose stool. Fruit juices contain sorbitol and high fructose levels which, when taken in excess, upsets the baby’s tummy. Reducing the amount of juice the baby consumes will solve this problem.
7. Food Allergy
Food allergy is when your baby’s immune system starts to respond to food proteins that are harmless.The reaction could either be mild or severe and might take place immediately or some hours after consumption of the foods. Symptoms in mild cases include diarrhea, blood in stool, abdominal pain and gas. In severe cases, the food allergy can cause breathing difficulty, swelling, a rash, and hives.
8. Food Intolerance
Also called food insensitivity, food intolerance is a reaction that does not involve the immune system. One such example is lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is the situation where the body does not produce enough lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose). This is not normal in babies, but there are some babies that are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar found in dairy products like cow’s milk.
Poisoning is a situation where the baby is vomiting and has diarrhea, which might have happened after s/he has swallowed non-food items like a plant, chemical or medication. If this poisoning is not immediately treated, it might lead to unconsciousness or even death. Other symptoms include convulsions and fatigue.
Effects of Baby Diarrhea
Baby diarrhea can alter normal salts (electrolytes) and water balance in the body. When the baby loses too many electrolytes and water during diarrhea, the baby becomes dehydrated. Dehydration in babies can happen very fast i.e. in one or two days after diarrhea starts. Dehydration is very dangerous, more so in newborns.
The signs of dehydration are:
- Dry mouth
- Less urination than usual (fewer wet diapers)
- The top of baby’s head is sunken and soft
- No tears when crying
- Skin not as elastic as usual
When to See a Doctor
Promptly call the doctor if it happens that the baby is younger than three months and has diarrhea. If the baby is older than 3 months, has diarrhea, and it does not improve after a day, consult your doctor. Also, call the doctor when your baby has diarrhea and the following symptoms:
- Vomits several times.
- Has blood in stool or has black stool.
- Is lethargic and drowsy
- Suffers abdominal pain.
- Has a high fever (38.3 degrees Celsius) or higher if the baby is 3-6 months old. If the baby is 6months or older and has a temperature of 39.4 degrees Celsius, and if the baby is 3 months or younger and has a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius.
How to Deal with Baby Diarrhea
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration. That is why you need to make sure that the baby takes enough liquids. If the baby is not vomiting, you can continue giving him/her formula or breast milk.
2. Pediatric Electrolyte Solution
If the baby also vomits the formula or breast milk, you should contact your doctor who may suggest a pediatric electrolyte solution. The solutions can be found in drug stores and have been made with flavors that will make it delectable to babies. These solutions are generally easy to keep down as opposed to formula and breast milk.
3. Feed Him the Right Foods
For babies who have already transitioned to table or finger food, you can keep feeding the baby on solid foods. While it is okay to feed the baby on the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and dry roast), you can also feed the baby on APP which is a diet that includes staples like complex carbohydrates (rice, cereals and breads), fruits, vegetables, yoghurt and lean meats. As a matter of fact, it restores the essential nutrients that are needed to fight infections.
4. What to Avoid
You should avoid feeding your baby on fluids such as sodas like ginger ale, sugar water, fruit juices (undiluted) and athletic drinks such as Gatorade. You should also avoid feeding the baby on Jell-O. All these have sugar which draws water to the baby’s intestines worsening the diarrhea.
Watch a video on more tips to handle baby diarrhea: