Ok, baby poo is probably not high on the list of things that you like to think about! But it is an important part of baby care – and sooner or later, every baby (no matter how cute and cuddly they are) is going to have a case of this. Read on to find out more about it!
How Can You Tell!?
Okay, that might sound like a stupid question, but it can actually be difficult for parents to know sometimes if their baby actually has diarrhea. Why? Because baby poo isn’t just baby poo – it comes in a lot of different colors and its texture (or how thick it is) will depend on whether a baby is being breastfed, formula-fed or is eating solid foods. Usually, though, it is looser than adults. Kind of gross but still interesting, right?
So, what doctors tell parents is to look for a sudden increase in how often a baby goes to the bathroom and also if the poo gets really watery all of the sudden. These are two good ways to tell that a baby has diarrhea.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be caused by a lot of different things! These include:
- An infection by a bacteria or virus. This is what you might have heard grownups calling “the stomach flu” or a “tummy bug”.
- The baby having an allergic reaction to something he has eaten (or something that your mom has eaten and has gotten into the baby’s breastmilk.
- Poisoning, if the baby has accidently got hold of something that it shouldn’t have and swallowed it.
- Either mom or baby being put on antibiotics.
- Changes in mom’s or baby’s diet.
- Rarely, diseases like cystic fibrosis and also the responsible for diarrhea.
What are the Complications from Diarrhea?
The biggest complication from diarrhea is dehydration, where a baby doesn’t have enough fluids and compounds called electrolytes in their bodies due to too much diarrhea. This can be a very serious condition – and in rare cases can even be fatal. Signs and symptoms that a baby might be dehydrated include:
- No tears when they are crying (though they still make plenty of noise!)
- They are not wetting in their diaper as much as they normally do.
- Urine can be darker yellow in color.
- Mouth that appears dry or even cracked
- The “soft spot” or “fontanel” on a baby’s head appears to be sunken in.
- Skin does not quickly go back into its usual shape when you pinch it (this is called “turgor”).
- The baby is unusually drowsy and hard to wake up.
If a baby is severely dehydrated, they will have to go to the hospital. At the hospital, an IV will be started on the baby to help start replacing the fluids and electrolytes that they have lost. If the baby’s dehydration is mild or moderate, however, doctors may tell them to go home and treat it there with oral replacement solution (see below in treatment section).
Are You Supposed to Call the Doctor?
Many times, a baby’s diarrhea will go away on its own – especially if it was caused by a virus or bacteria that is working its way through the baby’s system. However, parents should definitely call their doctor if the baby has any of the follow signs and symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Pus, blood or mucous in their poo
- Poo that is red, white or black in color
- Diarrhea that is not getting better with passage of time
- Signs of dehydration
How is Diarrhea Treated?
Yes, diarrhea can be serious – and no fun for parents or the baby! The good news is that most of the time, diarrhea can be treated at home. There are many different ways to do this, including:
- Antibiotics if the baby has a bacterial infection
- Anti-parasitic pills if the baby has a parasite. A parasite is a very small organism that can get into your body and cause health problems if you do not treat it.
- Oral rehydration solution (ORS) should be given to babies who have diarrhea, as it will help replace their fluid and electrolytes and prevent them from getting dehydration.
- If a baby is eating some solid foods, the doctor may recommend foods like applesauce, mashed bananas and rice cereals. These foods can also slow down the number of times a baby goes to the bathroom.
- If your mom is breastfeeding, the doctor will usually have her continue to breastfeed but she may also have to supplement this with the ORS.
- If your mom is using a baby formula, the doctor may have her switch to one called Isomil, which is based on soy beans and is supposed to be good for babies with delicate digestive systems.
- Frequent diaper changes, rinsing a baby’s bottom and letting it air-dry and used protective ointments or creams on a baby can help keep his skin in good shape, even when he is sick!
What Should be Avoided?
There are a few things to avoid if a baby has diarrhea. These include:
- Given baby an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal drug; some of these contain ingredients that can be harmful to a baby. Parents should consult their doctor before giving their baby anything to treat the problem.
- Too much fruit juice – or fruit in any form except applesauce and mashed bananas – can also make diarrhea worse.
- Dairy products are also known triggers in those with diarrhea.
- Starchy or high-fiber foods and sweets/high sugar foods are also good to avoid.
- Moms will sometimes have to avoid certain foods in their diets if they are breastfeeding.
- Okay, so diarrhea is not fun for anybody – but in most cases, it is pretty easy to treat at home and the baby should get better within a few days.