Diarrhea in babies is common and typically lasts for 3-7 days, depending on the cause. If your baby’s diarrhea lasts longer, it may indicate a more serious problem that requires medical attention.
What does normal baby poop look like?
Baby poop can have a wide variety of colors, textures, and odors, depending on whether they are eating breast milk, formula, or solid food.
Infants tend to have stools that are soft, loose, and frequent, which can make it difficult to tell whether your child’s poop is normal or not.
- If you're breastfeeding: Poop is light yellow, soft, or even runny and often has small pieces that look like seeds. Breastfed babies may pass stools after every feeding.
- If your baby is formula-fed: Babies who are formula-fed pass stools that are yellow to tan and about as firm as peanut butter.
If your child’s poop suddenly looks more watery and occurs more frequently, it could be diarrhea.
What causes diarrhea in babies?
Diarrhea in infants is typically mild and resolves on its own. Many things can cause diarrhea in babies, including:
- Infection due to a virus, bacterium, or parasite. Infants can pick up these germs through contact with dirty food or water or when they touch contaminated surfaces and put their hands in their mouths.
- Change in your child's diet or change in your eating routine if you are breastfeeding
- Getting used to the new feeding formula
- Antibiotic use
- Food allergies
What are signs of dehydration caused by diarrhea?
Diarrhea can cause fluid and electrolyte loss, which can lead to dehydration. Infants are especially susceptible to getting dehydrated, within a few days after the diarrhea starts.
Call your child’s pediatrician if you notice these signs of dehydration in your baby:
- Peeing less (fewer wet diapers)
- Dry mouth
- No tears when crying
- Unusually sluggishness
- Sunken sensitive spot on the top of the head
- Skin that isn't as elastic as usual (doesn't spring back when gently pinched and released)
How to treat diarrhea in a baby
Doctors typically don't recommend over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications for babies. Treatment for baby diarrhea may include the following:
- Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic for a bacterial infection or an antiparasitic medication for a parasite infection.
- If the diarrhea is severe and your baby is dehydrated, take them to the hospital to get fluids through an intravenous line.
- Your doctor may recommend giving your child an oral rehydration solution, which contains fluids and electrolytes and can prevent or treat dehydration.
- Moms who are breastfeeding may have to change their own eating habits to stay away from foods that could trigger diarrhea in their infants.
- Diarrhea that is caused by a viral or bacterial infection is extremely infectious. Make sure to keep the diaper-changing area clean and sanitized.
- In some cases, zinc supplements may help (after consulting your doctor). Probiotics may or may not work and should only be given after discussing it with your doctor.
When to call a doctor
Contact your child's doctor immediately if your child has the following symptoms
- Signs of dehydration
- Blood or mucus in stools
- Lack of appetite
- Unusually tired and sleepy
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"Diarrhea in Children." Johns Hopkins Medicine. <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diarrhea-in-children>.
Gavin, Mary L. "Diarrhea." May 2021. Kids Health. <https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diarrhea.html>.
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