When you first bring your baby home, there are a lot of different concerns. You’re trying to decipher what’s the best schedule for you and your infant, how much to feed, and figuring out that stinky situation in the diaper.
In the first few weeks, it’s very common for a baby to have varied stool patterns. But what happens when it is loose and you start getting concerned about diarrhea?
What does infant diarrhea look like?
It can be easy to panic about the consistency of your child’s stool, especially in the first few weeks. Though an infant’s stool can often be loose and newborns will poop quite frequently that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s diarrhea.
Instead, think about the average consistency of your baby’s stool. If there is a sudden change where she is going more frequently and it’s much looser, it is probably diarrhea.
This is often alarming for new parents, but most cases of diarrhea in the U.S. are not a significant health threat. However, if your baby becomes dehydrated, it can quickly become very serious and even life-threatening. It’s critical that you make sure your baby is getting enough fluids. Also, if it starts to look white or bloody, you should get it checked out.
Why does my baby have diarrhea?
There are a variety of different things that can cause diarrhea in infants. The most common causes of infant diarrhea are:
If your baby has been prescribed antibiotics, it might be the cause of diarrhea. When the antibiotic enters your infant’s system, it not only kills off the harmful bacteria, but it can also target the healthy bacteria in the digestive system. Often this will cause an upset tummy or diarrhea.
Similarly, if you are on antibiotics and you are breastfeeding, the antibiotics might be passing into your baby through your milk. If you suspect it might be antibiotics, talk to your doctor or pediatrician before you or your child stop taking it.
If your baby has been taking probiotics, make sure you are supplementing with a probiotic. Probiotics help restore the healthy bacteria flushed out by antibiotics. Probiotics also help babies who have diarrhea by supporting the growth good bacteria & helping maintain a healthy digestive system. Mommy’s Bliss Probiotic Drops are specially formulated for little tummies to support digestive health, boost the immune system and get your baby back on track.
A viral infection, particularly the rotavirus, can be incredibly common for children who are toddlers or younger. Many children have been vaccinated with an oral rotavirus vaccine which became prominent in 2006.
However, even if your child has been vaccinated, she can still contract the virus. Most of the symptoms will be mild and they will improve quickly. However, if you think the diarrhea is caused by a virus, or notice other symptoms like a fever, vomiting, or signs of dehydration, you need to call your pediatrician right away.
If you are breastfeeding and have undertaken any significant changes in your diet, it might cause your baby to have diarrhea. For example, if you have added caffeinated drinks like coffee, herbal teas, or soda, it might irritate her digestive system.
If you are giving your baby fruits and juices already, that can also cause diarrhea and an upset digestive system. Infants who are younger than four months still have maturing digestive systems, which makes them less capable of digesting the simple sugars.
A bacterial infection is also a common cause of infant diarrhea. This can be anything from salmonella, E. coli, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, or shigella which lead to diarrhea paired with symptoms like bloody stools, fever, or cramps.
This is why it’s vital for everyone to practice excellent hygiene. Keep your baby clean and tidy, but also make sure that everyone who has contact with her washes their hands frequently, especially after changing diapers, going to the bathroom, or before eating.
Many bacterial infections will heal on their own, but some can be serious. If your baby has a fever, bloody stools, or cramps, contact your doctor.
Food allergies can cause either mild or severe reaction. If your child is having difficulty breathing or it looks like her face or lips are swollen call 911.
However, if the symptoms are milder like diarrhea, gas, or abdominal pain, your child might have a slight food allergy. She might even be allergic to milk protein! Though your infant shouldn’t have any cow’s milk before her first birthday, many formulas are made with dairy products like cow’s milk and might cause a reaction.
What do I do if my infant has diarrhea?
One of the most important things for you to do if your baby has diarrhea is to keep her hydrated. To ensure she stays hydrated, offer the breast or the bottle more often. If your infant is over 6 months, talk to your pediatrician about adding in water as well.
Be careful on the bum. When you change a diaper that frequently, it can be harsh on a baby’s soft skin. Make sure to use diaper cream to keep the skin from getting too irritated and consider using wipes or diapers free of harsh chemicals or fragrances.
Probiotic supplements can also help reset your baby’s digestive system, as they contain billions of microorganisms that balance good gut bacteria and support a healthy immune system. Probiotics can help with diarrhea symptoms as well as gas or constipation and are particularly important if your baby is taking antibiotics or if mom is breastfeeding and taking antibiotics. Learn more about probiotic benefits here.
If your baby has diarrhea paired with any of the following symptoms call your doctor right away:
- Has signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, less frequent urination, or has not urinated in 3 hours.
- Has a fever
- Is vomiting
- Doesn’t want to feed, is lethargic or irritable.