As a new mum, baby diarrhea can become one of your worst enemies. Bowel movements are part of our nature and, when it comes to newborns, it's even more necessary to identify which kind of stool you are dealing with.
Baby poo is generally pretty soft, so you need to learn some tips to help you to distinguish infant diarrhea from the usual loose defecations.
Talking about poo is never fascinating, but at this point you've already got your hands dirty, right? Then, let's approach the issue of baby diarrhea with the right tools for you and your baby!
Timing is key
In general, a baby has diarrhea when he goes more times than he eats per day and he poos soft stool. It sounds simple. Though it may be easy to detect baby diarrhea this way, it takes more effort to understand what it is caused by. Viruses, bacteria or parasites are some of the primary sources of baby diarrhea, but before we describe them all, it is vital that you can recognise the different kinds of diarrhea you may be facing:
- Intense: the symptoms last for a few days.
- Severe: the symptoms last for more than 3 weeks
- Chronic: the symptoms last for more than 3 months
If your baby with diarrhea shows other symptoms like fever, vomiting and a stomachache, you should consider that he could have a case of gastroenteritis, which will need confirmation by a doctor.
Shape, colour, size...
One thing you need to take into consideration is that breastfed babies’ poo is often soft or semiliquid. It typically won't firm up until you start introducing solids into his diet, so don't worry too much about that. As we mentioned before, the frequency of bowel movement is the main factor for you to be on 'diarrhea alert', but not the only one. The way the poo looks may give you extra clues, so pay attention if:
- The poo is mixed with food remnants
- There's evidence of mucus in the poo
- There's blood in the stool
As long as it's not a sign of an underlying condition, diarrhea in babies by itself isn't a dangerous illness. Yet, it can result in more serious problems, such as dehydration, if it's not taken care of properly.
What causes baby diarrhea?
Again, you will have to think of many different possibilities in order to find the reason behind your little one's problem. Some of the most common causes include:
- If you are providing your child with formula, make sure you are putting the right amount of powdered milk. A thick formula can make your baby sick
- The water you used to get the formula ready was contaminated
- Food doesn't sit well in the baby's stomach. That usually happens when you tried to feed him with food that isn't appropriate for his age.
Viruses can be extremely unpleasant for your baby (And also for you!). Diarrhea can be a dead giveaway for a virus, especially if the episode takes place during the winter or the spring. The most typical ones are Adenovirus and the Rotavirus, which are easily transmitted from one child to another, just like the common cold.
Bacteria like Salmonella, Shigella or Campylobacter can be another source of baby diarrhea. If the baby gets one of these, you can expect him to have high fever as well.
Though it's not as common, urinary tract infection can also cause some bowel movement problems. Some antibiotics can cause baby diarrhea, and so can allergies: lactose intolerance is a common culprit.
What to do when facing baby diarrhea
The most important thing to do when your baby has diarrhea is to keep him hydrated:
- Give him liquids in small quantities to prevent him from vomiting.
- If he can't take breast milk or formula, look for electrolyte solutions. You can find these in drugstores.
- Avoid giving him sodas and fruity juices. The sugar in them provokes the contrary effect: it accelerates baby diarrhea.
If the baby doesn't vomit, you should start feeding him solids as soon as possible, but this will also depend on his age and normal diet. Here's some helpful advice:
- If you are exclusively breastfeeding him, this will be your only feeding option, and you’ll need to be ready to increase the mealtimes. Drink a lot of water, stay calm and make sure the baby stays hydrated.
- If he takes baby formula, reduce the dosage, and also make it less thick. If the situation gets out of control, give the electrolyte solutions a try.
- If the baby already eats solid foods, plan a diet that combines breast or formula milk with cereal, fruits and chicken baby food.
When to call the doctor
If the baby doesn't get better by the third day, after applying some of these remedies, you should bring him to the doctor. He'll check for dehydration symptoms, such as dry mouth/eyes and will ask you some questions. Does the baby have tears while crying? Are his nappies wet after having worn them for several hours?
The doctor may also take a look at the appearance of the baby's poo and may want to take some sample to analyse it, which will allow him to detect if there is some virus.
Baby diarrhea is an unpleasant illness that can cause your munchkin a lot of discomfort, but it generally doesn't bring on serious consequences. You just have to be very aware of how your little one is feeling and, above all, make sure he doesn't get dehydrated. Also, remember to wash your hands every time you are done cleaning up your baby or changing his dirty nappies, because you don't want to be infected in the process!